Small Business Guide to Chatbots & Facebook Messenger Marketing


06/10/2019
Chatbots are all the business buzz – and for good reason.

They give customers of any-size business critical answers to pressing questions quickly.

They can:

Boost your average order value.
Accelerate the buyers’ journey.
Reduce your customer service costs.

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06/07/2019
A new report finds that a good number of small businesses (29%) are spending somewhere in the sweet spot of  ($750-$2499) monthly to get the data needed for good online advertising results.

WordStreams Online Advertising Landscape in 2019 report also found that only 10% of the respondents had a monthly advertising budget less than the low end plateau for effectiveness of $750 monthly.

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06/05/2019
People have a lot of opinions when it comes to debt and borrowing. At one extreme, some believe that all debt should be avoided and there’s no room for argument on the subject. Others perhaps borrow a little too freely, taking out new financing with little thought about whether doing so will be a benefit or a hindrance in the long term.

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06/03/2019
Cybersecurity remains one of the most challenging issues for small business owners. And the problem leads small business owners to seek out managed service providers to present them with solutions.

But a new report from Continuum says the state of cybersecurity among small businesses in 2019 still needs to improve. The data suggests great opportunities for service providers who offer cyber security as part of their package.

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05/31/2019
It is hard to start a profitable business in a competitive landscape. No doubt, business starts with a primary goal of making profits. Getting these profits from the phase of no client to multiple clients is a period of learning, falling, getting through and finally managing to sustain.

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05/29/2019
Ranking a business website higher enhances its chances of gaining a lead that could ultimately turn into a new business sale. To rank, a website higher needs quite a few steps and does not happen overnight. Let’s figure out the five most common and impactful professional SEO tips that a CEO insists upon.

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05/27/2019
Spreadsheets have long been an important tool for businesses. You can use them for just about anything. This includes budgeting and planning out important marketing campaigns.

No tool seems more synonymous with spreadsheets than Excel. Microsofts tool allows you to easily fill in spaces and create tables. But it also takes advantage of some more advanced features. However, starting from scratch will not give you a productive business.

You may want to take advantage of all that Excel has to offer. But maybe you don’t know exactly how to get started. So templates become a great option. Check out some sources for Excel business templates that can help you in 15 different areas of business operations.

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05/24/2019
As any entrepreneur will tell you, owning a business comes with a lot of demands, pressure and hard work, but it can also be extremely rewarding. Thanks to an impactful conversation with an old friend and fellow business owner several years ago, I realized that I was wasting a lot of money by just having one credit card to pay business expenses.

Multiple credit cards can provide big bonuses.

Credit card companies are fighting a turf war, and they all have enticing offers to get us to sign up with them. My rationale is, why be exclusive to one bank? Why choose only one credit card? Why not enjoy the benefits from multiple banks?

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05/22/2019
Owners of small businesses should consider hiring their children.

A young person whos claimed as a dependent on their parents return can still have $12,000 of wages in 2019 and pay no income tax. The Standard Deduction offsets the wages.

The parents probably provided more than 50 percent of the basic support of the child (housing, food, clothing, medical and transportation expenses). The parents can still claim the exemption for the child, but dependent exemptions are no longer done (allowed). If the child is younger than age 17, the parents do get a Child Tax Credit of $2,000. That credit directly offsets income tax of the parents.

If the business is a sole owner business, a single member LLC or a partnership owned only by the childs parents, there are no payroll taxes for the child or the employer to pay on the wages.

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05/20/2019
As a (new) small business owner myself, I am very much talking from experience with these stay sane tips. You will find that you can never prevent work from piling up but you can lay down some strategies that will help you manage the work.

You need to consider your own state of mind and do what is best for you. Whatever your goal is in a business, your dream will eventually turn into an illusion when you become overwhelmed. There are a few secrets to staying sane by breaking up stress. Here are a few tips to get you started.

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05/17/2019
Owning and operating a small business is challenging in today’s market. And common issues that small business leaders often must handle on their own are the countless HR tasks and responsibilities that take a significant amount of time and energy to properly manage.

The frustration and stress involved with modern HR has resulted in an increase in the use of outsourcing solutions. But one in particular can prove to be valuable to small employers: professional employer organizations (PEO).

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05/15/2019
A Small Business can be identified as a being a privately-owned corporation, partnership, or sole proprietor that have fewer staff and less annual revenue than a regular-sized corporation. The European Union (EU) defines a small business as one with under 50 employees.

Small business or as they are sometimes known, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) contribute 47% of revenue to the U.K. economy. They have a key role in boosting productivity but need support to expand activities and increase their economic impact.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.  

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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A Step by Step Guide to Expanding Internationally


©iStock/Tryaging

Being aware of local marketing conditions can be the difference between successful growth and painful failure.  There are a number of risks associated with foreign expansion.  For starters, companies have to be careful when considering moving into volatile or emerging markets.  You want to make sure you get paid and on time.  The political environment in certain markets might affect your compliance obligations, too.  It’s also prudent to consider the relationship each country has with the U.S.

Now that you know some risks, follow these steps before expanding into world markets.

A Small Business Owner’s Guide to Setting Up a Server Room

server

By Halle Summers

Has your small business come to the point of investing in a server room? If so, congratulations — that means you’re growing and expanding! For many businesses, a server room is one of the first steps into the big leagues. The even better news is that, if you break it down and take it one step at a time, creating a server room doesn’t have to be an ordeal. The Internet is full of great resources, from buyer’s guides for the core hardware all the way down to cable ties to keep your room neat and organized. Just remember to breathe, do your research, and you’ll be fine.

Determine Your Needs and Allocate Resources

The first step will always be determining what needs your server room should address, then allocating resources to meet them. If you’re running your server through a managed service provider, reach out to them for guidance. Most IT professionals recommend that your server room have the following characteristics:

  • No windows
  • Ceiling height of at least nine feet
  • A drop ceiling with an air return to process heat exhaust
  • An electrical setup allowing installation of backup power
  • Room to access both the front and back of every rack you plan to install

These specs will powerfully impact the server room’s performance, so they can be considered necessities. Your server room will be only as good as your investment in it, and this is a place that you shouldn’t cut corners. Server rooms can be surprisingly noisy, with fans and A/C units frequently turning on and off. To reduce distraction and annoyance for your other employees, your server room should be sound-insulated. This isn’t a strict necessity, but your employees will likely thank you.

If possible, try to build in room for expansion. You’re probably planning to grow your business, so make sure your server room can grow with it. If you have the resources, it’s better to have a dedicated room rather than a converted hall closet so that your server room’s capacities aren’t maxed out from the start.

Assemble the Key Components of a Successful Server Room 

Your next step will be setting up the “skeleton” of your server room. Mainly, this will involve racks and shelving, power distribution, and cooling equipment. Each is vital to a successful IT framework for your business:

  • Racks: Server racks are the preferred method of organizing a server room for IT professionals worldwide. Racks are measured in “RUs,” or rack units, sometimes just called “Us.” Racks make it easy to add, remove, and rearrange server units, and are built with front and back doors for easy access. They come in standard widths, so that almost any rack unit you buy will fit easily into your existing setup, provided you purchase the correct size.
  • Power Distribution: The electrical configuration of your server room is one of its most important aspects. It can be a complex task to determine how much power is needed and how much is available, so make sure you involve necessary parties such as the owner of your building (if you rent your space). Fortunately, there’s plenty of information available to help determine your needs, such as this online toolkit and this white paper. If in doubt, always consult a professional electrician.
  • Cooling Equipment: Servers can generate a lot of heat, and keeping them cool is essential. Many larger data centers rely on capital-intensive advanced tech like sub-floor cooling systems or liquid cooling. Small businesses, however, usually use dedicated A/C units paired with smart design features such as hot aisle/cold aisle configurations. Ductless mini-split A/C units are a great option that reduces the load on your air returns. You’ll also need to install monitoring equipment that will alert you if the room’s temperature passes acceptable thresholds.

Install Your Equipment

When it’s finally time to get your server room up and running, you’ll want to enlist your IT department’s help to make sure you’re doing it in the correct order. You also might want to use a server installation guide to make sure you’re following best practices. And as always, “read the directions” remains the ultimate advice. Make sure you understand the specific nuts and bolts of all equipment you’re installing.

As you’re installing the equipment, make sure you’re keeping an eye on cable arrangements. It’s easy for cables to become a tangled mess, which presents serious risks to your equipment. A variety of cost effective options for fastening and securing cables are available online.

Establish a Security Solution

Server rooms are likely to have one of the highest concentrations of expensive equipment in your entire operation. That means taking precautions to ensure that they’re well protected, such as:

  • Access Control: This will depend a lot on the size of your business, but you definitely don’t want just anyone entering your server room. If you have only a handful of employees, a simple individually keyed lock might be sufficient. For larger businesses, you may want to look into a biometric or access code system.
  • Backup Power: Backup power is absolutely critical to having a server architecture you can trust. Standard practice is to include a UPS, or uninterruptible power supply, that protects from sudden outages and power surges. You should also have cloud-based and/or hard-disk backup solutions in place that can hit the ground running as soon as you turn the system on.
  • Security Cameras: Your server room doesn’t have to be Fort Knox, but with such valuable data and expensive equipment concentrated in one place, you should have at least one security camera (with cloud backup) running at all times.

Take Your Time to Build a Well-Designed Server Room

A server room is a genuine investment in the future of your business. With that in mind, don’t rush! Your business and your employees will thank you if you take your time to construct a server room that’s truly thought-through, functional, and focused. Most of all, research your equipment thoroughly and don’t be afraid to reach out to the experts. A little investment in professional assistance will pay big dividends in how your servers function.

Halle Summers is a Marketing Coordinator for FASTENation Inc., a premier global manufacturer, technical converter, distributor, and designer of adhesive based fasteners and tapes. Halle enjoys sharing her unique perspective and knowledge through her blog writing. When she isn’t writing articles, she enjoys spending time in downtown Charleston, South Carolina and all the amazing food her hometown has to offer.

Man On Laptop  stock photo by wavebreakmedia/Shutterstock

The developer’s guide to managing WordPress sites

Less time managing, more time building

Editor’s note: This post is part of our collection on managing multiple WordPress sites.

As you scale your WordPress development business, you’ll eventually run into a classic conundrum that comes with managing multiple WordPress sites.

Every client site needs regular updates, new plugins installed, and consistent backups—all of which take up significant time—and clients want you to manage each of those items for them. As a developer, though, you’d rather not be spending all your time maintaining sites, when you could be creating more value for your clients by producing new projects.

How do developers efficiently manage multiple WordPress sites?

How do you scale your business without scaling the time spent on management? To find out, we sat down with Aaron Reimann, co-founder of digital marketing agency Sideways8, and Alex Sirota, Director at NewPath Consulting, to discuss their experience scaling their own agencies and their strategies for managing multiple WordPress sites.

Aaron ReimannAaron Reimann.
Image courtesy of Sideways8 Alex Sirota.
Image courtesy of NewPath Consulting

Managing agency growing pains

Aaron founded Sideways8 in 2010 with his partner Adam, and today they host roughly 180 WordPress sites. “We aren’t necessarily locked into WordPress, but I would say 95% of what we do is WordPress. It just kind of morphed into that.”

Over the years, Aaron has seen more and more clients specifically requesting WordPress. “You know, seven or eight years ago people weren’t actually asking for WordPress, but now in the past few years, people say ‘We need WordPress.’ It’s been a good thing that we have the skill set there.” The majority of their clients also subscribe to a monthly maintenance plan—although Aaron was quick to point out that they regularly run updates more often than clients pay for, to help ensure the safety and security of their clients’ sites.

“I would say most developers don’t want to manage sites.” – Aaron Reimann

While the routine maintenance work they perform for their clients helps keeps their agencies afloat, both Aaron and Alex found that it left little time for the valuable development work that attracted these clients in the first place. “I really don’t think customers should be paying someone to babysit their site, with automation or otherwise,” Alex mentioned. “If system administration just happened on its own, I would be much happier and could focus on adding functional value.”

Aaron agreed. “I would say most developers don’t want to manage sites. They would like to offload those because they just want to sit there and write code all day. They want to produce things, not maintain things. But then that comes back to the conundrum of all your clients wanting you to manage their site and take care of everything for them. But as a developer, you just want to be hands off.”

Both Aaron and Alex agreed that, although the management aspect takes a significant portion of their time, it’s a necessary part of their business, and a valuable service for their clients. In fact, despite the time commitment, both Alex and Aaron strongly recommend that developers continue to maintain their clients’ sites for as long as possible.

“Customers don’t realize how complex their WordPress installs get because they are gleefully ignorant of what developers have built,” Alex mentioned. “WordPress customers, especially small ones, think it works like their smartphone—set it and forget it. But WordPress does NOT work this way and, in fact, if not managed professionally, it will eventually break. It’s the dirty little secret of WordPress — it’s super unstable when you add lots of plugins, themes, and page builders.” Aaron feels the same way. “If your company is going to scale,” he mentioned, “hold on to [your clients]. You want to continue to maintain those sites.”

So how can you ensure you have enough time for providing valuable development services and growing your agency, then, while also continuing to maintain your clients’ sites?

Focus on creating efficient processes

As Sideways8 continued to expand and the number of client sites under their management grew, Aaron’s team struggled to find ways to be more efficient in their work. “Two or three years ago, we were a mess. Since then, we’ve grown dramatically … we brought in some people, a great project manager, and we brought in a guy that can’t function without processes, which is good. That type of stuff has made [the expansion] easier for us to manage.”

By standardizing their processes and bringing on more process-oriented staff, the team was able to optimize the time spent on routine maintenance for their clients, freeing up extra time for more valuable development work and helping them land larger clients. “We’ve had to … put on the big-boy pants, and run more like a bigger agency with more processes. We have to stick with these processes because if we don’t stick with these processes, things get dropped. Even when working with small clients, we have to push them through this process or they might get dropped.”

Make it easy for clients to manage their own content

Most clients don’t want to contact their developer every time they need to make a change to their site content, but frequently the complexity of WordPress makes this difficult. Both Alex and Aaron provide training for their clients on how to easily manage their own content, freeing up their time for more valuable tasks. “Our training is squarely in the domain of using the features of the plugins and the core WordPress experience,” Alex mentioned.

Aaron’s team goes even further, building their training directly into a clients’ WordPress dashboard. For each new client site, they install a plugin called Video User Manuals, which embeds training videos directly into WordPress. “We install that on there, which shows the client how to create a page, create a post, things like that. They also keep the training videos up to date—when a new version of WordPress comes out, they update the videos automatically. We’re not looking at a work version of WordPress that’s two years old. It’s current.”

Image courtesy of Video User Manuals

The Video User Manuals plugin makes it easy for clients to manage their own WordPress site content, reducing the number of support calls to your team and freeing up even more time for valuable development work.

Create recurring revenue through value-added services

Helping customers understand the importance of regular maintenance and support has been key to growing both Aaron and Alex’s agencies. “Convincing people that their WordPress site must be updated regularly and that there has to be human intervention is a challenge,” Alex points out.

Aaron and Alex both offer maintenance plans as part of their businesses, which clients can subscribe to for a monthly fee. The consistency of this recurring revenue stream provides financial security for the two agencies, while giving them more freedom to pick and choose the clients they work with.

Providing maintenance plans for your clients can be a great source of recurring revenue as you grow. “When managing more than 20-30 websites on support plans,” Alex explained, “you can add value by doing this for customers–—regular updates of plugins/themes without breakages actually lets you make recurring revenue.”

As Aaron’s team invested more time working with longer-term clients, they also began tracking net promoter scores, or NPS. “[Tracking NPS] gives you the opportunity where we thought some clients were happy and then we realize, wait, why did we get a four? It allows us to go back to them and say, what did we do wrong?” After a year of tracking NPS scores, the team has been able to double their overall NPS score—a respectable achievement for any service business, and a sign that Aaron’s strategy has been working.

Optimize your time by automating WordPress maintenance

Given the large number of client sites they manage, Alex and Aaron both rely heavily on automation to take care of updates, backups, and security alerts. “One of the biggest benefits of a tool like Pro Sites is that it can make a lot of that kind of day-to-day process easier, faster, and less stressful for developers,” Aaron explained.

After reviewing multiple different tools, Aaron landed on GoDaddy Pro Sites because it was much faster to get new clients up and running. “It does everything we need. It does the backups easier, quicker. I mean you hit ‘add new site,’ you put a username and password in there and boom, and in less than three minutes you’re running your first backup … You don’t even have to install the plugin— you just hit add new site, enter the site username and password, and then it all goes in the background.”

Alex can’t live without automated notifications when a site goes down or is experiencing a security issue. “Knowing that there is a potential problem that needs to be addressed is a huge value-add to the customers who we serve. And looking at tens or hundreds of websites at the same time, monitoring for changes, is a lifesaver.”

Spend less time managing and more time building

For WordPress developers, managing support and maintenance for their clients’ sites is inevitable. There will always be clients running WordPress who will need help with their sites, and Aaron doesn’t see the demand for WordPress maintenance going away any time soon. “My guess is that I’m going to retire maintaining old WordPress sites. I don’t even know how many millions there are out there—it’s just a massive community.”

The lessons Aaron and Alex learned while scaling their agencies can be applied to WordPress developers and agencies of all sizes. Automated management tools like GoDaddy Pro Sites combined with more efficient processes, better client training, and recurring revenue streams free up their time to grow both their clients’ businesses and their own agencies.

Image by: Photo by Mimi Thian on Unsplash

How to Do Email Marketing (5 Step DIY Marketing Guide)

Have you seen the Constant Contact commercial where business owners crowd around the computer to watch their email results come in and are blown away by the sales? They sure know how to do email marketing!

Constant Contact email marketing results commercial

You watch the commercial and wonder – “How do I do email marketing like that?”

How to Do Email Marketing for Small Business

Let’s break it down so that you can see and understand how other small businesses are effective email marketing.

1. Build an Email List

Start small.  Your goal is to create an engaged email list and not just a large email list.

Preferably, you want a list of email addresses from people who actually want to get your emails and will open them.

How to build your email marketing list:

  1. Create a spreadsheet with the following columns: email, first name, last name, tag.
  2. Add your existing customers to the list. Tag them as “customers.”
  3. Add any prospects you have to the list. Tag them as “prospects.”
  4. If you’d like to add friends, family or other contacts to your list, you can create an online form and send them a personal email with a link to your form and a request that they register to receive emails from you.

Email Marketing List spreadsheet layout

2. Create a Map for Every Email Opt-in

Next to choosing a marketing strategy and how email will support your sales and marketing — this is the most important step.

Start with a piece of paper or a whiteboard — whatever you would use to chart out a process.

What do you want to sell?

 If your product or service is more than $100, you’ll want to break it up into smaller, lower-priced offers. One of those may end up being a lead magnet (something free you’re going to give away in exchange for their email).

Where will your subscribers come from?

 Think about where most of your new customers come from — is it:

  • Organic search – where they search on a problem or a solution and your website is at the top?
  • Paid Advertising – where you’re purchasing ads from Google or Facebook?
  • Social media – where you’re actively posting organic content on social media?
  • Personal interactions – where your customers write in their email addresses or enter contests at a trade show?

Pick an email sequence or buyer path and map it out.

 Before you start writing any emails, put yourself in your customer’s shoes and imagine signing up for your email and then think about what YOU would like to see as the next communication. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Confirmation and Thank You: Send a quick email with a link or attachment of what you promised.  Keep it short.
  • Welcome email: Welcome your new subscriber, make them feel at home. Give them an overview of what they can expect.
  • Segmentation email: In this email, share resources and information that represent different interests your audience might have.  When they click on any of the links, you’ll want to make sure that they get placed into the appropriate segment for the interest that they have.
  • Nurture emails: These are emails that are often ignored but can build the strongest relationships. Nurture or “content” emails are ideal relationship builders. You can share news, new articles, surveys, review requests, etc.
  • Promotional emails: I put this last because most people put it first. These emails contain sales announcements, new product announcements, coupons, etc.

Make a list of all the opportunities you will have for people to give you their email

.  This is called a “lead magnet” It doesn’t have to be complicated.  In fact, the best lead magnets are simple.

The best email marketing lead magnets:
  • Solve a real and painful problem for your ideal customer.
  • Are easy to understand, consume and implement
  • Stay focused on a single pain point and how to solve it.
  • Provide step-by-step instructions, examples, and resources

Here are some ideas for you.

  • Newsletter: If your blog posts provide valuable tips and information, you can send an automatic RSS newsletter each month. Most email marketing software does this quickly.
  • Email tips: My most successful lead-magnet was a series of simple email tips.  Every four days my subscribers would receive a 2-sentence tip that they could implement in about 10 minutes.
  • Checklist: No matter what business you are in, you can create a simple checklist or cheat sheet. An SEO expert can have a checklist of to-dos before publishing a post.
  • 5 Simple Tips: You’re the expert! Come up with five simple tips that would help your audience
  • Quizzes or Calculators: People LOVE to take quizzes, assessments and personality tests. Use a tool like Interact Quiz Maker. They have easy to follow templates you can use.  Or, create an interactive calculator to help your customers solve a problem.  Outgrow has interactive calculators, quizzes and polls that are relatively easy to implement.
  • Video sequence: Create a mini-workshop that consists of three videos.  Don’t overthink this. Use your mobile device to record them.  The first video introduces the problem and the solutions and provides the first tip. Second video reviews the first adds a second tip, and the third video wraps it up with a final tip and a call to action.
  • Templates: These are an ideal way to prepare a prospect to become a customer. Think about a consulting conversation that you have with customers and convert it into a template.
  • Swipe File: A close cousin to the template is the swipe file. Give your customers pre-written content such as headline formulas or emails that they can customize for their own use.
  • Lists of Resources: If people are always asking you for referrals, pull your resource list together and share it with prospects.
  • Ebooks or Guides: If you already have several articles or blog posts on a specific topic — turn them into an ebook.

This very short list of lead magnets should get you on your way.  Pick something simple that you can pull together in a few hours.  It doesn’t have to be beautiful – it DOES have to be useful and demonstrate your expertise.

3. Choose an Email Marketing Service

Most business owners who decide to do email marketing start with an email marketing or marketing automation software.

This is a mistake.

When you choose a software first, you’re limited by the features and functions of that software.

Instead, make a list of the features and functions you need and look for software that has those features.

This is why I’ve put the choice of an email marketing tool so far down into the process.  It’s so much easier to choose a system when you already know how you will gather emails, what types of emails you’re going to be sending and how you want to drive sales.

There are dozens of well-known email marketing systems out there.  The email marketing software you choose will depend on the marketing strategy you’re doing.

I recommend you start with MailChimp.  MailChimp is free for up to 2000 email addresses.  MailChimp is easy to use, the designs are beautiful, and you can scale up as your business grows.

Here are a few more email marketing software platforms you might consider:

Constant Contact – Ideal for brick and mortar businesses who want to share coupons and send email newsletters

Constant Contact Email Service Provider

aWeber – Great for coaches, consultants and online marketers

aWeber Email Service Provider

Drip: Good choice for e-commerce businesses

Drip Email Service Provider

What about Marketing Automation?

Email marketing is often the first step toward marketing automation.  Email marketing is focused on sending mass emails and tracking the results to those emails. Marketing automation, on the other hand, takes it to a whole new level.

Marketing automation does everything that email marketing services do and adds a whole new level of complexity.

Marketing automation tools will often incorporate a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) feature, score leads, trigger automated email sequences based on links subscribers clicked on and much, much more.

Of course, with all of that complexity, comes an added cost.

My advice, start with a simple email marketing tool and you can always move into a marketing automation tool when you’re ready.

How to Drive Traffic to Your Website or Store

Your customers aren’t sitting around and waiting for you to publish a blog post or come out with some kind of special.  The best way to inform people to visit your website or store is to email them.

Email marketing return on investment (ROI)  continues to be one of the highest of any marketing tactic. According to  Campaign Monitor email marketing drives $44 for every $1 spent.

Try these tips to get some extra traffic to your website or store.

Post your lead magnet to your social media. A quick way to drive traffic to your email opt-in is to announce it to your friends and family on Facebook.  Don’t forget to ask them to register for your newsletter or lead magnet.  And, don’t be too shy to ask them to share it with their friends. Find out how to get ROI with social media.

Include a link to your blog in your email signature. Whether you’re sending personal or business emails, be sure to include a link to your blog in your email signature.   Take it one step further and try WiseStamp.  WiseStamp has a feature that will pull your most recent blog post and place it in your signature.

Sample Email Signature for Your Brand

Send RSS feed newsletters from your blog.  Most people aren’t waiting around for your next blog post.  Most email marketing systems can create a great looking email newsletter based on your RSS feed.

Setup an Email RSS Feed

Create a landing page with a special offer and promote it.   Of course, the biggest reason to drive traffic to your website is to either build credibility or sell something.  If you have an exciting offer your email list can benefit from, create a landing page featuring that offer and send your list an email invitation to take a look.

Don’t stress the whole landing page thing.  Use LeadPages, Unbounce to quickly and easily create simple landing pages even if you’re not a tech wiz.

Digital Marketer Swipe File

4. Setup Your Email Marketing System

Most email marketing services are DIY friendly and easy enough to set up on your own.

But, if technology is not your strong suit, GET HELP!

Click over to UpWork and enter the words  “email marketing” and the name of your email marketing service in the search term.

Find Email Marketing Gurus on Upwork

You’ll get a slew of well-qualified people who can help.

You can filter based on budget, location, and ratings too.

Here’s an important tip — DO NOT SKIMP on your budget here.  It’s critical that you select several people, interview them over the phone and choose carefully.

Start with a small project such as setting up your email service account.

Look for someone who can also help you craft email subject lines, do list segmentation, and optimize for higher open rates and click-through rates.

5. Launch, Test, and Measure Your Email Marketing

Let’s do this!

Effective email marketing campaigns are a result of testing and measuring your results.

Once you’ve gone through this process, you’re ready to launch!

When is the best time to send emails?

Email Newsletters: Tuesdays

  • Other Emails: Mondays
  • 9 am – 12 pm with 10 am being the average best time

Now, pull the trigger, launch your lead magnet and watch the results.

Check out Constant Contact’s latest summary of open rates by industry and see how you compare:

Constant Contact shares summary of open rates

After about 48 hours, head into your email marketing system and check to see your results. Don’t worry if they are less than the average — it takes practice and testing.

Don’t give up!

  • Articles
Author Details
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Ivana Taylor is the publisher of DIYMarketers.com. She ranked #21 out of 30,000 influential people on the Internet in Fast Company. Ivana is also one of D&B Top SMB Influencers. She is the book editor for Small Business Trends, a contributing author to AMEX Open Forum and has appeared on MSNBC.

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Ivana Taylor is the publisher of DIYMarketers.com. She ranked #21 out of 30,000 influential people on the Internet in Fast Company. Ivana is also one of D&B Top SMB Influencers. She is the book editor for Small Business Trends, a contributing author to AMEX Open Forum and has appeared on MSNBC.
Latest Posts

This Guide Can Help You Shed Your 9-to-5 and Become Your Own Boss

Shape your own path as an entrepreneur with this training.

2 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.

If you spend your days at your job daydreaming about how you might make your side hustle or dream business reality, it’s time you considered taking your notion from concept to launch. Escape from Cubicle Nation with Pamela Slim is your personal guide to getting out of the dreary days of punching a time clock and doing work you’re not truly passionate about — and start working on something you truly love.

Pamela Slim is an award-winning author, speaker, and leader that specializes in helping others navigate the new world of work — and while she spent the first ten years of her practice as a consultant to large corporations like Hewlett-Packard, Charles Schwab and Cisco Systems, she started the Escape from Cubicle Nation blog, one of the top career and business sites on the web. She’s helped thousands of budding entrepreneurs make their business idea into a real-life brick and mortar.

This course will help you identify your unique skills and strength to shape your unique business — and develop a secure financial plan while you’re at it. Go phase by phase as you create a strong foundation for your company, including networking, minimizing financial risk, mapping your sales process, identifying your ideal clients and more. Once you complete the 15 hours of content included in the course, you’ll end up with a customized business plan so you can be your own boss, once and for all.

Usually, this course is $49, but you can get it here for $14.99.

A Guide To Boosting Google Display Network Performance

The Google display network (GDN) is the largest and most commonly used contextual online advertising network available today.

Despite having a reported reach of over 80% of global internet users, it is somewhat under-utilized by search marketers in favor of bottom of the funnel PPC tactics to generate more last-interaction conversions.

This post will outline the common use cases and targeting options for GDN, upper-funnel attribution problems and detail key metrics you should be using to put a business case together for full-funnel GDN investment and measure the success of your display network activity.

Why Use The Google Display Network?

The Google Display Network has numerous advertising features, formats, and targeting options. Arguably the most commonly used approach on the GDN is remarketing activity.

Remarketing enables you to display ads to users who’ve previously visited your website. Users will be served ads whenever they are browsing sites on the Google Display Network, which includes YouTube. Remarketing typically offers a lower CPA than search network activity and is a great bottom of the funnel conversion tool as people seeing your ads are already familiar with your brand.

A Guide To Boosting Google Display Network Performance. Image 0Remarketing is a commonly used bottom of the funnel GDN tacticFor marketers judged on generating a return on advertising spend, it is tempting to solely focus display spend on bottom-of-the-funnel tactics such as remarketing to generate last-interaction conversions. However, upper-funnel display advertising is vital to sustainable growth.

Unlike remarketing, upper-funnel display advertising is the concept of targeting users before they are aware of your product through display; this requires a creative approach to marketing messaging to encourage potential customers to take note of your brand.

A Guide To Boosting Google Display Network Performance. Image 1Upper-funnel display activity is designed to boost brand awareness and consideration

When done right, targeted awareness ads on the Google Display Network will place your brand in front of ideal customers before they are even looking for your product or service, giving you an edge on your competition in terms of brand recall before the user has even considered their options.

A Guide To Boosting Google Display Network Performance. Image 2Example banner advertisement served on the GDN

The impact of display network advertising is notoriously difficult to measure, as its influence can be likened to subliminal messaging (see divided attention theory). This theory suggests that we subliminally take in things around us even if distracted by something else at the time, meaning that people who are served your display ads will likely remember them even if they didn’t directly focus on them at the time.

As we will go on to cover, the fact many marketers still rely on last-click attribution models means that in many cases display activity won’t be getting the credit it deserves for helping push users further down the purchase funnel.

Tactics to Boost Display Network Performance

To get the strongest return on your display advertising investment, you will need to utilize the targeting options available to reach users sharing similar characteristics to your customer personas.

It is absolutely essential that you thoroughly research your audience before commencing any display activity to avoid budget wastage on users who will likely have no interest in your product or service.

Once you have nailed down the characteristics of your potential customers, it is time to set up campaigns to get your message in front of them! Below I have detailed a few tactics you could employ if just starting out with display network activity.

1. Enable Audience Segmentation While Maintaining Reach

If one of your objectives is reach (getting your message to reach as many people as possible), then you shouldn’t add too many layers of targeting to a single ad group. Instead, set up multiple ad groups to modify bids on each targeting combination to enable better reporting and bid modification without limiting your reach.

The default targeting options available on the GDN consist of topics, interests, placements (selected websites), demographic and keyword contextual targeting, and these options can be combined together to better target prospective customers.

Here are some handy combinations to get you started on The Google Display network:

  • Target Age + Gender + Affinity Audience Category – Similar to interest targeting, affinity targeting will allow you to target ads at users who have a ‘long-term’ interest in a particular topic. Match this with demographic targeting on age and gender to maximize audience relevance.

A Guide To Boosting Google Display Network Performance. Image 3Affinity audience + demographic targeting

  • Affinity Audience + Placements – Combining affinity audiences with managed placements will allow you to target users with a long-term interest in a relevant topic whenever they are visiting sites you deem to be relevant to your target customers. This adds an extra layer of targeting to standard managed placements but ensures the users seeing your ads are more likely to be interested in your brand.

A Guide To Boosting Google Display Network Performance. Image 4Affinity audience and managed placements

  • Custom Affinity AudiencesCustom affinity enables you to implement a streamlined version of affinity targeting. Simply select at least five different interests, URLs, places or apps that you feel best describes your audience.

A Guide To Boosting Google Display Network Performance. Image 5Custom affinity audience

2. Lean on The Power of Similar Audiences

Customer Match gives advertisers the create targeted advertisements and display them to their customers or prospects whenever they are browsing YouTube, Gmail or using Google Search. While not available on the display network, your customer lists can be used to discover new prospects with similar characteristics through Google’s similar audience feature.

Similar audiences can also be set up based on standard audience lists you have imported into your Google Ads account and are a great way of targeting ads at users sharing similar characteristics to your existing website visitors and existing customers to expand your reach on the GDN.

A Guide To Boosting Google Display Network Performance. Image 6Similar audiences in Google Ads audience manager

Similar audiences allow you to increase the reach of your campaigns to drive new users to your site who have similar browsing habits as previous website visitors or customers.

Be sure to segment similar audiences into separate ad groups to monitor relative performance and modify bids accordingly.

3. Use Display Exclusion Lists

Regularly reviewing the placements where your ads are being served is essential in spotting budget wastage. There are certain placements that always tend to soak up a chunk of budget if not managed proactively, and a lot of this wastage could be avoided by using display exclusion lists.

If you aren’t using managed placements and haven’t checked where your ads have been appearing recently, chances are mobile games are wasting a significant chunk of your budget.

To check where your ads have been appearing you will need to visit the placements tab within selected campaigns. There you can filter by ‘mobile app’ to see which apps your ads have been appearing within.

A Guide To Boosting Google Display Network Performance. Image 7Mobile games featuring in the placements report

In addition to excluding mobile games from your display campaigns, I would also be pretty ruthless about excluding mobile apps more generally from taking up too much budget as I have never seen much evidence of their effectiveness in achieving overall campaign objectives.

4. Test In-Market Audiences

In-market audiences are users Google deems to be ‘ready to buy’ (or ‘in the market’ for X) a particular product or service; this audience should be a desirable target as they are actively on the hunt for products and services matching what you have to offer.

To set up in-market targeting, select ‘interests and remarketing‘ when setting targeting options and select ‘in market audience’. There you will be presented with the in-market categories Google have to offer.

A Guide To Boosting Google Display Network Performance. Image 8In market audience selection

For those advertisers wanting to really zone in on a specific audience intention, Google offers ‘custom intent’ targeting, which you can set up to mimic the characteristics of an in-market audience not covered by the default options available.

For example, you could create a custom intent audience by building a bank of bottom-of-the-funnel keywords, URLs and apps to represent what being ‘in-market’ looks like for the audience you have in mind.

5. Try Responsive Display Ads

Launched back in 2016, responsive display ads can save advertisers time by allowing Google to automatically create and test different combinations of core display ad elements.

An alternative to manually creating creative for every available ad slot, responsive display ads require advertisers to input a variety of headlines, images, descriptions, and logos with the aim of Google displaying the best-performing combination.

A Guide To Boosting Google Display Network Performance. Image 9A responsive display ad in the wild!

When setting up responsive display campaigns, you can add up to:

  • 15 images
  • 5 headlines
  • 5 descriptions
  • 5 logos

These assets will then be combined and automatically adjusted to fit different ad placements across the GDN.

The benefits of responsive display include:

  • Broader Reach – Google will work with the assets you provide to ensure they are optimized for every available ad slot on the GDN.

  • Time Savings – Reduces overhead on creative team management of ads.

  • Automated Ad Optimization – Google uses machine learning models to determine the perfect combination of assets in any ad they serve, something humans simply aren’t capable of replicating within the same timeframe.

How to Measure Display Network Activity

Aside from remarketing, display advertising activity often won’t result in a direct conversion, and so it shouldn’t be measured strictly on last-interaction conversion actions.

The measures of success for a display campaign can be split into 3 categories:

  1. Brand Awareness

  2. Ad Engagement

  3. Direct Response

Performance metrics you should be using to judge the success in each category are listed below.

Brand Awareness Metrics

Increases in branded search activity resulting from display campaigns can be monitored in Google Analytics. Annotations can be used to highlight dates in which display campaigns were set up to ensure this can be measured.

The number of new users visiting your website is a good measure of how successful your display campaigns have been in increasing brand awareness and overall website traffic.

Impressions are commonly used as an awareness measure of how many times your ads have been served to targeted users. However, I would recommend paying more attention to viewable impressions based on view rate metrics.

Engagement Metrics

Engagement metrics are perhaps more important on YouTube than GDN. However, if you wanted to measure interaction with your display advertisements, this can be achieved through metrics such as:

Direct Response Metrics

The PPC metrics that tend to gain most attention from C-suite, and rightly so. Direct response measures include the desired conversion actions taken whenever your ads have been served.

Reporting on view through conversions is often under-utilized in favor of direct conversions. However, it will help you measure the contribution of display advertising by reporting where a user has viewed a display ad and later converted via another channel.

Assisted conversion value should also be used to monitor the number of times and the associated value where display activity was involved in the path to conversion; this will attribute a portion of conversion value to display activity when people have clicked on an ad and later converted through another channel.

Conclusion

Attribution is still a huge challenge for marketers, especially when it comes to display advertising. Many marketers still tend to focus on measuring direct response from display ads, but fail to measure the effectiveness of upper-funnel display advertising.

If display ads are designed to drive brand awareness and a minuscule percentage of users ever click these ads, why are we measuring clicks over viewable impressions? The success of display activity (aside from remarketing) is notoriously tough to measure and makes a business case for future display network spend more difficult to present than a similar case for search network activity.

I have no doubt that display activity can deliver results for any business; the key is setting up appropriate performance measures. By taking the steps outlined in this post to better report and attribute the success of your display network activity, your data will be a much better representation of the value this network is delivering for your business and will generate more actionable insights for future media investments.

Image Credits

Screenshots by Author, March 2019

Guide to Startup Strategy

startup

Step-by-Step Checklist to Start Smart

By Michael Zernov

Launching your own startup can go in two ways. One, you begin unprepared, not having time or motivation to do due research on how to start; you stumble upon numerous unexpected problems on the way, and either try to catch up and adapt, panic-mode, or your enterprise falls flat and dies trying. The second way is you start your business slow, soaking up all the knowledge you can… and feeling overwhelmed with the amount of useless information and pointless “tips” out there.

What, you don’t feel like you’d preferred either of the perspective? Well, if succeeding with a startup was easy, we’d have had a dime a dozen Steves Jobses and Bills Gateses running around! But still, the latter of the options – learning as much as possible – is immensely more preferable.

Startup strategy – the first and the foremost

Every entrepreneur knows that planning stage is among the most important phases of starting a business. In it, you define the company’s line of activity and set long term goals that your organization would pursue. Basically, planning is sowing what you’ll reap.

To make the task a bit less menacing, we’ve prepared this thorough guide on startup strategy. We intended to transform the complex process of initial planning into a comprehensible, executable checklist. Take a look, and good luck with your endeavors!

Michael Zernov is a Writer for Roadmap Planner. He has a passion for learning and sharing experience with others. Michael has a vast knowledge of strategy, planning, internet privacy and security, and is keen on writing about these topics.

Startup stock photo by LDWYTN/Shutterstock

Beginner’s Guide on Starting with Email Marketing in 2019

By Nina Delacruz

If you’ve been thinking about using email marketing, now is a great time to move to action. Email marketing ROI – the impressive $44 per each dollar spent! – is at its peak, and if compared to a decade ago, the learning curve is relatively short even for a complete newbie.

Here are three more fascinating facts showing exactly why email marketing is worth the try, especially when you are a growing business carefully spreading the budget across channels:

  • Customers purchasing products via email tend to spend 138% more than those who don’t receive promo messages in their inbox (Wordstream).
  • 80% of retail professionals claim that they see the highest customer retention rates from email (eMarketer).
  • The average value of an order received through an email campaign is 3 times higher than from social media. (McKinsey).

So, what do you start with? In this article, we’ll walk you through the key steps from goal-setting to email newsletter optimization. Consider it a brief checklist on preparing for your first campaigzn.

Establish Your Goals Before You Start

Your email marketing strategy may vary drastically based on what type of business you’re in and what your goals are. And that will dictate most of your further steps from how you acquire new subscribers to how you design your emails.

Notice how different newsletters can be when sent from an ecommerce brand (example above) and a personal brand (example below). One uses an HTML template, the other one is plain text. In the first case, an email was acquired through a product giveaway, in the second case – through a webinar registration. Finally, the tone and the frequency are completely different. Yet both emails are perfectly aligned with their goals.

What will it be for you? Sales? Sign-ups? Content promotion? App or service usage?

Before you start, you should have clear answers to the following questions:

  • What’s the primary reason you decided to use email marketing?
  • What action do you expect your subscribers to take when they receive an email from you?
  • How are you going to measure success? What is your KPI?

Now, after we’ve established that, let’s move on and talk about building an email list.

Define Your Email List Building Strategy

Many entrepreneurs find this stage especially challenging. The reason is obvious: getting people to subscribe to your email list gets harder every year. And if you were planning to use the good old “subscribe to our newsletter” opt-in forms, think twice because this doesn’t sound enticing anymore.

The leading method of building an email list in 2019 is providing real value to your audience. It can be any “ethical bribe” you can afford to offer in exchange for an email. Think of your customer persona and an incentive that will sound irresistible to them. Most incentives fall into a category of “lead magnets” and there is plenty of ideas for any type of business.

Here are just few examples you’ve probably seen on various websites:

  • Discounts, free delivery, special offers
  • Cheat sheets, PDFs, eBooks, reports
  • Content upgrades
  • Product or service giveaways
  • Demo version of an app, free updates
  • Access to a webinar
  • Even a free consultation!

Build an Email List (or Grow Your Existing One)

Although lead magnets (typically offered on a popup or a slide-in as illustrated above) have proven to be a great way to collect email subscribers, you shouldn’t eliminate other sources that can bring signups. It’s that plain opt-in form placed at the bottom of each page or in the sidebar. It’s your social media channels, your email signature, a floating bar, and any other idea you may come up with.

Here is a case study by Buffer showing why you should make use of all possible ways to collect emails. Their team was able to double the number of email signups when they switched from relying on slide-ups to using 9 different email capture channels including social media and floating bars.

And the best part, you don’t have to be very tech-savvy or understand coding to replicate a success story like this one. There is plenty of affordable tools to help you collect emails in different ways:

  • Creating custom popups and floating bars
  • Running contests and giveaways via email signups
  • Adding basic sidebar opt-in forms on WordPress
  • Adding an email signup tab to your Facebook profile

Choose Email Marketing Software

Making the decision about the right email marketing platform might take some time because the options are numerous, and the final choice is often quite subjective. So before recommending the most affordable yet feature-rich solutions, let’s talk about the two most important factors you should keep in mind when looking for a tool.

First, pricing. Remember that the price tag for most software will grow in alignment with your subscriber base. Some providers including MailChimp and Drip offer free plans for campaigns involving a couple of hundreds of email contacts. Others have a free trial for you to get the hang of the software. Overall, for having 1000 subscribers you may be paying as little as $15/mo (MailChimp, GetResponse) or as much as $199/mo (Infusionsoft).

Second, usability. Modern email marketing tools are developed with non-techies in mind. You’ll find a drag-n-drop newsletter builder with templates and detailed guidance on how to get started. Not all the tools are created equal though, and this is where we get back to your initial goals.

If you’re looking to start with a simple solution for sending occasional newsletters and basic automated emails, MailChimp, Aweber, and GetResponse are probably among the simplest ones. If you’re planning to build campaigns based on user interactions (triggers), apply audience segmentation and advanced automation, you may want to check out solutions like Drip, ConvertKit, and Active Campaign.

Track Results and A/B Test Your Emails

Sending out your first newsletter will be thrilling! But how do you set expectations and what do you do if they aren’t met? Two things: benchmarks and A/B tests.

Email marketing benchmarks provide average results businesses receive when they run campaigns. The main metrics you need to know are open rates and click rates. The first one indicates how many of those who received your email opened it; the second metric shows you how many of them clicked on your call-to-action.

These numbers vary drastically depending on the industry so you may want to get familiar with the stats using reliable sources like WordStream. Plus, the email marketing software you’ll choose will most probably provide additional data as well. The screenshot above shows a campaign report from MailChimp allowing you to instantly compare your results to the industry average.

Now, your numbers don’t have to be lower than average for you to be willing to increase them. After all, there is always some room for optimization, and A/B testing is probably the best tactic here.

You can test practically every element of your campaign as long as you stick to the rule of having just 1 variable per experiment. For instance, it’s well-known that a subject line directly affects open rates. Therefore, you can play around with its length, its content, and the level of personalization to find the winning combination of words (and probably emojis).

Here is what else you may want to test:

  • Sender name
  • Message preview
  • Send times
  • Email length
  • Call-to-action (CTA)
  • Creatives and overall design

Read a detailed guide on email campaign A/B testing on Yesware blog.

Wrapping Up

The amount of information on email marketing on the Internet may seem overwhelming but getting started with it is way easier than it sounds. In fact, given that there will be some trial and error path anyway, it’s probably better to start early and set your mind to thorough optimization than taking too long perfecting your first newsletter.

Are you planning to use email marketing in 2019? Or have you started experimenting already? Let us know in the comments below.

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And get your free one-page marketing plan template.

Nina Delacruz
Nina is a Hubspot certified inbound marketing consultant currently curating content strategy for GetSiteControl – an email list building app. She has been helping IT startups develop a content marketing strategy and create media relations for over 5 years.

Business Plans: A Step-by-Step Guide


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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.  

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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.

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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.

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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.

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02/20/2019
The benefit of working for a large company is gaining access to an employer-sponsored 401(k) – a critical tool that helps millions of workers save for retirement.

But if you are a small-business owner, you should know that you have several tax-advantaged savings plans at your disposal that allow you to sock away substantial funds for your golden years.

Better yet, the annual contribution limits for all of these plans increased in 2019, so now’s a better time than ever to start funding one.

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02/18/2019

The beginning of the year is a great time to make resolutions for your small business. Whether you’re launching a new product or implementing a new technology, you are setting goals and working hard to achieve them. The New Year could also be the perfect time to fix internal issues that are holding you back from success. Below is a list of common business hurdles that arise in small business and how you can overcome them.

Hurdle #1: Trying to do everything yourself

There are a lot of tedious tasks involved in keeping a small business running smoothly – like running payroll, approving time off requests, and so on.

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02/15/2019
Rising interest rates and high levels of corporate debt have lots of investors concerned. Should small businesses be worried?

The majority of small businesses (in most industries) are able to pay their bills on time. According to Experian/Moodys Analytics Main Street Report, overall delinquencies for businesses with fewer than 100 employees were slightly down in the third quarter of 2018. Credit utilization rates were also down slightly.

At the same time, that same research has found that rates for delinquencies of 31 to 90 days rose slightly. While it is not yet a cause for concern, the report points out that the period of consistent declines in delinquency rates for small businesses may be near its end.

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02/13/2019
Owning or running a small business comes with a special set of challenges that larger companies do not face. Major national brands have a lot of advantages, with the biggest one being that a single misstep probably won’t derail a business.

That is not always true for owners of small businesses, where the distance between success and failure can be precarious. Sometimes seemingly small decisions can send a smaller company on a course that can’t be corrected.

In some cases, however, it is possible to plan ahead to avoid certain pitfalls.

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02/11/2019
As we welcome 2019, attention is shifting to what’s on the horizon for small businesses in the year ahead. The reality is that the nature of work is evolving. During my more than 25-year career, I have held a number of leadership positions. Early in my time in the health insurance industry, compensation reigned supreme among my employees, while health and wellness were perceived as a nice-to-have benefit.

Now, workplace norms are beginning to align more with employee wants and needs and new rules about conducting business are being established — particularly when it comes to employee health and wellness. I believe this shift, which I have witnessed within my own team, will continue to dominate work environments across the nation in the new year.

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02/08/2019
Establishing a strong social media presence can mean big business for your small business. But if you don’t have dedicated resources to devote to it, or you don’t have much time to spare, you might find it tough to gain traction. Use these nine social media tips to boost business and grow your brand.

Set Clear Goals

No matter how eager you are to start using social media for your business, take the time to set clear goals before you begin. Try setting SMART goals — specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely — to guide your social media strategy.

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02/06/2019
On one hand, year-on-year improvements are what makes companies great; on the other, firms can’t control many of the factors that dictate whether, say, revenue rises or not.

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02/04/2019
When Mandy Bass speaks to business leaders and professionals who want to improve sales, productivity, teamwork, customer satisfaction and profitability she consistently finds that they are working way too hard to achieve the results they seek. With that in mind, for the New Year she has compiled a list of seven small or low-cost things that could get small business owners, solopreneurs and sales professionals big results in 2019.

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02/01/2019
The 2018 holiday season is in the books, and small to medium-size businesses (SMBs) sold big on Amazon. In fact, SMBs had their best holiday shopping season ever.

The e-tail giant itself had a record-setting holiday season as well: More items were ordered worldwide on Amazon than ever before.

But it was not just corporations like LEGO that benefitted from all this shopping. More than 50 percent of all items sold came from small and medium-sized businesses.

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01/30/2019
A healthy economy means many small businesses are thriving — but they’re also having a hard time hanging onto employees. A good 24% of small businesses lost at least one employee in 2018, while 11% of small businesses lost 10% of their workforce, according to Bank of America. Not only that, but 58% of businesses had trouble finding qualified candidates for open roles, and 25% said it took more time to fill open positions in 2018 than it did in 2017.

And there lies the problem with a strong job market: When employment is plentiful, workers have more options to choose from, so getting them to join or stay with your team becomes more challenging for companies across the board, but particularly for small businesses with limited resources.

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