6 Steps Small Businesses Can Improve Cyber Security


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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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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How Microsoft PowerApps Can Help You Build Apps and Improve Your Company’s Productivity

This software-as-a-service might be able to help your business get more done.

4 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Technology is constantly evolving and improving how we communicate and operate, and in recent years, mobility has become the main focus. With the Internet of Things (IoT) and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) practices becoming increasingly more commonplace throughout more and more businesses, time and connectivity have never been more valuable.

In 2017, Microsoft PowerApps was released to simplify the process for businesses to produce mobile and desktop apps. It is a software-as-a-service (SaaS) comprised of connectors, services, apps and data platforms designed to quickly and seamlessly build business applications according to specific business needs.

What exactly does Microsoft PowerApps do? 

Essentially, Microsoft PowerApps allows businesses to create apps that convert their manual processes into automated and digital processes, which is easy to learn without the need for any prior coding experience. It also allows businesses to securely create, share and connect their apps and external data sources such as Salesforce, SharePoint and Dropbox, with anyone on any device within a matter of minutes.

Which Microsoft Office subscription is best for PowerApps? 

In order to get Microsoft PowerApps, you need a subscription to Microsoft Office 365 Enterprise E1 or higher. However, this doesn’t allow access to every feature, as PowerApps operates on two subscription plans: 

  • Plan 1 subscriptions are ideal for users needing to access data stored in custom apps, cloud services, on-premises data and run canvas apps using premium connectors.
  • Plan 2 subscriptions are ideal for both administrators and users that require more advanced capabilities such as real-time workflows, custom code plug-ins and running model-driven apps.

How does it work? 

Microsoft PowerApps can be accessed via desktop devices or from its mobile app on handheld devices. Creating a mobile or desktop app is made easy with its drag-and-drop user interface. Here is a four-step process you can use:

  1. Select a pre-built template and ensure it runs with your desired tablet or phone layout.
  2. Import your elected data into the app by connecting to a data source such as OneDrive, Dropbox or Salesforce.
  3. You can then quickly drag-and-drop various forms, screens and controls including camera controls, images, text fields, videos, choice fields and much more to create their desired app.
  4. Finally, click the publish and share buttons to have the app shared across the entirety of the business.

What are the features and their benefits? 

Why should your business be using Microsoft PowerApps? It all depends on what your business’s needs are. Are you wanting to automate workflow? Are you wanting to integrate all external and internal business data into one program?

There are many features and benefits to using Microsoft PowerApps, here are the main benefits to start taking advantage of.

  1. Superior data integration. By utilizing Microsoft’s common data service (CDS), PowerApps enables your employees to access business data from over 200 various data sources such as Outlook, Salesforce, SharePoint, Dropbox, Dynamics 365, OneDrive, PowerPoint, Excel, Twitter and many more. This allows staff to easily access and share business data on the go no matter their location.
  2. Boosted staff productivity. PowerApps lets businesses create desktop and mobile apps designed for their specific functions and needs. This can include self-service apps such as onboarding employees and managing payroll information, recording client information and processing approvals and requests. That way, staff can do smaller, mundane tasks quickly from their phone rather than setting aside time to catch up throughout their week.
  3. Control, security and compliance. Microsoft PowerApps gives businesses complete control via its admin center. This is where businesses can see all their listed apps and administer data policies, permissions and user control options. Businesses benefit from full security, as every app created in PowerApps automatically links to Microsoft’s active directory domain service (ADDS), which authenticates, authorizes and enforces security policies for all devices and users. Because all apps are built on Microsoft’s CDS, every app is also automatically General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) compliant.
  4. Automated processes and functions. Businesses can automate their functions and processes without the need for manual input. For example, they can send important information, news and updates to staff and clients on their phones with push notifications, as seen on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. PowerApps also allows for increased functionality such as reporting and resolving issues, even when management is not in the office.

Get Proficient With Google Analytics and Improve Your Earning Potential

This two-day course will have recruiters banging down your door.

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 want customers to find your brand on the web, you’re going to have to put in a little work. Learning the ins and outs of Google Analytics will help you organize all of the data your company collects and put it to work on actionable marketing plans. This Google Analytics Certification course will add a valuable bullet point to your resume — or help you mine solid, helpful insights from your own startup’s website.

This class helps you prep for Google’s Analytics Individual Qualification exam. The two-day course is designed for complete beginners, and the 25 lessons include engaging HD video lessons for visual learners. You’ll gain access to 150 practice questions and answers to get a feel for how your exam will pan out.

The course also presents three different study strategies that are guaranteed to reduce your study time by 50% or more. A detailed overview of the exam and insider tips on how to pass the first time puts these certification lessons head and shoulders above the rest. There are even active discussion forums to help you connect with other newbie data strategists.

Usually, it costs $199.99 to take the Google Analytics Certification course, but right now you can prep for this essential online marketing exam for only $19.99

3 Ways to Improve Your Business’s Online Flexibility

Around 67% of businesses now offering a flexible working arrangement, allowing their staff to work remotely, set their own working hours, and compress their working weeks into fewer days. Flexible working schedules can hugely benefit staff. One survey showing that 73% of staff saw increased work satisfaction while 78% agreed that the system made them more productive. Other studies suggest that it can also reduce stress and improve mental health.

Remote employee working

But in order to successfully implement a flexible working strategy, employees must have the tools to work efficiently outside of the office. Staff will need access to data and be able to perform their tasks, as well as communicating remotely. If your own business is looking to embrace this modern working arrangement, here are three ways you can improve online flexibility.

1. Democratize your staff’s spreadsheet access

If you rely on Excel spreadsheets to compile, sort, and analyze data, it is crucial that remote workers are able to access these files wherever they are. Most of the time, each member of staff will need to have the same version of any Excel software, as well as harmonized settings. Mismatches may leave certain users unable to access spreadsheets or make full use of their functionality, which can harm productivity as everyone scrambles to find a way to share their data. Although the same software will be installed on each employee’s office computer, a remote working strategy can make this difficult to coordinate, and the same problems may also emerge when sharing this content with clients.

These issues are eradicated with an Excel to web app. Instead of accessing spreadsheets in a conventional way, software platforms like EASA simplify spreadsheet access by converting Excel files into a web app. Web-enabling spreadsheets removes the problems which arise from using multiple versions and settings of core spreadsheet software, as only the web-enabled version is used and altered by employees. By subsuming all spreadsheets into one centralized web application, you no longer have to buy software upgrades for each staff member, or hope that clients have the same spreadsheet packages. As only authorized members can access the portal, this also reduces the potential for intellectual property to be stolen, and ensures that your spreadsheets don’t end up in the wrong hands.

2. Introduce multiple online communication channels

A remote working strategy means your team will be scattered across different locations, so being able to communicate effectively is imperative, in terms of collaboration and helping to foster a strong company culture. Without physically going to an office, or interacting face-to-face with colleagues, individuals working remotely may feel disconnected from the business.

There a multitude of methods available to help bring a company’s remote workers back into the fold. Video conferencing apps like Zoom let remote workers speak face-to-face with one another, as well as clients. This allows businesses to conduct virtual meetings with up to 65 people at one time, allowing you to easily organize large meetings without needing to physically convene. Useful for informal hangouts, training, and one-on-one chats, Zoom can also integrate with other CRM systems, and be used on both desktops and mobile phones.

Another useful program is Slack, an instant messaging tool which enables teams to virtually communicate quickly and easily. Designed as a substitute for unnecessary emails, the app is ideal for both serious and lighthearted conversations with colleagues, thus helping to create a sense of unity and cultivate a strong company culture. Employees can use Slack to speak to one another individually or in groups, and the app has various useful features including integrated file sharing capabilities—which have recently had their encryption capacities vastly upgraded— and archived conversations for future reference.

online chat software for business

3. Make use of project management tools (Important!)

Getting a project off the ground and finishing it on time is challenging enough for teams in the same office, let alone for those working remotely. Using email for project management purposes is often inefficient and confusing, as there’s no central storage system to store and manage data. This creates endless threads that bury valuable information, making project management needlessly complicated. An online platform where projects can be managed from one hub is therefore the way forward.

A useful project management tool to help improve collaboration within businesses is Asana, which allows teams to track, organize, and manage tasks, projects, calendars, and more from one cloud-based app. For instance, tasks can be added and assigned to certain team members, complete with due dates, a comment function and the ability to attach and share documents. Intuitive to use, Asana can also be integrated with over 100 other apps, including communication tools like the aforementioned Slack, Outlook, and Google Drive.

Conclusion

Making your business more flexible online is always possible with all the emerging technologies popping up every day. Make sure to sign up for free trials first, before committing to any paid tools. Every business is different, and the last thing you need is a month or year long commitment to a tool that doesn’t fit you and your employee’s needs.

Improve Your Salesmanship and Grow Your Business

The ‘Business Development & Sales Bundle’ covers the building blocks you’ll need to build a sustainable, profitable company.

3 min read

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

Sales and business development are often treated like two separate things, but in reality, they’re intertwined — and mastering both is the key to making your dream company a reality. Without the cash from your sales, you can’t buy the tools you want or pay the team you need to develop your business.

If you’re more familiar with sales than business development, or vice versa, you might not know where to turn when you need to learn about the other side of the coin. That’s where The Business Development & Sales Bundle comes in.

This seven-course online class bundle covers all of the bases when it comes to sales and business development. It kicks off with a class taught by Patrick Dang, a sales and communications expert who spent time learning the tricks of the trade at Oracle. He teaches you how to use cold emails to your advantage — you’ll be writing professional copy to generate leads and deliver consistent prospects in no time.

Dang also shares a proven methodology for closing more deals with his Sales Valley course. You’ll learn how to build your own process for maximum efficiency and create email templates that grab the reader’s attention.

Business trainer Chris Croft tackles the next classes, teaching you how to negotiate with prospects for better deals in his Successful Negotiation course. He’s also the instructor for Practical Sales Techniques, where you’ll understand how to handle objections and hidden excuses.

Google Certified Marketer Daragh Walsh covers the ins and outs of B2B sales lead & generation in his LinkedIn Marketing class. He’ll show you how to make the most out of your free account and how to drive traffic from LinkedIn to your company website.

Author Mike Gospe teaches you how to create build B2B personas from scratch in How to Create a Buyer Persona For Your B2B Business. This will help you identify your target audience and ensure that your marketing efforts align with that audience’s pain points.

Award-winning business professor Chris Haroun finishes up this bundle with An Entire MBA in 1 Course. His immersive class teaches you how to build a company from scratch, network for customers, raise cash quickly and analyze company financials.

Usually, The Business Development & Sales Bundle costs $1,009.94, but right now you can marry sales knowledge with development know-how for only $35 (96 percent off).

Apply These 10 Clever Techniques to Improve Your Home Office on a Budget

More and more Americans work from home. And a growing number of employers recognize the well-being and retention benefits allowing their employees work from home flexibility creates. This creates a high demand for quality, practical and high-functioning home offices.

Home Office Ideas on a Budget

Do you find yourself among the millions of Americans who work from home? And do you want to improve your working environment to help enhance your productivity and creativity levels. Then take a look at the following ten clever home office ideas on a budget.

Give the Walls a Facelift

Don’t stare at dull, uninspiring and monotone walls all day. Because this environment won’t rouse your creativity.

But change the décor of the walls in your home office. Give them a new lick of paint in a bolder color. And choose a new style of wallpaper. Or simply hang up some striking artwork and imagery. Give you home office space an important décor boost. You’ll find this an effective and budget-friendly approach.

Organize Your Desk

A cluttered desk scattered in paperwork, printers, stationery and more, is not conducive with a clear mind and a productive day’s work.

One of the cheapest and easiest ways you can improve your home office environment is to organize your office space and throw away anything that isn’t needed.

Create More Natural Daylight

Research shows that offices with access to daylight can boost workers’ creativity by as much as 15%. If you can’t afford to cut out holes in your home office and install new windows, work on the windows you already have by changing heavy curtains with blinds to let more light in, decluttering the windowsills and, quite simply, giving the glass a good clean.

Hang Mirrors on the Wall

Another clever way to create more natural light in a home office is to hang mirrors on the wall. As well as looking stylish and funky, hanging a mirror opposite a window will mean the light gets bounced around the room, creating a greater sense of natural daylight in the office space to help boost your productivity levels.

Get Creative with Lighting

Of course, home offices can rarely rely on natural daylight alone. Rather than battling on in a dimly-lit space, which can make you feel drained, place bright and quirky lamps on the desk to bathe your workspace in light, without breaking the home office makeover budget.

Make Comfort a Priority with a New Office Chair

If your existing office chair isn’t too comfortable, now’s the time to swop the chair with a comfier alternative. Office chairs range quite significantly on cost but isn’t something you should scrimp on.

Opt for a well-made office chair that helps improve your posture at your desk and has a decent level of padding.

Inject a More Personal Touch into the Space

Whether you’re a one-man band working from home or are part of a small businesses working in a home environment, injecting some personality into your home office that captures the spirit of your business will go a long way in heightening the appeal of the office space.

Whether it’s redecorating the space with the colors of your business’s logo or even creating an accent wall that features your company logo, creating a personal touch in your home office is a cost-effective way to inject greater personality and appeal into the space.

Install a Chalkboard

Chalkboards need not be confined to toddlers’ bedrooms. On the contrary, chalkboards are another clever and inexpensive way to create a practical focal point in your home office that enables you to scribble down notes whilst you’re on a conference call and erase them with ease when they’re not needed any more.

Bring the Outdoors Indoors

Another cheap and clever trick to enhance the look and ambiance of your home office is to place indoors plants around the room.

Similar to natural daylight, the presence of plants in a working space can go a long way in boosting productivity and wellbeing as you work.

Invest in Some Air Freshener

Air freshener definitely won’t break the home office budget and is a quick, immediate and incredibly cheap way to ensure your home office smells nicer and is therefore a more desirable space to work in.

Image: Depositphotos.com

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5 ways retail technology will improve the eCommerce customer experience in 2019

Over the past decade, the rise in eCommerce has transformed the retail experience – and this trend only continues to grow. In recent years, online retail sales reached an incredible $2.3 trillion worldwide, and eCommerce sales accounted for more than 10% of all retail sales globally.

However, let’s be honest: most SMBs have a love-hate relationship with eCommerce technology. On the one hand, the rise in new technologies allow retailers and e-tailers to reach a broader audience and reduce costs on storefront rentals; on the other hand, it can be challenging to keep abreast of new technologies and integrate them into your strategy, as well as manage buyer behaviours between digital and brick-and-mortar channels.

No matter which camp you belong to, its undeniable that technology has transformed and elevated the customer experience, and will continue to do so in the future. As an SMB, the more you embrace retail technology and omnichannel business management, the more you can improve your customer experience – and the more your business will flourish.

If you’re looking  to create new customer experiences in 2019, here are 5 retail technology trends which could improve your customer experiences, drive conversion, and boost loyalty.

Word-of-mouth marketing has always been more effective than direct advertising, and in the age of omnichannel eCommerce and social media, social commerce has become a powerful tool for boosting brand awareness, and influencing purchasing behaviour.

Today, customers want brands and products that are authentic, and that are recommended by people they trust or respect. Research from a recent study shows that 72% of millennials bought fashion and beauty products based on Instagram posts; similarly, Hubspot data revealed that 71% of people are more likely to make a purchase online if the product or service has been recommended by someone else.

Social media channels like Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Snapchat are increasingly aware of these trends, and transforming their platforms to incorporate more social commerce into their platforms. Facebook now offers brands the opportunity to sell items directly on a company Facebook page, and Shopping on Instagram links images on posts to products on eCommerce stores for better conversion. Companies like WeChat in China are also spearheading the social commerce trend, with brands opening dedicated WeChat stores and mini programs to encourage purchase in the platform based on social media content and recommendations.

For SMBs working in eCommerce, it’s clear that social media is truly no longer ‘nice to have’ – it’s necessary to integrate it into your strategy whenever possible. Platforms like Shopify and Bigcommerce allow brands to embed “buy now” buttons and product links directly into social media accounts, and as a business owner, you can use this to capture customer interest and turn it into tangible sales, as well as analyse the data to see which types of posts are more likely to entice customers to buy.

In recent years, augmented reality has gone from a concept to a real tool for companies to convert customers. Companies like IKEA used augmented reality in a ‘try before you buy’ approach, by allowing customers to virtually see how furniture will look in their home via the IKEA Place App. Likewise, brands like Sephora have introduced augmented reality so customers can see how different shades of makeup will suit their skin tone.

AR and VR can be highly complementary in an omnichannel strategy, supporting SMBs to capture and convert more customers online and offline. While large-scale augmented reality platforms can be costly to implement, there are tools that smaller businesses can do to leverage these technologies for greater conversion, such as:

  • Virtual reality videos to preview your products and services. Use tools like a 360 camera to record immersive videos, then upload videos directly onto Facebook using the 360 format, or invest in Google Cardboard to give customers VR experiences in offline stores – all without breaking the bank.
  • AR markers can be added to product packaging in order to link to an online product page. This can help bridge your business’ online-to-offline experience, and help drive more conversions through offline channels.
  • Immersive company listings on maps such as Google Street View and Yelp Monocle, which give customers a more tangible understanding of what you offer by ‘showing not telling’.

eCommerce is on the rise, with over 58.9% of global eCommerce sales coming from mobile devices, and the increase of mobile payment options such as Google Pay, Apple Pay, and China’s WeChat Pay and Alipay mean that more eCommerce platforms should start to integrate mobile checkout and payment into their offerings in 2019.

For retailers, this trend affects more than just the final checkout process. SMBs need to think omnichannel to get ahead, with mobile at the heart of user behaviour from research to consideration and conversion. 

Businesses with offline stores or events could consider offering a scan and pay option linking an offline item to an online SKU, or create a dedicated retailer app that combines online shopping, news, promotions and rewards in one place. Likewise, as peer-to-peer payments become more common, retailers and eCommerce businesses need to seriously consider integrating payment solutions such as Venmo or Square Cash into their online and offline stores.

From eCommerce stores to offline stores, social commerce stores, and partner/affiliate stores, today there are a plethora of purchasing channels available for customers to convert. The customer is the channel, meaning they will decide where to book and when, and SMBs need be responsive to the growing omnichannel trend.

Omnichannel business strategies start with business owners having the right tools and technology to offer transparent inventory management and fulfilment across all channels, which means all supply chain, orders, stock, and shipping processes are synced and talking to each other in real-time. Without this, all the different shopping channels are isolated and businesses risk selling products to customers when there is no stock, or an order being placed but overlooked in the fulfilment process. In addition, with platforms like Amazon and ASOS offering fast shipping, SMBs have to tighten up their supply chain processes in order to remain competitive.

As a small business, time is a valuable asset and automation can help streamline workflows and reduce time spent on arduous admin tasks. TradeGecko’s platform offers real-time inventory control and order management to sync purchase data across channels and automate the shipping process, to deliver best-in-class omnichannel execution for SMBs.

Artificial intelligence doesn’t necessarily equate to robotic shopping assistants in stores. Today, as more customer enquiries shift online, companies are leveraging intelligent tools like IBM Watson to interact with customers, answer questions in real-time, and recommend products using pre-programmed responses and machine learning.

A study by Gartner predicts that by 2020, 85% of all customer service interactions will be managed using AI. Customer service platforms like Facebook, Shopify and BigCommerce can already integrate chatbots so businesses can cut down on time spent on answering frequently asked questions, or linking to products online – and this will continue to evolve in future with chatbots learning to understand customer preferences and behaviours, and using this to provide customised product recommendations.

For SMBs, integrating chatbot technology throughout the customer experience can boost conversion and also improve the overall customer experience. Drive acquisition by adding pop-up chat bubbles on your website or Facebook, and follow up purchases with automated post-sales check-ins or product lifecycle offers for birthdays, special events, and so on.

There are a myriad of exciting tech developments that can help SMBs improve the eCommerce customer experience in 2019, and as online-to-offline and omnichannel become increasingly important, SMBs need to have the right digital platform in place to seamlessly manage sales, marketing, and inventory across multiple channels.

If you’re looking at how to create new customer experiences in 2019, Trade Gecko’s powerful eCommerce platform can help you save time and improve accuracy when managing inventory, orders, and sales – plus TradeGecko provides SMBs with intelligent customer insights to help make better business decisions in real-time. 

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TradeGecko is a powerful platform for managing your commerce business.

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Improve Your Focus at Work With This Top-Rated Productivity App

Focus@Will provides curated playlists filled with music that keeps you on task.

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.

Distractions are inevitable when you’re wrapped up in the whirlwind of starting your own company or fighting for a promotion. Putting the finishing touches on your business plan, meeting with potential investors, finding and instructing a reliable team and hunting online for the best tools and equipment will pull you in a thousand directions at once.

All of that energy creates plenty of excitement, but it also makes it hard to buckle down and focus on attention-heavy tasks when you need to crunch numbers or make tough choices. Whether you’re building the foundations for your own business or helping someone else launch their fresh concept, there’s a lot to keep track of — and staying on top of everything can help you earn the profits (and raises) you deserve.

Popping in some earbuds and queueing up your favorite playlist can help block out distracting sounds, but not all tunes are created equal when it comes to focused attention. Some music is better than others when it comes to concentrating, and a lifetime premiums subscription to Focus@Will gives you unlimited access to the best playlists for your workday mindset.

Focus@Will has a 4.5-star rating from more than 400 reviews in Apple’s App Store. It’s used by employees at Apple, Microsoft, SpaceX, and Amazon who need help paying attention to what’s in front of them. This app is more than just a playlist: it’s curated music for productivity. The channels are scientifically optimized to reduce distractions and help you check off everything on your to-do list.

There are more than 50 channels at your disposal, including acoustic, focus spa, classical piano, and electro Bach. You can’t find the music on Focus@Will anywhere else: each track has been digitally edited, remastered and re-produced to remove any distracting elements and keep you focused. Focus@Will’s tunes have been proven to increase your productivity by up to 400%.

A lifetime premium subscription to Focus@Will usually costs $299.95, but right now you can improve your productivity at work for only $69.95 (76 percent off).

Weekly Wisdom with Evan Facinger: Improve Product Ranking with Amazon Advertising

Hey, everyone. Thanks for joining me today. I am Evan Facinger, and we are going to talk about Amazon Advertising, and specifically, how we can actually get our products on Amazon to rank higher organically using the advertising platform.

Now, the Amazon advertising platform is very exciting. It is the third largest; it is only behind Google and Facebook. And you combine that with the fact that the shoppers on Amazon, they are there, ready to buy, ready to make a purchase, and that it has actually surpassed Google for product searches — it is a great opportunity for paid advertising professionals to dive into the Amazon platform and really take advantage of its capabilities.

The A9 Algorithm

One of the things that Amazon relies on with its product search is the A9 algorithm. That is how it determines what products should rank higher than others. Now, text match relevancy is very important for the A9 algorithm, but it goes well beyond that. Amazon wants to sell products, so when it is analyzing the click-through rates, the conversion rates, and the sales velocity for that product to determine where it could rank.

Now, once you understand that Amazon wants to sell products, you can understand how you can use the advertising platform to really manipulate that aspect and help your product gain in the organic ranking. When using Amazon Advertising to focus on improving your product’s ranking organically, the first thing you want to focus on is keywords.

For this video, we are going to mostly assume that you have already optimized your Product Detail pages based on keyword research; this means you have your most profitable keywords in your title, you have them in your featured bullet points, your product description — everything that is going to help you out with text match relevancy. If you haven’t already done this, you should definitely start there.

Keyword Research Options 

We also recommend always taking advantage of both on and off-Amazon keyword research tools, because this gives you a better overall picture and helps give you more keywords that you can choose from and optimize for — based on the data and based on what you are finding.

For Amazon, you can use free tools like Sonar, where you simply input the keywords you want to find, and then you can have additional outputs that you are going to be able to optimize your products for. For off-Amazon, we definitely recommend SEMrush; this is going to help you actually put in keywords that are going to show what Google has. But keep in mind that Google is going to give you different types of keywords. You are going to want to focus on the actual intent to purchase-type keywords, as opposed to informational gathering ones. So pay attention to the cost-per-click. That data will help you understand how valuable the word is to things like Google Ads.

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Once you have all of that information together, you are going to have a better look at all the different types of keywords you can choose from. But again, keep in mind, people searching on Amazon do search a little bit differently than they do on Google, so just make sure that you are optimizing accordingly.

Reverse ASIN Lookup

All right, now that you have your listing already optimized, what we are going to want to do next is perform a reverse ASIN lookup on your products. Most Amazon advertisers use the reverse ASIN lookup to spy on their competitors, and you should definitely do that too. But in this scenario, we are going to use it on our own products, because it allows us to get keywords extracted from that Product Detail page.

What is ASIN?

And we are going to want to use these keywords to optimize our paid advertising campaigns to focus on improving our organic keyword ranking. Now to find the ASIN, and by the way, ASIN stands for Amazon Standard Identification Number. It is a unique number that Amazon assigns to every product in their database, and it is how Amazon identifies those millions of different products that are available.

Finding the ASIN

You can find the ASIN by going to the bottom of the Product Detail page. For example, in this case, it is located right here, along with the other product information.

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Now some reverse ASIN lookup tools are paid. There are also some free ones. If you are already using a paid software to run your Amazon campaigns, most likely they are going to have reverse ASIN lookup. Otherwise, Sonar does have a reverse ASIN lookup available. You simply paste that ASIN that you copied from the previous page there, hit the Ping button and it is going to give you those list of keywords that are on there, and indexed by Amazon.

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But keep in mind, in my experience, not all of the data around that product keyword being indexed in Amazon is 100% accurate. So if you want to just double check and make sure that your product is indexed by Amazon, what you are going to want to do is actually take that same ASIN number, paste it in the search tab, make sure the All category is checked, and then just type in the keyword that you are verifying.

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Once you do that, you are going to have search results, and if that Product Detail page is showing, which it is right here (5:51), you know that Amazon already has you indexed for that keyword.

Sponsored Amazon Ads

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Now that we have a list of our indexed keywords, we want to add them to a spreadsheet for easy access. If you are using software to build and manage your campaigns, you can also put them there instead.

Now, if you haven’t already been running sponsored product ads for these keywords, you would want to start. Depending on how your campaigns are structured, you can either add them to an existing ad group or just create a new one. But as a general rule of thumb, we like to use existing campaigns when we can. And that is just because how long a campaign is running, does contribute to the campaign score, but this isn’t necessary.

Structure

Now, to help with scalability and performance, I like to structure my sponsored product ads into groups focusing on different initiatives. Keeping branded, competitor and general product category terms all separate, this will give you better insight and also helps your campaigns perform optimally.

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Conversions 

If you are already bidding on these terms in Amazon Advertising (7:15), you will want to look at the conversion rates for those words; this is incredibly important for the A9 algorithm. But finding the conversion rate in Amazon Advertising is a little tricky. There isn’t just a conversion tab like on the other platforms. The good news here is that we can find the conversion rate by dividing Orders by Clicks.

Low conversion rates here are going to hurt you. The key is to review the conversion rate for the individual keywords, and you can do this by using the table below on your actual advertising campaign, or exporting everything into Excel if that is easier for you. Once you see how much the performance varies for keywords, you are going to see why the structure of your campaign is a critical component of your advertising success.

For branded terms, always have a high conversion with a low ACOS, while competitor terms are generally lower conversions with a higher ACOS.

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When you combine these terms into one category, it is going to lead to the campaign results showing just an average performance for all of them. That is why we always break them out into those different groups as we outlined before. And understanding the conversion rate for your individual keywords you are going to want to rank for, gives you the starting point to see where additional budgets can go, and where some further optimization may be required. 

If your Product Detail page isn’t converting at a high rate for people searching for that term compared to the other products, Amazon’s not going to want to rank you higher. Remember, the job of advertising is to get the eyeballs on your Product Detail page. It is up to that page to convert that shopper into a sale. So keep in mind, when you are implementing a strategy to gain organic ranking, you can’t judge the campaign performance on the reported ACOS alone. Instead, look at the total ASIN sales.

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PDA – Product Display Ads

Another really fun strategy to increase your ranking is to target your competitors, specifically the best sellers in that category. You are going to want to pay attention to the search term that you used, as well as that category.

By using a combination of product display ads — which are going to be ads that show directly on that Product Detail page, right below the checkout — as well as sponsor product keyword search, using your competitor terms, and the sponsor product targeting in sponsored product ads, and assuming that you sell a quality product, this onslaught of ads towards your competition helps to improve your sales, while at the same time, reducing the conversion rate of your competitors. Of course, as top competitors start losing sales, they are going to generally strike back with ads of their own, and bump up your bid cost, but you can still have a lot of success with this strategy.

All right, that is all for today. Amazon’s a very exciting platform, and it is always changing. So if you have any questions or comments, definitely leave them below, and I will be sure to respond to everything. Have a great day.

Can Biohacking Actually Improve Your Focus, Energy and Concentration?

Have you ever wanted to learn how to biohack your way to greater mental clarity, reduced stress and heightened focus?

1 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Ben Angel, author of the brand-new biohacking book, Unstoppable, explores the concept of biohacking with Cynthia Henry Thurlow, a functional nurse practitioner and nutritionist, and psychologist Dr. Kelly Donahue. Together, they break down how you can use biohacking to optimize performance. 

Want to become unstoppable in business and in life? Take this 60-second quiz now to find out what’s really holding you back, and be sure to grab a copy of Angel’s new book, Unstoppable, today.

Related: How This Entrepreneur Overcame Depression

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