6 Steps Small Businesses Can Improve Cyber Security

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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Take Strategic Steps to Compete


Aaron Kibbey, Managing Director, Huron Consulting says:

Organizations today face a significant, but not impossible challenge: to cut through a noisy landscape with a value proposition that addresses consumers’ ever-changing expectations. Brands that rely on legacy alone will get lost in the shuffle unless they’re backed by a differentiated experience and long-term vision. By transforming a company’s substance, not simply style, leaders can hone an enduring competitive edge.

He goes on to say:

“Organizations saddled with excess amounts of debt have less flexibility to fund new platforms or service initiatives, but they can still take strategic steps to compete:

  • Seek out the right partner [and this can be beyond borders]. 
  • Restructure debt to enable reinvestment.”

Read the entire article on creating revenue streams when brand matters less.

5 Steps to Take Control of Your Personal Brand

No matter what product or service you sell, as the owner of your business, you’re really selling yourself. Follow these five tips to create a personal brand that connects with customers.

5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The following excerpt is from Scott Duffy’s book Breakthrough. Buy it now from Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | IndieBound

As an entrepreneur, you need to create and manage your own personal brand. You may think you’re selling a product, a service, a financial plan, etc. to your investors, division heads, partners or employees. To be sure, those things are an essential part of your business. But it’s really all about you, because people invest in people. Every action you take helps others define you. Personal branding goes a long way toward cultivating your tribe, as well as your customer base.

I run a personal branding exercise at one of my programs. Typically, there are about 20 people in the room. I encourage them to mingle while grabbing coffee and breakfast before the event. When it’s time to get started, I invite the participants to sit in their assigned seats. On the table in front of each of them is a placard, and I ask them to print their names on them so everyone in the group can see. Each person then gets a stack of index cards. I ask them to look around the room, write one person’s name on each of their index cards, and jot down the first five words that come to mind when thinking of that person. An assistant then collects all the cards, enters all the words the group used to describe each participant into a file, and prints them out so each participant sees only the words used to describe him or her.

Typically, people are shocked and horrified by the way others view them. For example, a person might think of himself as outgoing, but the index card shows the group thinks his behavior is obnoxious. Another person thinks she embodies success and confidence, but the group sees her as arrogant and standoffish. Often, the way others see them just doesn’t sync with the story the person believes about themselves. It’s little wonder they’re not getting the results they want when they try to sell their ideas or raise capital in their businesses. Clearly, what they’re projecting isn’t what they need to win people over.

What would that stack of note cards say about you? What’s the impression you are leaving on others when you’re trying to build your tribe? Is that personal brand serving you or stifling your growth? Is it taking you closer to or farther away from your goals?

Here are five steps to take control of your own personal brand:

1. Identify your goal. The first thing you need to do is get very clear about what you want to achieve. Do you want to release a new product that extends your company’s footprint in the marketplace? Do you want to close financing for a big project? Do you want to create a rock-star team to help transform your local business into a global franchise? Who do you need to be to achieve that goal? What image do you need to project to bring others along with you?

2. Understand where you are now. Where are you today relative to where you need to be? What is the gap, and what changes do you need to make to fill that gap?

To answer this question, go to the five people you spend the most time with and ask them to describe your brand. Then extend your pool to others with whom you’ve had fewer interactions; more distant acquaintances may offer even more valuable information because it’s based on more immediate first impressions. By getting a handle on how others see you, you’ll learn what needs to be changed. If they say you’re standoffish, when you think of yourself as shy, this is an area of your self-presentation you need to work on. Such knowl­edge alone can be curative.

3. Recognize what your daily habits say about you. Daily habits can have a major impact on how people brand you. Your attire, manners and degree of organization tell people about you — and the right pre­sentation communicates that you’re prepared and have pride in who you are and what you do. For example, when someone is physically fit and really takes care of herself, she presents as disciplined, committed, and apt to follow through. People can see and hear an energy in her physical presence immediately. Little things make a big difference, even if it’s just the cut of your clothes or the warmth of your handshake — and you can take control of them.

4. Leverage technology to define and reinforce your brand. Most peo­ple will first be introduced to you online, when they type your name in a Google search box or visit your LinkedIn, Facebook and/or Twitter profile. They’ll see the pictures and videos you distribute of yourself and what interests you. Use these tools to your advantage: Have a professional picture taken, include a link to your website, and make sure your copy is brief and to the point.

5. Be yourself. When developing a personal brand, authenticity is key. If you try to pass yourself off as someone you’re not, people will find out, and that will undercut your credibility. Be original and be creative. Present a sincere, heightened but accurate version of yourself. Don’t try to be what you think other people want you to be. When investors and customers meet you, you want them to think, “this is a person I want to do business with.”

6 steps to update social media profiles

Social spring cleaning

When your customers look for your local venture online, they’re looking for engaging, organized and up-to-date information that can help them understand your products or services before coming by for a visit. They want to be able to easily navigate to your website, check out your hours or menu, and contact you with any questions. That’s why it’s so important to make sure your pages — including social media profiles — are updated and ready to drive results.

How are your pages looking for spring?

Springtime is a great time to update social media profiles and get them ready to bring in new customers — and keep them coming back!

Update your social media profiles in 6 simple steps

Here are six things you can do to update your social media profiles:

  1. Google your business.
  2. Claim your pages.
  3. Update your information.
  4. Update your cover and profile photos.
  5. Refresh your social media content calendar.
  6. Clean out your social media inboxes.

Ready to do some spring cleaning? Let’s go!

1. Google your business

See what your customers are seeing.

Run a quick Google search for your business online and see what comes up.

Are you listed consistently across all of your social media platforms?

Your business name should always appear the same on every page.

For example, if your business is Rodney’s Bar and Grill, but on some profiles you’re listed as Rodney’s Restaurant or Rodney’s Grill, edit the incorrect listings to make sure your brand is consistent. It’s the best way to establish brand awareness, brand loyalty, and to ensure that your customers aren’t confused when they’re researching your business.

It’s also important to know  that  you don’t have to create a page on a given platform for your business to have a presence there.

For example, past employees might have created a Facebook page for your business by checking in on Facebook, or a customer could have made a Yelp page for your business so that they could leave a review.

Remove any superfluous pages that aren’t brand pages run by your business, and claim any profiles that require your attention to maintain your online presence and reputation.

Getting a handle on everywhere your business appears online can help you keep track of what profiles you need to spring clean and help you find new opportunities to interact with current and potential customers.

Related: Attract customers to local shops with a strong online presence

Update Social Media Google On Tablet

2. Claim your pages

During your Google search, you might find some pages you didn’t know belonged to your business.

If you see an unclaimed page for your business that you think could add value to your brand — such as a Yelp, Google or TripAdvisor page — you can claim it, add the correct business information, add photos and start responding to your reviews.

Claiming these listings allows you to add your voice and feedback to the conversation, which helps to protect your legacy and online reputation.

Related: How to claim social media handles — and why you should do it now

3. Update your information

Make sure all of your profiles have the same information about your business and that your hours, menu, address, phone number and other information are accurate.

Whenever a customer visits your pages online, there should be no inconsistencies in key information that could prevent them from coming in your doors.

4. Update your cover and profile photos

Just as springtime means it’s time to clean out your closets to feel ready and refreshed for the new season, it’s also time to clean up your profiles to rejuvenate your online presence.

Keep your logo as your profile photo on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, but upload new cover photos for Facebook and Twitter.

It’s also time to refresh your bio on Instagram, and upload fresh photos of your products and services on review sites like Yelp and Google. Let your fans and followers know everything that’s new and fresh at your business this spring by posting about it on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Related: Social media image sizes: The 2019 cheat sheet

5. Refresh your social media content calendar

Update Social Media Coworkers Looking At Calendar

You should take this opportunity to revamp your social media and review site strategy.

Check out your analytics to get insight into what’s working — what’s engaging and appealing to your audience — and what’s not. Every social media platform has an option for you to check your analytics and statistics. Review your numbers to see what’s performing well for your business online and make a note to do more of that.

Taking a closer look at your content can help you evaluate if you’re reaching your target demographic and what to do with your content next.

For your social media marketing strategy, you should adjust your content calendar with some new ideas and goals.

You can decide to incorporate more user-generated content, use Instagram Stories, create a Facebook photo album after your next event, or start tweeting out your daily specials. If you vary your content, your followers will notice, get engaged, and spread the word to their families and friends.

When it comes to review sites, add a new, updated photo of yourself to answer reviews. Make sure that all of your reviews are answered, if they’re not, catch up so you can go into spring knowing that you have responded to all of your customer feedback from the months before.

Related: The rulebook for crafting a response to negative comments on social media

6. Clean out your social media inboxes

Your customers are always looking for ways to contact you and share their thoughts. With so many ways for them to reach out, it can be easy to miss some of their outreach.

Check your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Yelp inboxes for direct messages from customers to make sure you haven’t missed any questions, comments, concerns or feedback. Responding to your customers is the best way to extend your customer service online.

GoDaddy Social can help you spring clean your online presence and elevate your social media marketing strategy to engage with your customers like never before — get started here.

5 Crucial Steps to Optimize the Online Reputation of Your Small Business

By Carol Duke

Your business brand and reputation are interconnected since they are built through the direct and indirect experiences that customers have with your business. Your business’ online reputation, however, serves as its resume; hence it plays a pivotal role in earning you new business and clients.

Though reputation is valuable to the success of your brand, it is not a static element. It evolves constantly depending on the online reviews that customers give your business and its products, blog posts about your business, and social media comments and posts.

In this day and age where consumers have evolved to “prosumers” who actively share and consume information about your business from various online platforms, a good online reputation is vital in keeping your business afloat and ahead of your competitors.

What happens if your reputation is already good and you have achieved your target in terms of ratings and positive comments? Do you just stop all reputation management efforts? The answer is no! Reputation management is an everyday job which you can do better at using the following tips.

1. Assess Your Current Online Reputation

Before you dive into any strategies for strengthening your reputation, it is essential to have a clear picture of how people perceive you currently. Doing so will help you work to be better, based on verified facts.

To assess your current situation, Google your business and see what comes up. Are there businesses with a similar name that are crowding your visibility? Does your business have any recent positive reviews or are there only negative ones? What kind of visual material shows up for your business name, is it related to your products or services?

Assessing your online reputation helps you to notice any red flags that might affect it such as negative comments. It also enables you to make changes that will allow you to track your progress more efficiently such as setting up Google alerts.

2. Set Goals

Ask yourself, why you are trying to improve your reputation? Is it to keep your company ahead of competitors, get new clients, or shift attention to a new product? Answering these questions helps to determine the direction you should take. 

Ensure that you come up with a unique value proposition (UVP) that will show people the benefit of buying from your brand. UVPs serve as the guiding lights as people review your business. They point out serious areas of need in an industry such as the need for expert and trustworthy essay services, which makes it easy for consumers to determine if your brand offered them what you claimed it would. Once you’ve mastered your UVP, make sure you take time to refine your unique selling proposition (USP) as well to further distinguish your business from the competition.

3. Respond to Reviews

Imagine someone just walks away when you compliment or call them out. Sounds rude, right? That is exactly how most customers feel when you do not respond to their reviews. Make sure that you draft thoughtful and deliberate tactics to respond to all positive and negative reviews.

A 2018 study by TripAdvisor shows that hotels that responded to reviews saw a 12% increase in reviews and their ratings went up by 0.12 stars. Since you might not manage to respond to everything alone, train your staff to help you out with the responses. You will be surprised at how your reputation will improve once customers know that you care about their opinion.

4. Seek the Help of Influencers

Influencer marketing improves ROI and ratings greatly since people love hearing and following the footsteps of people who have made it, such as celebrities. Influencers help to expand your reach, give your business credibility, and offer cross-promotion, which gets more people talking about and reviewing your business. When using this strategy, ensure that you identify an influencer who your audience relates to and interacts with.

5. Deliver Your Promises

Since no one likes being lied to, lying makes you look bad and incompetent. When relating with customers, the way you communicate helps to build your online reputation. If you promise a customer with a discount as part of your apology for bad service, make sure you follow through.

Always remember that everything said online is public and if a review ends badly, all interested parties will know, which will lead to more negative reviews. Avoid mistreating unhappy customers and make real and noticeable changes to your business when serious complaints arise, to get customers to come back.

Customers trust online search engines when researching a business. Be conscious of what people say about you, watch what you do, and be transparent. With the tips discussed above, you can maintain a positive and stay ahead of your competitors.

Featured photo credit: Depositphotos

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Carol Duke
Carol is an experienced freelancer and blogger, who focuses on marketing-related topics. When she is not writing about marketing, she works as an editor at IHateWritingEssays best custom writing services reviews. Carol is keen on guiding students, mentoring them, and teaching them new and effective ways of learning. During her free time, she enjoys traveling and finds immense pleasure visiting new places around the world.

6 Steps to Remarkable Customer Service

by Kevin Stirtz

Last Updated: Apr 16, 2019
Customer service training is great – if you can remember to consistently apply what you’ve learned. One way to make sure you and your staff don’t forget the basics of great customer service is to follow a series of steps like these each and every time.

We get a lot of advice about how to deliver great customer service. Many of the suggestions are reminders of what we already know (but we occasionally forget). And these are useful. But sometimes, we need more than a reminder. Sometimes it’s helpful to have a system or, at least, some steps to follow.

Here is an easy yet valuable roadmap I’ve taught in many of my customer service seminars. It’s easy to understand but it can be effective in keeping us on track so we consistently deliver what our customers want from us.

1. Connect with your customer

This is critical. This is where you establish rapport and begin a relationship with your customer. Connecting means you’re building trust that runs both ways. Do this by engaging your customer. Start by giving them your name and asking theirs. Be interested in them and what they want. Ask questions. Listen. Respond appropriately. Have a conversation with them. Be genuine.

People know when you are genuinely interested in helping them or not. If you are, they are more likely to respond positively to you and to develop trust with you. If you are really not interested, they’ll sense it and you’ll have a much harder time developing the trust you need to help them.

2. Discover what they want

If you have a genuine conversation with your customer, you will discover what they want. They don’t always know what they want. Or they might have trouble expressing it. Often people know what they want but they’re unsure how to get it. That’s where you come in.

By asking pertinent questions and paying attention to the answers, you can discover a lot about your customer. You can help guide them to getting what they want. That’s the role you fill and that’s how you keep customers coming back.

3. Know what you can do

We can’t always give the customer everything they want. Sometimes they want what we can’t do. Other times, it’s something we choose not to do.

Every business has a niche to fill. That means doing what the business is best at doing for the customers it can serve best. This step is about “picking your battles”. It’s about choosing the customers who best fit what you can do well by knowing what you do best.

4. Do it

This sounds easy and maybe it should be. But it’s where many businesses fail. They fail because they don’t manage the process of planning, doing, measuring and monitoring well.

To execute well you need to be able to measure what’s important. What gets measured gets done. So, convert your customer’s wants into actions you can measure. Then set up a system to measure the outcomes and the actions that produce them.

For customers, this is the icing on their cake. It’s true for you too because it’s easy to do yet it pays huge dividends in customer loyalty.

As you plan your execution phase, make sure you plan a follow-up contact. Follow-up by phone, email, letter, visit, whatever works. The more direct and personal the better but make it work for your customer and your company. This thrills customers because very few companies do it consistently.

Related: 15 Customer Service Tips That Make Loyal Customers

6. Thank them

This often gets forgotten. Or it gets treated lightly. Too often when I hear a “thanks for doing business with us” it sounds phony, forced or robotic. People often say it out of habit but they put no feeling or authenticity into it.

So, when you thank your customers, be real about it. Make it genuine. Thank them in multiple ways, not just once. make sure they know you are grateful for their business.

Follow these six steps with every customer and you’ll find your level of customer service will increase dramatically. Coach your employees to understand and work through these steps (every time) and you’ll see your customer loyalty and customer retention go through the roof.

Kevin Stirtz has developed a unique concept called “Blow Up Your Business.” He speaks to groups of professionals and business owners who want to attract more customers and put more money in their pocket. Kevin can be reached at https://www.linkedin.com/in/kevinstirtz  or 952-212-4681.

5 Steps to Making a Million Dollars or More a Year

The secrets to achieving this seemingly elusive goal are far more systematic than you might think.

11 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Want to become a millionaire? Better yet, how about making a million dollars per year? Maybe more? If that’s something you’re reaching for, join the club. It’s a goal sought after by countless souls on the planet. In fact, one study conducted by TD Ameritrade discovered that 53% of millennials expect to become millionaires in their lifetimes. The question is, how realistic is that dream? 

Clearly, without a plan, there’s not much hope for anyone looking to make a small fortune or hit any big goal for that matter. But seven percent of millennials surveyed in that study think they’ll hit that illustrious 7-figure mark by the time they turn 30. Can they actually do it? Whether most people think it’s realistic or not, the truth is that the internet has unveiled new methods and means for reaching that target and doing it incredibly quickly. 

So what separates those who can make lots of money online (or offline) from those who fail to do so? At the end of the day, it’s merely one word. Belief. The mind is a very powerful tool. And if you can’t start with the foundation of true and utter belief in yourself and your abilities, nothing is possible. But to the man or woman who is steeped in true belief in what they can accomplish and achieve, nothing is quite out of reach. 

How to make a million dollars per year

At the very heart of it, to really make money (and I mean lots and lots of money), you need to solve a problem. Problems lead consumers into pain. Your job as an entrepreneur is to address that pain by providing a solution. Now, that doesn’t mean you need to come up with the next big idea like Uber founders Travis Kalanick and Garret Camp, or AirBnB founders Brian Chesky, Joe Gebbia and Nathan Blecharczyk. It simply means that you need to find a problem that you can solve, and offer that solution to customers. 

You’re not going to make a million dollars or more per year working for someone else. Not unless you’re a high-ranking executive at a Fortune 500 company or get in on the ground floor at the next Stripe, Facebook or Google. No. In order to hit that illustrious 7-figure mark, you need to present the right offer at the right time to the right audience. That’s it. 

Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? Of course, it’s easier said than done. But, when I really started thinking about this topic, I realized that there’s so much disinformation and misinformation out there. The biggest problem? People who work tirelessly to convince others that they’ve “made it” just so they can sell them some digital course on the latest drop-shipping method or webinar creation strategy. 

Related: 20 Signs You’re Destined to Become a Millionaire

So in order to really answer this question, I went straight to the source. We’re talking centimillionaires and billionaires. People who’ve achieved $100 million dollars in revenue and up. If you want to learn how to make a million dollars or more per year, why not ask those who’ve not only reached that level but also exponentiated those results? 

Step 1: Identify the pain

First things first. What is the pain in the marketplace? What are consumers struggling with or grappling with? If you’re unsure, all you have to do is jump into well-traversed Reddit threads or popular Facebook Groups. What are people talking about? Are there some resounding complaints that seem to come up repeatedly? If you stick around for long enough, you’ll find the pain in the marketplace. That much is for certain. As long as you can identify the pain, then you’ll find the problem. 

One thing that’s for certain is this: The bigger the pain, the bigger the problem. And, the bigger the potential to not only make a million dollars per year or more but also to get filthy rich for that matter. Entrepreneurs who are bold enough to go out there and tackle big problems are often the ones who reap the big payouts. They’re disruptors, dissatisfied with the status quo. And they exist in every industry under the sun. They’re filled with a willingness to tackle massive problems that have faced us for years, if not decades in most cases. 

Jeremy Delk, an entrepreneur at the helm of a $100 million business called Tailor Made Compounding, tells me that you should go where the pain exists in the marketplace. While money is important and is a necessary course in business, if you can properly identify the pain, that’s always the major starting point. If you can’t find the pain, how can you present a solution that will help to take that pain away?

Jesse Itzler, the founder of Marquis Jets, another entrepreneur with well over a $200 million net worth (and husband of Sarah Blakley, the billionaire founder of Spanx), tells me you should never fear failure or shy away when you’re tackling those big problems. You have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. You’re not always going to have all the answers. But you have to be willing and persistent enough to find them. 

Step 2: Create an irresistible offer

Understanding the pain and the problem is the first step. But you also need to take action on that pain. If you sincerely want to make a million dollars per year or more, you also have to create a compelling offer. Remember, it’s all about the right offer to the right audience at the right time. If you’ve found the audience and identified their problem, you now need to create an irresistible offer that will properly target that audience. So what makes an offer irresistible? 

There are many factors involved. But think about it yourself. What really turns your head when it comes to products or services? What truly makes you want to buy something from a person or a company that you might not know very well? There are numerous factors. But what are the most important? Dan Kennedy says that there are four important parts of an irresistible offer: 1. The offer has to be clear. 2. It has to have good value. 3. It should involve a discount or a premium. 4. There should be a logical reason behind the offer.

Related: 9 Everyday Habits of the Average Millionaire

But what else is involved? How do you really pull the lever and get people to buy something? Well, let me start by breaking it down like this. Ever seen a long line somewhere and wondered what everyone was standing in line for? Maybe the line was long or it wrapped around the block. Or, maybe, just maybe, you’re at a theme park and see this one ride that has the longest line and wonder what all these people are standing in that line for. 

What’s the first thing that goes through your mind? It must be something good. Why? Two words. Social proof. Beyond the other factors, people often reference the behavior of others when making decisions. As much as we want to think we are unique in our decision-making process, we’re often not. We follow the herd. And glorify the crowd. In turn, we’re not leaders. We’re merely followers. And that’s why social proof is so important. Yes, offer construction matters. But social proof is so incredibly important. 

Think about it yourself. When you see so many testimonials for some weight loss product or some system to make money online, aren’t you drawn to it? When there are genuine and compelling reviews, and so much social proof is built up behind something, that’s where the real magic happens. That’s when the other barriers of resistance fall. So how do you get social proof for something? In the very beginning, give it away in exchange for solid reviews. If what you’ve created truly solves a pain and really addresses the problem, then the rest, as they say, will likely be history. 

Step 3 – Create a detailed plan and execute daily

Planning is critical. If you’re serious about making real headway, you need to get into the plan. Take your goal and work backward. What’s it going to take to hit the target? How are you going to get there? You can usually create milestones along the way. If you’ve actually set a goal, and you’ve quantified your target, then all you need to do to make a million dollars per year or more is work backward. What are the monthly targets? What about the weekly targets? Daily? Identify them and create some action steps to get yourself there. 

But you also never know what will happen. Maybe you’ll reach your target. And maybe you won’t. But maybe, just maybe, you’ll shoot far past the target you set. Like Russell Brunson, an entrepreneur running a $100 million dollar software company called ClickFunnels, often says, you’re only one funnel away. In other words, you’re one pain-solving offer away from making an exceedingly large amount of money. Of course, this also means that whatever plan you have includes truly delivering some real value. If you’re not delivering value, then you’re never going to hit your income targets. It’s incredibly hard to do so. It’s like trying to push against a concrete wall. 

Step 4 – Create a deeper mission and vision

While goals are important and they shouldn’t be changed, you have to be mission and vision-driven. You can’t merely rely on the superficial. Attach your goal to a deeper meaning with a stronger “why” for achieving it. For example, not only do you want to reap a financial reward, but also an emotional or spiritual one. What is your mission and your vision? If you haven’t defined it, set it down on paper. It’s far more important than anything else you could possibly do.

Richard Branson often says that while money is important, if you’re truly looking to get incredibly wealthy, you have to exact real change. What does that mean? It’s certainly not thing-related or associated with some number of trailing zeros at the end of a bank account. For high-level entrepreneurs, it’s always tied to your deeper why. You will always do more for something that has more meaning to you than you will for a superficial goal. 

Related: 12 Ways Millionaires Manage Their Time to Achieve Maximum Efficiency

Step 5: Track, analyze and re-adjust your approach

There’s no boiler-plate approach to making a million dollars or more in a year or a month or in any other time frame. What you have to do is make sure you track at the finite level. The more detailed you can track and analyze your progress, the more likely you’ll be to get closer to your target faster. It’s similar to an airplane that takes off at a pre-determined time with a pre-determined destination. It has a goal. And in order to get to that goal, it needs a plan. 

However, sometimes, the plane’s plan doesn’t work out. There’s air-traffic congestion or turbulence or a storm in its path. To determine where it’s at and how far it’s come, it has to track and analyze often. Plane’s know moment by moment where they are. And, they also know that they might need to change their approach to reach their target. You should do the same. Don’t change the goal, but if you have to, change the plan. That’s the way you get there. Not by giving up. 

Struggling to Find Career Excitement? These 4 Steps Will Help You Discover (or Rediscover) Your Passion.

Brian Tracy breaks down the small steps you can take to start turning your passion into your livelihood.

2 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

In this video, Entrepreneur Network partner Brian Tracy describes how to take your passion and turn it into a career. Tracy explains how, no matter your age or the state of the world, bills are one thing that will not change. 

If you’re feeling that are falling into a rut, pinpoint your passion and pursue it. Grow your skills and become a life-long learner. You don’t need to go back to school, but you should take advantage of opportunities around you. In this ever-changing technological environment, you can easily empower yourself and gain more information.

Click the video to hear more from Brian Tracy. 

Related: How to Handle a Sudden Growth Spurt in Your Business

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EN is partnered with hundreds of top YouTube channels in the business vertical. Watch video from our network partners on demand on RokuApple TV and the Entrepreneur App available on iOS and Android devices.

5 Steps to Handling a Crisis Like a Boss

I’ve read countless textbooks about crisis management, but I’m usually left disappointed at the lack of common sense. Here’s what you need to know.

5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

It’s wonderful when everything in your business runs smoothly. You know those days — sales targets get smashed, you win new business and an IT upgrade actually finishes on time. But, we often learn more about ourselves and our businesses in times of trouble. I sincerely hope your crisis never happens. But if it does, here are my tips for handling a crisis like a boss.

1. Plan ahead.

Make a list of the five most likely things that could go wrong — and at least a couple of unlikely things — that would cause your business big problems. If you own a pizza restaurant, it could be an infestation of rats, a rude waiter upsetting customers or a rival pizza restaurant opening on the next block. Take the emotion out of things by imagining that you’re giving advice to a friend, then plan how you should respond to each problem. Pick the spokespeople who can communicate with customers, the media and any investors you may have.

2. Lead on empathy.

A simple and sincere apology will often calm even the angriest of customers. However, a word of warning: It’s crucial that the apology comes from you, the boss, not via a carefully worded statement on your company’s website or Twitter feed. Apart from being the right thing to do as a human being, it shows that you understand the customer’s pain, anger or disappointment. It can also help stop the story from escalating on social media or in the media. Also, if possible, publicly commit to find out what happened and promise that it won’t happen again.

The United Airlines incident in 2017 — when a passenger was dragged off an overbooked flight after refusing to give up his seat — is a an example of how not to apologize. A video of the incident showing the passenger’s bloodied face took just hours to go viral. United’s initial statement about the incident, which apologised for “having to re-accommodate” passengers was tone deaf and made matters worse. He wasn’t “re-accommodated” — he was dragged from his seat and off the plane in a traumatic and humiliating incident that became a global news story. The apology looked particularly bad on a CNN split-screen alongside the video footage.

The apology read as if it was written by a lawyer, not a contrite business leader. CEO Oscar Munoz issued a video apology four days later, which was far too late. 

3. Don’t be too risk-averse.

In my experience, PRs are often too defensive when it comes to how their client deals with the media, especially in a crisis. They play it ultra-safe and encourage the client not to say anything remotely clear, interesting or honest, in case it affects the reputation or profits of the business. The irony is that the public are crying out for leadership and honesty from politicians and business. Take responsibility for what has gone wrong and act.

4. Take action.

Provide a helpline or other form of support for affected customers if necessary. That way, no matter how unexpected or disrupted the situation, you already have the procedures and personnel to respond. Make realistic promises that you can keep, find out what went wrong, publish any review into events afterwards and stick to lessons learned.

Being too cautious can worsen a crisis because you will come across as indecisive. The risk-averse syndrome is at its worst when lawyers call the shots during a corporate crisis. Of course, risks must be considered and mitigated, but they shouldn’t be the tail wagging the dog.

5. Keep calm.

Even the most experienced and resilient can become like a deer in the headlights. It’s understandable to feel overwhelmed by the pace of events, the media feeding frenzy. The fear, anger and uncertainty can feel all-consuming. I appreciate that you must react promptly to a crisis, but that doesn’t mean you should rush. As I half-jokingly say to my clients, take decisions in a brisk but unhurried manner.

A rushed statement about the crisis, in which you may get facts wrong or make rash promises, will make matters worse. Remember the old saying about marrying in haste and repenting at leisure? Take a walk around your block or go for a coffee. That 15 to20 minutes of thinking time could give you some distance from the situation and help you work out how best to deal with it.

Bear in mind that within a couple of days or weeks, a new crisis will knock your company off the front pages. Memories of the event will fade. And if you’ve handled it well, your reputation may even emerge strengthened, rather than weakened.

7 Practical Steps to Host Webinars That Drive Sales

ClickMeeting’s Simon Grabowski shares his webinar secrets, including the best time of day and how to keep viewers until the end.

6 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

This article is written by Simon Grabowski, CEO of ClickMeeting, who is an Advisor in The Oracles.

If you’re in B2B sales, there’s one channel you can’t ignore: webinars. Half of B2B buyers say webinars are the most valuable form of content in the mid-stages of decision-making. They spend longer with webinars than any other type of content and are more willing to share their contact details in exchange. Whether you’re in products, services, or coaching, webinars can increase your authority as an expert — and ultimately increase your revenue.

Once you have a hosting platform, webinars only cost as much as you want to spend promoting them; so they’re cost-effective. More importantly, they work. For example, at ClickMeeting, our average conversion rate is 54 percent. Webinars have a lot of potential if they are prepared, promoted, and conducted well.

Here are my seven steps to creating a winning webinar.

1. Make the content impactful.

The best webinars educate their audience and provide specific, tangible benefits. For example, don’t just explain how to start a blog — explain “10 ways to drive visitors to your new blog.” Focus on the problem you’re addressing and why. Will blog visitors drive sales and thus financial security? Or will a profitable blog provide the freedom to work from home?

Viewers will leave if you hit them with a sales pitch. But after you give them value, they will be more willing to buy from you. For example, if you provide valuable information from your online course but also leave them wanting more, you entice them to dive deeper into the full course. You should also give viewers access to exclusive bonus content, such as a discount for the course or an ebook.

Make your webinar visual using audio and video or a whiteboard activity — don’t just use a presentation. Live video is impactful for product demonstrations, as is screen sharing for software or services demos.

2. Design your registration page.

Keep your registration page simple. Describe the key ideas your audience will learn and highlight the presenter, especially if they’re a recognized expert.

Make it easy to sign up with a clear call to action. Use large fields in the registration form and don’t ask for too much information; their name and email may be all you need.

Don’t forget to include the date and time, as well as the time zone if viewers are dispersed. Our research has found that Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. are best. An hour is ideal, which allows 40 minutes for the presentation and 20 minutes for Q&A.

3. Generate buzz.

Start your promotional campaign a month beforehand to attract crowds to your webinar. This can be as simple or in-depth as your time and budget allow.

Leverage your social media, email, and other channels, as well as those of the presenters. Ask them to prepare and share a 30-second video invitation, including the topic, date, and time. A personal invitation with a warm smile and energy puts a human face on your marketing. Include a unique, recognizable hashtag to keep the conversation consistent. To reach a broader audience, allocate a budget to Google and social media advertising. 

Send the first email to your contacts two weeks before the webinar. Schedule reminders for a week and then a day before the event. Create urgency with subject lines like “Last chance to register” or “Only a few seats left.” When the webinar is starting, send a reminder to those who have registered, and those who haven’t, so they have a final chance to join.

4. Prepare the room and technology.

All you need are a hosting platform, stable internet, and a device with a camera and microphone. Even a smartphone or tablet will do. While you can use the microphone built into your device, headsets provide higher-quality audio and prevent feedback.

If you plan to share your screen during the presentation, clear your desktop of distractions. Close apps and programs you don’t need and organize your browser tabs.

Find a quiet space with an uncluttered background where no one will disturb you. Then set up a trial run at least a day before. Test the lighting at the same time of day as the webinar to ensure your audience will be able to see you. Use your hosting platform to test the internet connection for speed issues. 

5. Go live (and keep your audience engaged).

Begin the webinar by teasing your exclusive content. To discourage viewers from leaving early, don’t reveal it until the end. Keep viewers engaged by polling them or encouraging questions in the chat area. Invite a moderator to manage this, and leave time at the end to answer questions.

Don’t worry if you make mistakes. While going live on camera is intimidating, this creates a personal connection with your audience. They understand that mistakes happen. 

6. Follow up with leads.

Send a thank-you email with the bonus content as soon as the webinar ends. This is the best time to gather feedback for future webinars, so include a survey as well. Then compile questions from the webinar and share the answers in another email.

Last-minute conflicts happen, so it’s normal if about half of those who register actually attend. The ones who don’t are still valuable leads; so follow up with the recording and offer to answer their questions. Send it to those who joined the live event too.

7. Keep it up!

Webinars are like blogging or email marketing: you need to deliver content regularly to be successful. Start monthly and go from there, but don’t overwhelm your audience with more than one each week.

Regular webinars build a community of loyal viewers and prospective customers. Consistently engaging them with valuable content establishes you as a trustworthy source of knowledge. This ultimately builds trust, relationships, and sales. So get your webinars out there, and good luck!

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