Archive for the ‘Business’ Category

What is a DDoS Attack and How Can You Prevent One on Your Website?

Sunday, December 4th, 2016

What is a DDoS Attack and How Can You Prevent One on Your Website?

In October 2016, hundreds of the world’s biggest and most popular websites in the U.K. and the U.S. — including Twitter, eBay, Reddit and Spotify — were the subject of several waves of a massive DDoS attack that rendered the sites inaccessible for thousands of people throughout the day.

Many people referred to the disruption caused by the DDoS attacks as an “internet shut down,” and openly wondered what exactly a DDoS attack is. How does a DDoS attack happen anyway, and how does it manage to cause such lengthy global internet outages?

Well, a ‘distributed denial of service’ attack — commonly known as a DDoS attack — is an illegal hacking activity that takes down an online service and makes it unavailable by overwhelming it with web traffic from multiple sources. Hackers can buy a week-long DDoS attack for as little as $150 on the black market, TrendMicro Research reports (PDF). These malicious individuals often target websites and other computer systems for revenge, extortion, activism or even competitive brand damage.

Interestingly, DDoS attacks are relatively simple to implement, but notoriously difficult to defend against. They are among the most potent tools in a cyber criminal’s arsenal that can take even the most protected computers offline, from banks systems to SaaS applications and ecommerce websites.

What is a DDoS Attack?

DDoS attacks exploit the power of a network of tens of thousands of compromised computers, known as a “botnet,” to flood a website’s servers with page view requests. This overload of page requests renders legitimate traffic unable to get through. When an internet server is dealing with an overload, it is unable to respond to most normal queries, making it impossible for internet browsers to access the websites.

Attacks on Domain Name Service (DNS) providers or hosts are typically more effective than targeting a single website because hundreds of sites rely on them to direct traffic. DNS hosts such as Dyn, the provider that was hit in the aforementioned DDoS attack, are central to the operation of the internet.

DNS providers operate the “internet’s address book.” They ensure that website addresses (domain names) such as www.yourwebsitename.com are routed and make it to the correct site. If a DNS provider goes offline, then domain names powered by that provider are not routed to a website, meaning they fail to load web pages. Dyn, for example, powers some 3,500 enterprise customers including Netflix, LinkedIn, TripAdvisor and CNBC among many others, according to information on its website.

Nobody claimed responsibility for the 2016 DDoS attacks against Dyn, but experts said they were simple enough to have been carried out by mischievous teenagers rather than malicious state-sponsored attackers. Even amateur hackers can scan for vulnerable websites and computer systems using easily available software, and turn thousands of them against a single target.

How to Protect Your Website against DDoS Attacks

Estimates by Incapsula Inc., a cloud-based website protection service, indicate DDoS attacks can cost businesses up to $40,000 per hour that their websites are offline. A sharp increase in poorly-secured connected devices such as “smart” webcams, thermostats and televisions have also vastly increased the number of vulnerable systems that can be victims of (or tools for) DDoS attacks in recent years.

In order to protect your website and gadgets from distributed denial of service attacks, make sure you always download the latest security updates. Also, make sure your devices are protected with an up-to-date anti-virus software program, such as Kaspersky’s Security Scan or Norton 360. Most popular anti-virus programs can even scan your computer to see if it is part of a botnet.

Moreover, use routers and firewalls that can help stop simple ping attacks on your business website, while also providing automatic rate limiting and traffic shaping. Where possible, also buy excess bandwidth with your Internet Service Provider (ISP) that can handle various spikes in website traffic.

If you use WordPress platform to manage your website, install beneficial security plugins like WordFence and Bulletproof Security. Additionally, utilize dedicated software that can act as a buffer for your website against DDoS attacks. CloudFlare, for example, offers protection against DDoS attacks of all forms and sizes, and DdoS Protector can help block DoS attacks within seconds with multi-layered protection.

Finally, don’t go out looking for trouble. Hackers love a good challenge and will attack your website if tested. If you get a threatening message or comment, just delete or ignore it. And don’t advertise your website where it is not appropriate, such as hacker forums.

Remember any website is vulnerable to a DDoS attack so you need to be cautious always.

DDoS Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “What is a DDoS Attack and How Can You Prevent One on Your Website?” was first published on Small Business Trends

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How to Train Temporary Workers During the Busy Holiday Season

Sunday, December 4th, 2016

This is the time of year when add help to get through a busy season. Even if they're with you for a short time, don't skimp on employee safety training.

Many businesses hire additional workers during the holiday season to help with increased demand. This year, retailers are expected to employ between 640,000 and 690,000 temporary workers, according to the National Retail Federation.

Improperly trained temporary hires can present workplace safety risks. A 2014 study conducted by Travelers Insurance found that 28 percent of injuries happen within the first year of employment.

Don’t Skimp on Seasonal Employee Safety Training

Woody Dwyer and Scott Humphrey, risk control specialists with Travelers, spoke with Small Business Trends via telephone and provided the following ten safety training tips.

1. Instill a Safety-first Mindset

Every business should instill in temporary hires a safety-first mindset from the outset. That includes helping employees understand the business’s expectations related to the particular job for which they are being hired.

“If employers don’t tell employees what to expect, they will bring their own set of expectations to the job,” Dwyer said. “You can’t just assume people will follow safe practices, which is why safety orientation is so important, to help employees keep safety top of mind.”

2. Clearly Communicate Job Requirements

Seasonal workers need to understand the job requirements clearly so that when they start they won’t be shocked.

“Post-hire shock is one of the main reasons employees quit,” Humphrey said. “They find out the job was not what they expected it to be.”

3. Conduct Functional Capacity Evaluations

Along with clearly communicating the job requirements, employers should conduct what Dwyer and Humphrey call functional capacity evaluations.

“When you hire a new employee, ensure that they can handle the physical demands associated with the job, such as picking up heavy packages,” Dwyer said. “The same holds true when an employee returns to work following an injury.”

4. Mentor New Employees

Many companies have instituted mentoring programs to help new hires learn the ropes. That means, rather than merely telling someone what to do, show them, and then monitor their progress. When they fail to meet the guidelines, coach them until they get it right.

5. Prepare Employees for Changes in Store Layout

During the holiday season, there may be potential alterations made to the store, such as changes to the layout or added Christmas decorations.

“Make sure new hires are familiar with their surroundings and responsibilities,” Dwyer said. “While they may have a lot of industry experience, your unique facility is still unfamiliar territory for them.”

6. Train Workers to Manage Inventory Safely

Stores carry a higher volume of goods during the holidays, which may result in warehousing items at higher than shoulder height. Train employees in proper material handling, lifting techniques and ladder safety.

7. Teach New Employees to Take Their Time

“New workers want to please their employer,” said Dwyer, “which may mean they rush around, hurrying to accomplish assigned tasks. That could result in slips, trips or falls. Rather, teach these employees to take their time. That’s part of the safety-first mindset.”

8. Do Background Checks

Companies should make sure that delivery drivers hired during the holiday season have valid driver’s licenses. Also, do a background check, to ensure they have no violations.

9. Choose Smart Decorations

Choose smart locations for any additional holiday displays and products. Some Christmas decorations could be combustible, which increases the risk of fire and, as a result, injury or worse. Dwyer and Humphrey recommend that businesses keep decorations away from heat sources. If candles are used, select the battery-operated kind.

Also, secure decorations properly so that foot traffic can navigate around them safely. This is particularly true when it comes to large displays.

Dwyer provided this additional advice: “Be sure you are not covering up emergency exit signs, over-crowding aisle ways or any place that would make it difficult to get out in an emergency situation. Also, don’t string multiple extension cords together, to extend a decoration to an area a single plug can’t reach. Not only could this result in a trip and fall incident, but could also be a fire hazard.”

10. Talk to an Insurance Agent

A final tip, said Dwyer and Humphrey, is for the business owner to speak with his insurance agent in advance, to ensure he has the proper coverage.

“An experienced agent can help small business owners understand how to keep their stores festive, yet hazard free, during the holidays,” they said.

Conclusion

The holiday shopping period means a boost in foot traffic, more celebratory decorations, changes to the store layout and extra staff to manage the workload. It can also mean increased risks for injury. So, during this season, make safety a priority and train new hires well.

“Know the risks associated with a particular job, communicate what those risks are, develop safe work practices, train new employees to follow them and coach them when they don’t,” Dwyer said. “That should lead to fewer workplace injuries and a safer, more profitable holiday season.”

Nursery Employee Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “How to Train Temporary Workers During the Busy Holiday Season” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Business Writing Tips That Add Impact

Sunday, December 4th, 2016

Business Writing Tips That Add ImpactWriting is a fact of business and life. From the “LOL” Tweet or Facebook post to the 52-page business report, we all seek to create writing that is effective and impactful. The problem is that most of us are still writing to impress our English teacher. As a result, we carry over assumptions and behaviors about the writing process into our writing as grownups.

If writing was difficult for you as a student and still remains difficult Business Writing Tips For Easy and Effective Results is a book that promises to ease the transition to a better way of writing.

What is Business Writing Tips About?

Business Writing Tips starts off where all of our writing begins, in the mind. When most of us went to school, we were taught the “game” of writing. In that game, higher points went to the paper that featured the longest content and the most difficult words while making as few grammar mistakes as possible.With that kind of goal, the emphasis is more on the “rules” than writing style.

Fast forward a couple of years. Many of us haven’t graduated from this level of writing.

Because of this focus on “avoiding the penalty,” Business Writing Tips argues that we don’t use our personal style when writing. This emotional and mental “baggage” is what keeps us from writing in a more natural and easier way.

Getting back to a more natural (and easier) writing style is the intended focus of the book. Writing teacher and author Robert Bullard doesn’t want readers to discard all grammar rules, but he asks them to consider their purpose when writing. He invites readers to dissect and analyze their own writing style (and that of others) to create what works for them.

Balancing style, purpose and grammar is the key to good writing. Good writing should not only look good (grammar) but it should also feel comfortable for the writer (style) and serve its intended purpose.

Bullard is a former features writer for newspapers who now works as a copy editor, proofreader and book coach.

What Was Best About Business Writing Tips?

The best part of Business Writing Tips is the focus. The book balances a focus on grammar with a focus on style and intent. In other words, the book doesn’t simply tell readers how they should write. It gives suggestions on the process and style of good writing. This emphasis is shared in the various exercises of the book, aimed at making each individuals writing more effective.

What Could Have Been Done Differently?

Business Writing Tips is a great introduction to the writing process without all of the “baggage”, a message that will most resonate with beginning writers. Writers with more experience may find that some sections of the book may cover material with which they are already familiar. That being said, the book’s approach of helping to relieve a writer’s baggage may prove helpful even for those writers who know the grammar rules but still have trouble writing.

Why Read Business Writing Tips?

If you are a person who has always struggled with the writing process, Business Writing Tips might be able to help. While grammar rules can easily be searched on Google, the process and style of using those rules can’t. That’s where the book shines. Bullard has years of experience in writing (as a journalist, proofreader and coach) and uses that experience to target the mental roadblocks that get in a writer’s way. His book is designed to help readers appreciate and draw out their unique writing styles so that they can create impactful and effective writing.

This article, “Business Writing Tips That Add Impact” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Learn Secrets to Small Biz Success at These Upcoming Events

Saturday, December 3rd, 2016

secret-door

Want to learn the secret to small business success?

While there might not be just one secret to making your small business successful, there are some things you can learn to help your journey over the next year and beyond. And you can learn some of those things at Secret Knock, a Los Angeles conference scheduled for May 2017.

So if you’re looking to take your business to the next level, you might want to consider signing up for Secret Knock and other small business events throughout the next year.

You can learn more details about Secret Knock in the featured events section. And you can see even more events to add to your small business calendar in the list below.

To see a full list or to submit your own event, contest or award listing, visit the Small Business Events Calendar.



Featured Events, Contests and Awards

Secret KnockSecret Knock
May 22, 2017, Los Angeles, Calif.

Secret Knock is going to be the single greatest event for the top entrepreneurs and action-takers in the world to connect, share ideas, and help take each other to the next level. Each of the attendees have believed in themselves enough to get to where they are, and they are not stopping now. Secure your application for one of the few spots left at the Secret Knock.


More Events

More Contests

This weekly listing of small business events, contests and awards is provided as a community service by Small Business Trends and SmallBizTechnology.

Secret Door image via Shutterstock

This article, “Learn Secrets to Small Biz Success at These Upcoming Events” was first published on Small Business Trends

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10 Small Business Tips for SEO, Content Marketing and More

Saturday, December 3rd, 2016

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When it comes to marketing a small business, there are many different methods you can use. There’s SEO, content marketing, email lists and more. If you want to learn more about marketing your business using some of these methods in 2017, take a look at the tips from members of our small business community below.

Watch These Marketing Trends in 2017

If you want your marketing plan to work in 2017, you need to understand all the latest trends, tools and methods available. In this Midas Media post, Nat Rubyan-Ling shares some marketing trends you should know for 2017. And BizSugar members comment further on the post.

Get Better Insights About Your Audience

If you want to create content that resonates with your audience, then you first need to learn about them. There are some essential tools and methods you can use to get useful insights, as this post by Jenny Knizer on the Content Marketing Institute blog points out.

Find an Interesting and Profitable Niche for Your Online Venture

Whether you’re creating a blog, an ecommerce store, or any other type of online business, you need a niche. Since there are already so many different types of businesses online, you may need to get creative in order to find a niche that is both interesting and profitable. This MyBlogU post by Ann Smarty includes some tips.

Use These Customer Retention Strategies That Work for Small Businesses

Once you’ve executed your marketing plan and gained new customers, you still need to work hard to keep those customers coming back. Luckily, there are some tried and true customer retention strategies that can work for small businesses. You can see some of them in this Plousio post by Evan Tarver.

Learn What to Do After Creating Your Buyer Persona

If you want to market to specific customers, you first need to create a buyer persona so you understant who you’re marketing to. But even that isn’t enough. For more on what to do after you’ve created your buyer persona, check out this Magnificent post by David Reimherr. And then see what BizSugar members are saying about the post here.

Rank for Your Competitors’ Keywords

There are many different schools of thought when it comes to using your competition to gain search traffic. In this post, Neil Patel examines some of the pros and cons of this concept for different types of businesses.

Build a Marketing Budget for 2017

Before you really get started on your marketing efforts for the new year, you need to set some kind of budget so you don’t reach beyond your means. This Search Engine Journal post by Jacob Baadsgaard features some tips you can use to create a marketing budget for 2017.

Use Marketing Velocity to Increase Your Sales and Revenue

Marketing velocity is the speed at which your marketing efforts work to deliver results. So its an important concept for marketers to understand. In this crowdSPRING post, Ross Kimbarovsky details some ways you can use marketing velocity to increase sales and revenue. And the BizSugar community also shares thoughts on the post.

Help Your Ecommerce Store Recover From a Growth Setback

Running an ecommerce business isn’t easy. You’re likely to face setbacks at some point or another. So understanding how to recover from those setbacks is paramount. Shayla Price shares some tips for doing just that in a post on the Kissmetrics blog.

Get the Most Out of Your Holiday Emails

Email marketing can be an especially effective tactic during the holiday season. But in order to get the most out of it, you need to really understand your subscribers and what they’re looking for this holiday season. To see more tips about getting the most out of your holiday emails, check this Marketing Land post by Scott Heimes.

If you’d like to suggest your favorite small business content to be considered for an upcoming community roundup, please send your news tips to:  sbtips@gmail.com.

Typing Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “10 Small Business Tips for SEO, Content Marketing and More” was first published on Small Business Trends

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50 Business Ideas for College Students

Saturday, December 3rd, 2016

50 Business Ideas for College Students

College can be a great time to explore entrepreneurship. And there are plenty of different business opportunities that college students can start without a lot of upfront expense or time commitment. Here are 50 potential small business opportunities for college students.

Business Ideas for College Students

Blogger

Blogging can offer great opportunities for college students. You can choose a topic or niche that interests you and work to build up an audience on your own schedule.

Virtual Assistant

You can also work from your home or dorm room as a virtual assistant, offering services like email communications and social media management.

Tutor

If you have expertise in a specific academic topic, you could offer your services to other college students as a tutor to help them get through specific courses.

YouTube Personality

YouTube is a great platform for building a business. You can earn money through ad revenue or work with brands as an influencer.

Social Media Manager

For those who have a fair amount of social media knowledge, you can offer your services to businesses that need help managing their social media accounts.

Social Media Influencer

You could also build up your own social media accounts and then work with brands as an influencer.

Social Media Consultant

Or if you’d rather simply offer your expertise to brands so that they can work on their own social media accounts, you can offer your services as a consultant.

Podcaster

Podcasting is another potential business opportunity that you can work on from your home or dorm room and set your own schedule.

Child Caretaker

If you’re looking for a more low-tech business opportunity, you could offer child care services to parents in your community.

Housesitter

Or you could serve as a housesitter for people traveling out of town.

Dog Walker

If you like spending time with dogs, you could start a business as a dog walker and appeal to local pet owners.

Pet Groomer

You could also start a pet grooming service where you offer to wash and groom animals for a set fee.

Inventor

There are also plenty of opportunities for college students to invent brand new products and then license or produce those items to sell.

Graphic Designer

If you have some design skills, you could start a business as a graphic designer, working on logos, branding elements or other designs for clients.

Web Designer

Web savvy designers could also set up a business designing websites for businesses or individual clients.

App Developer

Or if you’re really skilled with mobile technology, you could start a business developing mobile apps for clients or even making your own and then selling them in app stores.

Clothing Designer

Fashion savvy college students, you could start your very own clothing line out of your home or dorm and then sell your designs online or in local boutiques.

T-shirt Designer

Or you could use online marketplaces to offer t-shirts with your own custom designs for sale.

Jewelry Maker

If you want to make some other unique wearable creations, you can make your own jewelry and sell it online or at local events.

Flea Market Vendor

You could also sell a variety of different products at flea markets in your area on the weekends.

Farmers’ Market Vendor

Or if you grow or can any of your own food products, you could sell items at farmers’ markets on the weekends.

Soap Maker

Soap is another product that you can easily make in your own home or dorm and then sell online or at craft fairs or events.

Candle Maker

Or you could make your own scented candles and sell them in one or more of those avenues.

Vintage Clothing Seller

If you have an extensive vintage collection, you could set up your own online shop where you can sell vintage clothes. Then you can scour resale shops and flea markets for even more vintage finds to sell.

Ebook Author

If you have enough vision or expertise to write a book, you could self-publish your own ebook and sell it on platforms like Amazon.

Ecommerce Reseller

You can also pretty easily set up your own ecommerce business on sites like Amazon or eBay and then sell a variety of different types of products.

Event Photographer

Photographers, use your weekends off from school to start an event photography business where you could photograph weddings, conferences or other events.

Portrait Photographer

Or you could offer portrait photography services and sell various packages for family photos, senior portraits and more.

Recycling Service Provider

If you want to start an eco-friendly business, you can offer to pick up select items from people and take those items to local recycling facilities.

Book Seller

College students often have a lot of books lying around. You could start a business by selling some of those books online and maybe even open up your own shop.

Transportation Service Provider

You could also start a transportation service where you offer rides to other college students who don’t have reliable transportation.

Errand Service Provider

Or you could offer to handle various errands for busy college students or others in your community.

Student Magazine Publisher

You could also start your own magazine about student life or a variety of other topics and then sell copies or ad space.

Baker

If you enjoy preparing food, you could start a business as a baker for special events. Or you could even sell specific products to nearby stores or bake shops.

Tech Support Provider

For tech savvy college students, you could start a service where people with tech questions can contact you for assistance in exchange for a small fee.

Computer Setup Povider

Or you could offer to set up people’s computers or other devices if they need some help getting started.

Tour Guide

If your college campus is in an area that’s popular with tourists, you could offer your services as a tour guide and shop people around the community.

Laundry Service Provider

Some college students might not have enough time or patience to do their own laundry regularly. So you could start a laundry service where you charge a small fee to take care of that chore for your fellow students.

Musician

Musically inclined college students, you can start your own band or musical act and play at local events or venues.

Student Website Operator

You could also start your own website for your fellow students and charge a membership fee or even work with local businesses for advertising opportunities.

Social Networking Founder

Or if you have an idea for a new social networking site, a college campus could be the perfect place to get started and test out your idea.

Freelance Writer

For writers who don’t necessarily want to make a business out of their own blogs, you could offer services as a freelance writer for other publications.

Resume Service Provider

Or you could offer services to your fellow college students who are entering the job market by writing or critiquing their resumes.

Illustrator

Artistically inclined college students, you can offer your services as a custom illustrator for businesses, authors or other organizations that need specific items drawn out.

Artist

Or you could create your very own drawings, paintings or other works of art and sell them online or in local galleries.

Delivery Service Provider

If you have reliable transportation, you could also start a delivery service for food or other items.

Proofreader

You could also start a business as a proofreader where you look over papers or other assignments that your fellow college students want edited.

Welcome Kit Provider

If you’ve been in college for a few years, you know some of the essential items that newcomers should have. So you could put together and sell welcome kits for new students and their families.

Personal Trainer

For those who are more physically focused, you could offer personal training services to help your fellow college students avoid the dreaded “freshman 15.”

Sports Coach

Or you could provide coaching services aimed at people competing in specific sports.

College Students Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “50 Business Ideas for College Students” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Higher Standards is the Marine Corps Way to Win on Wall Street

Saturday, December 3rd, 2016

Higher Standards is the Marine Corps Way to Win on Wall StreetCorporate scandals, an economic recession, lawsuits and outright stealing of the public’s money predictably have soured the relationship between the American public and big business. To prevent future fraud, the government unleashed an army of regulatory watchdogs and created laws designed to keep business in check. While this added more surveillance, it can’t guarantee compliance.

What better environment for a Marine to enter?

The Marine Corps Way to Win on Wall Street: 11 Key Principles from Battlefield to Boardroom is a book that takes a look at business from the point of view of an ex-marine Marine turned Wall Street insider.

What is The Marine Corps Way to Win on Wall Street About?

Ken Marlin experienced a “value shock” when he transitioned into the financial services industry after the military. Executives procrastinated, ignored or even sabotaged their client’s interests. For Marlin, the defining moment happened in the midst of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He worked in a business that was near the devastation, but his former employer was more concerned about the potential profit from a cancelled meeting.

Enough was enough. He started his own investment bank and never looked back.

Guided by values he learned from the military, Marlin was able to create that bank and advisory firm. In his new role, Marlin’s academic training, corporate banking experience and decade of military service found a good fit. Wall Street was entering a difficult and chaotic period and needed a person who could keep a clear head during mergers, acquisitions, selling a business and more.The wisdom gained from those experiences became the stories and lessons in his book, The Marine Corps Way to Win on Wall Street.

Leaders, Marlin argues, have to change the values that drive business culture for their long-term survival. In particular, a profitable and sustainable business must build a strong competitive base with preparation, trust and strategic discipline. Without this base, businesses won’t have the capacity or clients to successfully compete. It is Marlin’s hope that business leaders can adopt the same values that led to the Marines’ continued success.

Marlin is the founder and managing partner of Marlin and Associates, a boutique investment bank and advisory firm. His goal with the company was to create a business that exemplified the values he admired in the military. He served for 10 years in the Marines as a captain and infantry commander.

What Was Best About The Marine Corps Way to Win on Wall Street?

The Marine Corps Way to Win on Wall Street deserves credit for its optimistic view that profit focused culture can be fixed from the inside out. In true Marines style, Marlin attempts to fix this toxic work culture in a simple way. He then reinforces these principles with engaging military stories and his own experience with clients. This combination of principles, stories and insight can be very helpful when examining leadership as it exists in today’s complex business world.

What Could Have Been Done Differently?

If you are not familiar with terms like “valuation” and “bulge bracket”, The Marine Cops Way to Win on Wall Street may be a little too technical. For those who are familiar with these financial terms, the book offers numerous stories that exemplify — or, in some cases, don’t — great financial stewardship under pressure. For those who aren’t savvy in the financial industry, the book still offers engaging stories and principles for leaders of all types to follow.

Why Read The Marine Corps Way to Win on Wall Street?

The Marine Corps Way to Win on Wall Street is an energetic call-to-action for a specific audience — those who work in the financial services industry or who deal with finances in their businesses. But the book has applications for leadership in all businesses. Marlin writes from his experiences in the financial services industry with a goal of  improving accountability and vision within it. The applications of his work, a principled leadership with a focus on a strategic and long-term competitive vision, can be extended to all business. This book shows why having such a strategy is important for long-term profitability.

This article, “Higher Standards is the Marine Corps Way to Win on Wall Street” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Latest Product Innovation: Sweeter Chocolate — That’s Better for You? (Watch)

Friday, December 2nd, 2016

Love chocolate? Well, you’re in luck. Nestle (VTX:NESN) has reportedly found a way to change the structure of chocolate to make it even sweeter. And as a result, the company should be able to make some of its most popular candy bars with less added sugar. That means Kit Kats, Butterfingers and other popular chocolate bars could soon get a bit healthier.

This innovation comes at a good time for the company. Some countries and cities around the world are implementing sugar taxes and even special labeling rules for sugary foods. So the new sweeter chocolate could allow Nestle to avoid some of those issues that impact food items with a lot of added sugar.

It’s important for food companies to find ways to adapt to new rules and standards like this. But changing the actual structure of chocolate can’t have been easy. The company now has to implement a whole new chocolate making process for all of its foods.

Trend Driven Innovation Pays Off

However, when you have some popular products that people don’t want to see changed, you might have to get really creative when coming up with ways to adapt your products to new rules and trends. People probably wouldn’t be happy if Kit Kats all of a sudden were just not as sweet. But if this new process keeps the product more or less the same, just with different processes and ingredients, it could be well worth it for the company.

Brownies Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “Latest Product Innovation: Sweeter Chocolate — That’s Better for You? (Watch)” was first published on Small Business Trends

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New Features from Facebook, Instagram Make Business Headlines

Friday, December 2nd, 2016

facebook-safety

Social networking platforms have the opportunity to make a difference in a variety of different areas. For example, Facebook just unveiled some non-profit partnership tools including safety check and donation features.

And Instagram also recently released some new features that might look familiar to users of other platforms like Periscope and Snapchat. You can read about these updates and more in this week’s Small Business Trends news and information roundup.

Social Media

Facebook Unveils New Community Help, Safety Check, Donation and Non-Profit Partnership Tools

Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) recently unveiled some new tools as part of its Live feature at the social network’s first Social Good Forum held on 17 November in New York. The new tools include community help, safety check, an expanded fundraiser features, and nonprofit partnerships.

Instagram Introduces Two New Features that Borrow From Periscope and Snapchat

Instagram is putting the popular ephemeral spin on video streaming and private messaging. Taking a page out of the books of Snapchat and Periscope, the app is introducing two new features: live video and disappearing photos and videos for groups and friends in Instagram Direct.

It’s Come to This? Pro-Trump Entrepreneur Blocked from Incubator’s Social Network

Andrew Torba, founder of Gab.ai, a social network preferred by conservatives, has been blocked from Y Combinator’s (YC) private social network, Bookface. Officials at Y Combinator, a funding source for early startups, says  it was due to a Facebook post that, allegedly, violated the investment firm’s harassment policy.

Economy

Entrepreneur Who Helped Build Wrestling Empire From Nothing Could Be Next SBA Chief

President-elect Donald Trump may be close to naming former World Wrestling Entertainment CEO Linda McMahon as the next administrator of the Small Business Administration. McMahon met with Trump at his Manhattan Trump Tower office on Wednesday, Nov. 30.

Could Your Future iPhone Sport a Made in the USA Sticker?

One of President-elect Donald Trump’s consistent campaign promises was to bring jobs back to the U.S. As part of that emphasis, Trump routinely called out Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) as a company that should be doing more production in the states. And it does appear that Apple has been looking into the possibility of assembling iPhones, at least in some part, in the U.S.

Employment

‘Fight for $15’ Protest Demands Increase of Minimum Wage

A national “Fight for $15” protest Nov. 29, that had many taking to the streets, found many commenting on Twitter as well. The national protest day saw workers from fast-food chains, airports, retail stores and other industries participating in a union-backed strike to rally for higher wages, union rights and immigration reform. Uber drivers in more than two dozen cities also joined in.

Franchise

Big Mac Creator and Early McDonald’s Franchise Owner Dies at 98

The creator of the Big Mac has died. Jim Delligatti lived to 98 and is best known as a McDonald’s (NYSE:MCD) restaurant franchisee in Uniontown, Pennsylvania. His story and success show that one franchise owner can have a big league impact on the overall company.

Marketing Tips

64 Percent of Top Performing Marketers Use Automated Email Weekly, New Report Says

A majority (64 percent) of high-performing marketers send automated emails to their contacts at least once per week. And that’s how they generate the maximum number of leads. The insight comes from the new 2016 State of Customer Journey Marketing Report.

Why This Company Dug a Giant Hole on Black Friday (Watch)

Businesses can use publicity stunts for a variety of different purposes, from raising awareness about a cause or issue to promoting a new product. But one company recently launched a publicity stunt aimed at accomplishing something totally different — digging a big hole. Cards Against Humanity is the company behind the giant hole.

Retail Trends

How Were Your 2016 Small Business Saturday Results? (POLL)

Small Business Saturday gets more and more attention every year. The day after Black Friday is becoming one of the bigger shopping days of the holiday season and small businesses are the focus. If you market your business properly and join the movement, there’s a good chance you’ll find shoppers who make it a point to patronize small businesses during the holiday season.

A Watch Sold Every 3 Seconds on eBay on Black Friday

Black Friday has come and gone. In fact, the first wave of traditionally major holiday shopping days are history already. Early reports indicate that Black Friday wasn’t like it’s been in the past. It’s still a big shopping day but a lot more shoppers are spending more time and money on Black Friday online.

Small Biz Spotlight

Spotlight: Ships-a-Lot Helps Ecommerce Businesses Fulfill Orders

Order fulfillment is an incredibly important part of running an ecommerce business. But it’s not always easy. That’s where Ships-a-Lot comes in. The company was born out of the needs of another ecommerce company. And now it provides fulfillment services for a variety of different ecommerce businesses. You can read more about the business in this week’s Small Business Spotlight.

Startup

Surprising New Business Trend: Customers Pay to Smash Things in New Rage Rooms (Watch)

The latest trend in stress relief might surprise you. Some customers aren’t working through their issues in doctors’ offices or taking pills to relieve their stress. Instead, they’re smashing things. Rage rooms are new types of businesses popping up around the country that let customers take baseball bats to breakable items in order to work through their stress or anger.

Apparel Brand Uses Virtual Reality to Tell Its Story

There are lots of brands out there that pledge to give back to good causes. But it’s rare that customers actually get to see first hand what kind of an impact their purchase makes. That’s where GIMME360 is trying to make a change. And it’s doing it through the use of virtual reality.

83 Percent of Entrepreneurs Get Support from Family, Bank of America Study Says

Family support is crucial to succeed as an entrepreneur. Luckily, most business owners have the necessary backing from home. That’s according to a new Bank of America (NYSE: BAC) study.

Technology Trends

A Recognizable Character Could Help Both Universal and Nintendo (Watch)

If you’re heading to any Universal theme parks over the next few years, you might see a familiar face. Mario, the popular plumber from many Nintendo video games, is headed to Universal theme parks in Orlando, Osaka and Los Angeles. Universal and Nintendo first announced their partnership over a year ago.

Smartdesk Brand Autonomous Introduces Customizable ErgoChair

Whether you are at home or work, a company already famous for revolutionizing the desk may change the way you sit as well. The ErgoChair from Autonomous may change the way people sit at their desks or at their computers forever. That is, if it can do all the things its designers say it can.

HP Mini Workstation’s Price, Size Make Intriguing Option for Small Business

If your business could benefit from smaller but still very versatile workstations, a new option has appeared on the horizon it may be worth considering. You might consider the HP Z2 Mini which seems to deliver in terms of size and the features it offers. The company describes it as the industry’s first ever mini workstation, and it comes loaded.

Drone Racing Could Be the Next Big Thing in Sports (Watch)

Drones and virtual reality are both growing trends in the tech sector. And now, the two concepts are combining in a new sport — drone racing. Here’s how it works. Drone pilots use virtual reality headsets to fly drones around an obstacle course from a first person perspective.

SPACO’s Attention Grabbing Levitating Speaker System Empowers Business Owners Too

While video gets more attention when it comes to rich media, it wouldn’t be much without audio. The creators of SPACO, the voice controlled levitating speaker, have designed a system that looks as good as it sounds, while performing some magic. The 720-degree SPACO speaker has smart technology integrated into the system so you can control it with your voice.

VC & Angel Capital

Is There a Series A Financing Crunch?

Since 2007, the number of high potential technology companies receiving seed or angel rounds of financing has increased dramatically, while the fraction of those businesses obtaining follow on financing has declined. Some observers have claimed that this pattern shows evidence of a Series A financing crunch. I’m not so sure. Let’s start with the facts.

Image: Facebook

This article, “New Features from Facebook, Instagram Make Business Headlines” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Ecommerce Expert Panel: Tips and Advice for How to Sell More During the Holiday Season

Friday, December 2nd, 2016

Last week on Black Friday we held our first Facebook Live broadcast featuring a conversation with three ecommerce experts discussing what retailers can do to be successful during the holiday season.  Key points discussed include:

  • Online shopping just keeps getting bigger! $1.15 billion in online sales was generated the day before Black Friday, just between midnight and 5:00 p.m. That is a 13.6 percent increase over last year.
  • Mobile online shopping accounted for $449 million of that. And three-fourths of mobile shopping was done on smartphones as opposed to tablets.
  • Online shopping is no longer limited to just one or two days during the holidays. It’s spread out across the season
  • Chatbots might not be big this holiday season, but they will be eventually
  • Devices like the Amazon Echo will change the game and make it easier to buy things with your voice instead of clicking, typing or swiping

Panelists for the conversation were:

  • John Lawson, ecommerce seller extraordinaire, founder of ColderIce Media, and author of the Amazon best-selling book Kick Ass Social Commerce for E-Preneurs
  • Peter Messmer, Director of Growth at AddShoppers.com, an onsite marketing platform that makes optimizing and engaging your ecommerce customer easy.
  • Alan Berkson, Director of Community Outreach for Freshdesk.

Click on the video above to see the entire conversation. Below is an edited transcript of a portion of the broadcast. 

* * * * *

Ecommerce Expert Panel: Tips and Advice for How to Sell More During the Holiday SeasonSmall Business Trends: What happens during the holiday season from a B2B spending perspective? Any insights on those on that?

Peter Messmer: I would say it probably mirrors what we see on the B2C side. The spikes might not be as high but you know I would imagine have left over budget at the end of the year, so get the stuff that you need. You know if it’s going to be a little bit lower if you know you’re you’re buying from channels that are doing like end of year deal.

John Lawson: I deal with a lot of independent ecommerce guys and I’ll tell you right now a lot of them are part of the spiking numbers you’re probably seeing right now.

So people are right now running out to J.C. Penney’s and Walmart buying stuff up and then they’re going to send it to FBA (Fulfillment by Amazon) and then you’re going to see it being resold to the consumer on platforms like Amazon and eBay. They’re talking about the deals they’re getting in Black Friday sales; then they’re flipping them for less than retail pricing on the marketplace channels.

Small Business Trends: According to the Adobe Digital Index 25 percent of consumers will pay higher prices during holiday season. Do you both brick and mortar and online shoppers are willing to pay the kind of premium?

Peter Messmer: I would think that would tend to be people buying gifts, and when you’re buying a gift for somebody you might not be quite as price conscious. Especially if it’s your baby, your son or daughter and they want a specific item that’s not that cheap; it’s a premium brand and you know you might splurge during the holidays so you’re willing to pay a higher price.

Small Business Trends: Talk a little bit about where bots. Are people using bots this holiday season to drive opportunities or do you see that is something that’s going to be coming maybe next year or the year after?

Peter Messmer: I don’t know so much about this year. I know a lot of people are starting to experiment with Facebook Messenger bots and stuff like that. I installed growth thought to myself actually I don’t really use it too much but I installed it. I think this is again kind of like John was saying, this is going to be an area to watch for sure.

I’ve seen some interesting start ups in the chatbot area, especially for ecommerce. You can even run Facebook ads to get someone to start a conversation, and then it’s all AI driven after that. An example could be:

  • Chatbot: We sell T-shirts are you interested in them?
  • Customer: Show me a Carolina Panthers T-shirt.
  • Chatbot: What’s your size?

And the bot drives the conversation. So I think those are going to be really interesting to watch.

Small Business Trends: Just how important is customer service/customer experience during the holiday season?

Alan Berkson: There’s never a more stressful shopping season than the holiday season. The buyers are stressed, the sellers are stressed, so trying to put a little perspective in, stay calm and keep empathy I think is probably one of the biggest things.

Small Business Trends: We talked about chatbots earlier from a marketing perspective, maybe you can talk about it from a service perspective.

Alan Berkson: One of the things we’re working on at Freshdesk is actually the flip side; how can I make the customer service agent more effective. I’m just going to relate a story it’s about my mom and dad. My mother bought a Microsoft Surface Pro. And she was trying to set up her email on it. and couldn’t do it. She called up Microsoft and they couldn’t help her and then they conferenced in GoDaddy who hosts her email and they couldn’t solve it.

I went and did a quick Google search and I found that a solution in about three seconds. So my question is why couldn’t they solve the problem? And how many times have you called up and you’ve got an agent and they didn’t know something? And then you can call the same company and get an agent and they’re very knowledgeable? That gap is a customer service challenge because you get an inconsistent experience, so we’re looking at chat bots to actually help the agent.

Small Business Trends: About conversational commerce. We have devices like the Echo. Are we at the point where we’re going to see a significant amount of commerce coming through these devices? Where you actually say to your device ‘Hey I want you to buy something for me’. Instead of clicking or swiping.

Peter Messmer: I think it’s about removing friction from shopping. Probably all of us in our ideal world when we needed to buy something we like to just say to somebody go buy this for me. I don’t feel like going on to the store. I don’t even feel like cracking open my computer and going to the Web site and figuring it out. I just want to say buy this. This removes a ton of friction.

You can just order something through the Amazon device. So I think the stage we’re in right now is they’re doing promotions you can only get through the Echo because Amazon is trying to get people hooked on it. And the more people they can get using this the more used to ordering through Amazon and through this device they are going to be.

Alan Berkson: I think there’s definitely a technology piece and a people piece. I agree with what Peter said about people changing their habits and being able to do that. But I also think that we’re actually going to blow past the voice activated piece into a anticipatory piece.

So my devices are going to talk to me and say ‘I see you’re running low on this should I order it’ and you just say yes, or you can set it so it’s more automation and more anticipatory.

Small Business Trends: Is Facebook eating up the social commerce market or are there other sites that you need to be focusing on?

Peter Messmer: Facebook is the 800 pound gorilla. It also has the most tracking. Sites like Snapchat really have no tracking so you can’t really tell. And Instagram technically is part of Facebook if you want to group it together. But what we see at least in the last stats that we polled is Twitter drives a lot of traffic in Q4. So I don’t think it’s Facebook or nothing. I think a lot of those other channels can be significant.

John Lawson: I was at a Shop.org and I swear they said something on stage like 80 percent or more of purchasing is influenced by social media. We can’t even measure the influence of social media you know on purchasing decisions today. So even if I’m just looking for something on a site I’ll just go and google that site and see if they have a social presence before I purchase from that site. That makes me feel better.

Small Business Trends: One last thing. Amazon is still the huge gorilla. So a small retailer during the holiday season — what’s their best play with Amazon?

John Lawson: I say Amazon is the NFL and you are a peewee. You’re not in the same league. Amazon is not your competition. They are not.

They’re not taking business away that you can grab back. You have to really think about how to compete in your field. And when you start trying to compete with somebody in the NFL and you’re in the Little Leagues you’re just going to get confused and you’re going to get hurt. Try to work out how to create a unique personalized experience for your customer and they will be very attached to you.


Image: Facebook

This article, “Ecommerce Expert Panel: Tips and Advice for How to Sell More During the Holiday Season” was first published on Small Business Trends

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