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Friday Small Business Roundup: The Secrets of Happy Customers and More

June 21st, 2013 ::

Want to Improve Your Customer Service? Do a Customer Survey. It’s easy–Rieva Lesonsky shows you how.

Want your marketing to go viral? Monika Jansen’s post How to Combine Viral Content to Really Turbocharge Your Marketing will help.

Maria Valdez Haubrich has some surprising news: The Greener Your Business, the Greener Your Sales, a new survey says.

Keep your customers happy. Read Rieva Lesonsky’s 5 Steps to Using Twitter as a Customer Service Tool.

Make sure your marketing efforts fit your target market’s technology. Read Karen Axelton’s Who’s Using Smartphones and What Does It Mean to Your Business?

Are You Driving Customers Away With These Common Customer Service Mistakes? Rieva Lesonsky’s post tells you how to avoid the errors and keep customers coming back.

Your PR efforts finally landed publicity! Now how to ace the interview with that reporter or blogger? Read Monika Jansen’s 6 Tips for Giving a Great Interview to find out.

Have to interview someone? Check out Monika Jansen’s 5 Basic Tips for Conducting a Great Interview to handle it like a pro.

Friday Small Business Roundup: Beating the Big Guys and More

June 7th, 2013 ::

If you own a restaurant or food-related business, you won’t want to miss Rieva Lesonsky’s post on Tasty Food Trends for 2013 and Beyond.

Want to expand your empire? Read Maria Valdez Haubrich’s post Is Now a Good Time to Buy a Business?  to see if you’re ready to buy.

Feeling the need for a refresher course on SEO? Check out Monika Jansen’s post SEO 101: Everything You Need to Know About SEO in 2013.

If you have a retail business, you’ll be happy to read Rieva Lesonsky’s post Good News for Retailers: Millennials Love to Shop.

Curious about native advertising’s potential? Monika Jansen’s Your 6 Burning Questions About Native Advertising, Answered, has all the answers.

Yes, your business can compete against big companies–and win. Read 5 Ways a Small Business Can Successfully Compete Against the Big Boys, by Monika Jansen, to learn how.

If you’ve slashed your business travel budget, you may think again after reading Karen Axelton’s post Study Shows Spending on Business Travel Pays Off.

Customers Care About Social Responsibility—So Use Social Media to Prove You’re Doing Good. Rieva Lesonsky tells you how.

Friday Small Business Roundup: Hiring Smart and More

May 31st, 2013 ::

Is your email marketing missing the mark? Read Rieva Lesonsky’s post to learn The 1 Simple Trick That Makes Your Email Marketing More Effective.

Facebook contests can be effective–but also tricky. Read Monika Jansen’s 7 Tips From an Expert on How to Run a Facebook Contest to get the scoop.

What’s Holding M-Commerce Back? Find out in Rieva Lesonsky’s post.

Are Small Business Owners Ready to Hire? See if your plans align with other entrepreneurs’ in Maria Valdez Haubrich’s post.

If you’ve hired or are getting ready to hire, don’t miss Rieva Lesonsky’s post on 4 Secrets to Successfully Onboarding New Hires.

Trying to hire graphic designers but don’t want to pay a lot? Check out Monika Jansen’s post 5 Reasons Why Good Design Ain’t Cheap – or Free for a reality check.

Struggling to keep up with content creation for your content marketing plan? Read 6 Content Creation Takeaways From How to Feed the Content Beast, by Monika Jansen.

Is Your Restaurant Giving Customers What They Want? Learn what matters to today’s diners in Karen Axelton’s post.

Friday Small Business Roundup: Hiring Tips and More

May 10th, 2013 ::

Is your business seeking to hire female tech employees? Read Maria Valdez Haubrich’s post The Secret to Hiring Women Tech Employees: Get Virtual first.

Whatever type of worker you’re looking to hire, read The First Step to Finding the Perfect Employee by Rieva Lesonsky before you post that want ad.

Did you know radio can still be one of the most effective ad venues around? Read Karen Axelton’s Turn It Up: Why Radio Advertising Can Deliver for Small Business to learn why.

New to Twitter? Get the basics in Monika Jansen’s post Twitter 101: The Do’s and Don’ts When Getting Started.

Is your industry, well, kind of boring? No worries: Read 5 Marketing Tricks to Turn a Boring Business Into a Fun One, by Monika Jansen, and liven it up.

What Are the Best (And Worst) States for Business Taxes?

April 16th, 2013 ::

By Karen Axelton

If you filed your business taxes yesterday and are wishing you could have paid less, you might want to check out the Tax Foundation’s 2013 State Business Tax Climate Index. The annual listing ranks the 50 states based on their tax-friendliness to small business.

The Index ranks the states based on 118 different variables in five key areas of taxation: major business taxes, individual income taxes, sales taxes, unemployment insurance taxes and property taxes. The results are added up for an overall ranking. The goal is to reward states for especially strong aspects of their tax systems, and penalize them for especially weak aspects, while also measuring the general competitiveness of their tax systems overall.

The 10 best states for small business taxes this year are:

  1. Wyoming
  2. South Dakota
  3. Nevada
  4. Alaska
  5. Florida
  6. Washington
  7. New Hampshire
  8. Montana
  9. Texas
  10. Utah

Many of these states made it to the top 10 because they lack a major tax that most other states have, such as corporate tax, sales tax or individual income tax. (All states have property taxes and unemployment insurance taxes.) For instance, Wyoming, Nevada, and South Dakota have no corporate or individual income tax; Alaska has no individual income or state-level sales tax; Florida has no individual income tax; and New Hampshire and Montana have no sales tax.

The 10 worst states for small business taxes are:

  1. Maryland
  2. Iowa
  3. Wisconsin
  4. North Carolina
  5. Minnesota
  6. Rhode Island
  7. Vermont
  8. California
  9. New Jersey
  10. New York

“The states in the bottom 10 suffer from the same afflictions: complex, non-neutral taxes with comparatively high rates,” the report notes. For instance, although New York has only moderate corporate taxes, having the worst individual income tax, the sixth-worst unemployment insurance taxes and the sixth-worst property taxes put it in the bottom spot.

Which state was “most improved” this year compared to laat? Maine went from 37th to 30th by repealing its alternative minimum tax and changing how it treats net operating losses. Michigan also improved from 18th to 12th overall by replacing its gross receipts tax (the Michigan Business Tax) with a flat 6 percent corporate income tax.

Before you pack up the moving van, keep in mind these rankings are based solely on business taxes. The Tax Foundation cautions that it’s not measuring quality of life or even the best states for business—just the best states in terms of business taxes.

You can view more details and download full rankings here.

Image by Flickr user gemsling (Creative Commons)

How Are Small Businesses Benefiting From Cloud Computing?

April 2nd, 2013 ::

By Karen Axelton

How are small businesses using cloud computing, and how are they benefiting from it? A study by CDW reported on CIO.com found that more than half of businesses surveyed are moving at least some of their functions to the cloud. What they’re using the cloud for, however, varies by business size. For small and midsized businesses, storage is the primary way they use the cloud, while bigger companies and government agencies use cloud services mostly for collaboration and conferencing.


Of course, these aren’t the only things the cloud is being used for. CDW found that companies are also using the cloud to handle messaging, to access office and productivity suites, and to use business process apps.

No matter what types of functions they move to the cloud, doing so brings many benefits to companies of all sizes, CDW’s survey contends. Greater efficiency was the major benefit, cited by 55 percent of respondents. Close behind were greater employee mobility (49 percent), improved ability to innovate (32 percent) and freeing up the IT staff’s time to focus on more important work (31 percent). However, cloud computing may not save as much money as you expect: Just one-fourth of respondents said that reducing IT costs was a major benefit of cloud computing.

If you’re considering moving some of your business functions to the cloud or using cloud computing to access new applications and services, keep the following advice from CDW in mind:

  • Carefully analyze costs and benefits before making the decision.
  • Start small, using cloud services for functions that are simple to implement, aren’t business-critical and don’t put your company’s data or processes at risk.
  • Ease your employees into using cloud computing by leveraging their familiarity with consumer cloud services that they likely use, such as Spotify or Dropbox.
  • Keep track of your ROI to ensure that cloud services are truly saving you money or providing additional benefits that make them worth the cost.
  • Always review cloud service providers’ contracts and terms carefully. Make sure the provider’s security precautions are suitable for your needs, and know what type of customer service assistance you can expect in case of a problem.
  • Make sure a cloud provider’s offerings can scale up quickly with your company as it grows. This can be one of the major benefits of using cloud services, but you also need to know what costs will be as you add users, applications or services to make sure the solution is still cost-effective.

Image by Flickr user Kevin Dooley (Creative Commons)

Web.com Small Business Toolkit: Employee Pairin (Pre-Employment Selection)

March 12th, 2013 ::

Employee Pairin

So you’re hiring for an important position and you’re overwhelmed by the number of well-qualified applicants? That’s a great problem to have, but a scary one if you have no gut feeling as to who would make the best new hire. If you’d like an unbiased third-party opinion, for just $49 per open position, Employee Pairin can provide a 10-minute online test that creates a one-to-one comparison according to 137 peak performance drivers. The solution is perfect for small businesses with fewer than six employees in the same position, but with at least one “model” employee to compare against the top applicants.

Economy Positive, But Consumers’ Outlook Still Negative

March 7th, 2013 ::

By Maria Valdez Haubrich

America’s economy is growing again. Does that mean you can go back to marketing to your target customers the way you did before the Great Recession hit? Not so fast. A sobering new study by the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University found that Americans remain deeply scarred and pessimistic about their financial situations and their futures.

  • Six out of 10 people in the nationwide survey Diminished Lives and Futures: A Portrait of America in the Great-Recession Era
  • say that the U.S. economy has undergone a permanent change.
  • More than half say the economy will take at least six more years to fully recover from the Great Recession.
  • Nearly one-third (29 percent) say it will never fully recover.
  • Just one in five are confident that the next generation of American workers will enjoy better job and career opportunities.

Why so glum? The recession hit home for Americans:

  • Nearly three-fourths (73 percent) either lost a job or saw a friend, relative or member of their household lose a job in the last four years.
  • More than half (56%) have less money in savings than before the recession began.
  • More than one-third (38%) have a lot less in savings.

Although unemployment is down and private-sector job growth has continued for the past 35 months, less than one in three Americans say the economy is better than it was last year; nearly one in four say it’s gotten worse. Only one in three believe that economic conditions will improve a year from now; one in three think the economy will get worse, and the rest think it will stay the same.

“Five years of economic misery have profoundly diminished Americans’ confidence in the economy and their outlook for the next generation,” said study co-author Carl Van Horn. In fact, the vast majority say college will be permanently out of reach financially for the majority of young people.

“While all segments of society have been hit hard by the Great Recession, millions of students coming out of high school and college have had no place in the labor market to go for half a dozen years now,” said study co-author Cliff Zukin. “There is some evidence we may be seeing the beginning of a new generation in American society —no longer Millennials but Recessionals. Whereas older workers hit by the recession might recover their past consumer habits, this period of the recession might leave a lasting imprint on young people in their buying habits and need for security as they make their way through life.”

What do these results mean for your business?

  • Reality matters less than perception. Even if the economy is better in actuality, it’s your customers’ perceptions that drive their purchasing behavior. Show them how your products can appeal to their need for savings or security.
  • Target young people differently. What is worth spending on for your younger customers? Whether it’s tech gadgets or affordable treats, look for what your Millennial-aged customers consider worth buying and why.
  • Be cautious. With consumers’ outlook still so pessimistic, invest in marketing to reach out to them, but don’t overextend yourself financially, either.


Image by Flickr user Tony Fischer Photography (Creative Commons)

Women Step Up as Mobile Users, Customers

February 27th, 2013 ::

By Rieva Lesonsky

If you’re a woman small business owner, these figures probably won’t surprise you—but they could open your eyes to a marketing opportunity you’ve been missing out on. A study by VibrantNation of women aged 45-60 found that contrary to what many marketers may think, they are major buyers and users of technology. In 2012, VibrantNation reports, these women bought more new mobile and Web-enabled devices than ever before. In addition, they bought plenty of devices for the other members of their families.

Here’s some of what VibrantNation found about “younger Boomer” women:

  • 67% of them reported having purchased a new smartphone in the last 12 months.
  • 55% of them reported having bought a new iPad, tablet computer or e-reader in 2012.

VibrantNation divides 45-to-60 women into several overlapping market segments. While most women fall into more than one of these categories, all of them used their mobile devices to manage multiple roles and relationships in their lives.

  1. Active Empty-Nesters have plenty of disposable income. They like to spend money on tech toys, as well as on frequent travel. As a result, they love having the latest in mobile devices to stay connected on their trips.
  2. Multi-generational Caregivers use their devices to stay in touch with, schedule activities for, and keep track of up to four generations of their own families at all times.
  3. Midlife Entrepreneurs and Business Leaders live a life that requires them to be connected wherever they go (but I don’t have to tell you that, do I?).

The involvement of young Boomer women with their families is key to their mobile use. For example, women in the survey who had adult children were very involved in their adult children’s lives, to the extent of helping them choose or pay for technology devices. As younger adults struggle with reduced job opportunities and incomes, this trend is likely to continue. One-fourth of the respondents say they bought an adult child a smartphone or tablet computer in 2012.

Women who were involved in caring for multiple generations were also likely to invest in mobile devices for those family members. Some 8 percent of respondents reported buying a grandchild a tablet computer in 2012, and 8 percent had bought a desktop or laptop computer, tablet or smartphone for an aging parent.

Undoubtedly, as a woman entrepreneur, mobile devices from smartphones to laptops are an integral part of your daily life. So if your business’s target market includes women in the 45-to-60 age group, stop and think about how you like to interact with businesses, be marketed to, or research and buy products on your mobile devices. What do you like (and dislike) about way the brands you interact with approach mobile marketing or ecommerce? What kinds of information are you looking for that you can’t find? What would you like to do (buy, review, connect) on your mobile device that you can’t do?

Apply those lessons from your own life to the way you market to women Boomers, and you’ll be more likely to succeed at winning them over.

Image by Flickr user Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com (Creative Commons)

Web.com Small Business Toolkit: Insightly (Mobile CRM App)

January 16th, 2013 ::


Sales takes not only a great team but also a great support system. Insightly is a customer relationship management (CRM) system for your mobile device that has many great features such as linking, managing and sharing of contacts, notes, tasks and opportunities. Download the app and when you make a call, Insightly automatically adds the call to a call log so you can refer to the contact whenever you need to. With Insightly, it’s easy to search your customer data from anywhere. Insightly integrates with Google Apps, and there’s also a specific version for Apple devices, Windows phones and BlackBerrys.