Archive for the ‘Business’ Category

Check Out These Upcoming Online Events for Your Small Business

Saturday, June 24th, 2017

This week’s calendar of events is absolute proof you don’t have to spend a lot of money or travel to far off destinations to get all the helpful small business advice you need.

There are plenty of upcoming business events that take place completely online, including a Twitter chat aimed at getting you inspired, a webinar to improve the speed of your team, an online conference aimed at sales professionals and even a digital marketing conference.

You can learn about all of these online events and more in the Featured Events section. And check out even more event opportunities for your small business 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

Twitter Chat: "Get Inspired in Your Business"Twitter Chat: “Get Inspired in Your Business”
June 28, 2017, Online, Twitter

Are you ready for the Microsoft Inspire event? The company’s annual partner conference is only a couple weeks away! Join Anita Campbell, CEO of Small Business Trends, and Small Business expert Gene Marks on June 28, 2017 at 3pm ET (12pm PT) under the hashtag #MSBizTips for a preview of what’s coming down the pipeline for small businesses from Microsoft, and discover what you can expect to learn from the conference.


WEBINAR: Give Your Team What it Needs for SpeedWEBINAR: Give Your Team What it Needs for Speed
June 29, 2017, Online

The right technology tools and resources can help your team respond to—and stay ahead of—your competition and the market. Whether you have two employees or 100, you can always ramp up team speed. From improving processes and decision-making to boosting collaboration and providing your team with the technology and tools it needs, this webinar will explore the ways in which team speed can be leveraged as a critical competitive edge. Our panel of entrepreneurs and experts will engage in a lively, informed and interactive discussion about how you make your team more nimble and agile—and boost productivity and profits as a result. Our Panelists include Anita Campbell, CEO of Small Business Trends, Gene Marks, owner and operator of the Marks Group, and Ramon Ray, Small Business Evangelist at Infusionsoft, publisher of Smart Hustle magazine, and Technology Evangelist at SmallBizTechnology.


Rule Breaker Awards 2017Rule Breaker Awards 2017
June 30, 2017, Online

Entrepreneurs don’t play by the rules. Why should you be judged by them? The Rule Breaker Awards will honor and celebrate those entrepreneurs who have succeeded by doing it their way. Some have created whole new industries; others have revolutionized industries that have existed for hundreds of years. Nominations end June 30, 2017. Nominate an entrepreneur today!


Rule Breaker Awards Ceremony Rule Breaker Awards Ceremony
October 24, 2017, Scottsdale, Ariz.

On October 24, 2017 at the Talking Stick Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona, the Rule Breaker Awards will honor and celebrate those entrepreneurs who have succeeded by doing it their way in a ceremony featuring the Rule Breaker of the Year and Rule Breaker Award winners.


Sales World 2017Sales World 2017
November 08, 2017, Online

Sales World 2017 takes place November 8th to 9th, 2017, Online; Live and On Demand. It is the largest Sales Industry Event in the World and will be attended by over 10,000 Sales Professionals. It’s the one sales event you can’t afford to miss!


DIGIMARCON WORLD 2017 - Digital Marketing ConferenceDIGIMARCON WORLD 2017 – Digital Marketing Conference
November 14, 2017, Online

DIGIMARCON WORLD 2017 Digital Marketing Conference takes place November 14th to 16th, 2017. Whether your goal is to reinforce customer loyalty, improve lead generation, increase sales, or drive stronger consumer engagement, DIGIMARCON WORLD 2017’s agenda will help attendees enhance their marketing efforts. Sessions will focus on building traffic, expanding brand awareness, improving customer service and gaining insight into today’s latest digital tools.


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.

Online business events photo via Shutterstock

This article, “Check Out These Upcoming Online Events for Your Small Business” was first published on Small Business Trends

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10 Niche-Specific Tips for Everyone from Business Bloggers to Franchise Owners

Saturday, June 24th, 2017


There are no tips that work perfectly for every small business, because there are so many different types of small businesses with different customers and different needs. So it can help to find advice actually geared toward specific types of businesses.

Members of the online small business community have experience in many different industries and niches. So here are some tips for running everything from a blogging business to a restaurant franchise. Chances are you’ll find something that applies to your business too.

Don’t Make These Business Blogger Mistakes

Blogging has become a popular business opportunity for entrepreneurs in just about every niche. But there are a lot of mistakes that people can make when getting into this type of business. Ryan Biddulph explores some of the common mistakes made by travel bloggers — but they can really apply to just about any blog run as a business —   in a Basic Blog Tips post.

Move Customers Through the Sales Funnel

For sales based businesses, finding ways to move customers through those sales funnels regularly is key. The tips in this post by Rick Verbanas of Your Guerrilla Marketer can help your business move customers through sales funnels more efficiently so you can make more sales.

Make a Profitable YouTube Video Channel

In 2017, YouTube isn’t just a marketing tool. It can actually be its very own income stream. In this post, Philip Verghese Ariel shares some thoughts and an infographic with tips for creating profitable YouTube channels. You can also see commentary on the post over on BizSugar.

Learn Why Franchising is Great for Entrepreneurs

Franchising can make opening a business easier, especially for new entrepreneurs. And there are several other potential benefits to opening franchise businesses as well, as Ivan Widjaya of Noobpreneur goes over in this post.

Use This Checklist for Local SEO Success

Local businesses also have plenty of opportunities for entrepreneurs, especially with all the mobile marketing and SEO techniques that can help these businesses grow. Maddy Osman offers a checklist for local businesses to improve SEO in this Search Engine Journal post.

Start the Hiring Process for Your New Startup

If you have a brand new startup, there are so many factors that can contribute to your success. But your startup team can be one of the most important factors. Learn how to start the hiring process for your new startup in this Getentrepreneurial.com post by Pamela Swift.

Learn About Amazon’s New Prime Wardrobe

If your small business offers clothing and apparel on platforms like Amazon, a new program for Prime members that lets them try on certain items for free could be of interest. Read more about the program in this Marketing Land post by Amy Gesenhues.

Guide Leads With These Content Marketing Tactics

For sales oriented businesses, there are many tactics you can use to guide leads from consideration to decision. Content marketing can even be part of that mix, as Avinash Nair points out in this Right Mix Marketing post.

Build a Successful Social Media Marketing Plan

Social media can be a great marketing tool or even something you can build an entire business around. But you need a great plan in order to succeed. Here are some tips from Pierre de Braux of Social Media Examiner. And you can also see what BizSugar members have to say about the post here.

Track Remote Workers’ Productivity

These days, many different types of businesses can benefit from using the help of remote workers. But tracking their productivity can be a challenge. This Smallbiztechnology.com post by the Young Entrepreneur Council lists some tools you can use to keep track of productivity even when workers aren’t in your office.

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.

Targeting your niche photo via Shutterstock

This article, “10 Niche-Specific Tips for Everyone from Business Bloggers to Franchise Owners” was first published on Small Business Trends

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25 Perfectly Acceptable GIF Reactions for Businesses

Saturday, June 24th, 2017

With the celebration of 30 years since the creation of GIFs , the iconic files that create mini animations show little sign of losing popularity. But are these sometimes hilarious files still so popular in social media posts and even business chats really appropriate for business communication? Funny you should ask!

According to Richard Rabbat, CEO and founder of Gyfcat, anything that is G-rated and light-hearted can be appropriate in some business instances. But there are some specific types of GIFs that can really apply to businesses in a lot of situations. Here are 25 acceptable GIF reactions for businesses to consider.

Acceptable GIF Reactions for Businesses

Mood-Lightening GIFs

Rabbat says, “GIFs provide clarity of emotional intent that’s absent from text. It’s easy to misconstrue meaning over text. How many times have we thought someone was annoyed when they were trying to make a joke? GIFs remove that ambiguity.”

Jokes

For that reason, sharing joke GIFs with your team within business chats on Skype or similar platforms can be a great way to add levity — especially when tensions over a particular project are running high.

Laughter

Or if a member of your team or even a follower on social media shares something humorous, you can share a laughter GIF as a more creative version of “lol.”

Welcome Gestures

If you’re welcoming people to a business chat on a platform like Skype, you can share a simple welcome gesture by using a GIF of a person waving or even some welcoming text.

Goodbye Waves

Likewise, you can share a GIF at the end of an online chat to wave goodbye or wish your colleagues well.

Affirmations

You can also use GIFs that include encouraging messages or motions to tell team members or followers that they’re doing a great job.

Thank Yous

Or if you have a team member who really helped you out or a follower who shared a great story about your brand online, you can share a quick thank you message in GIF form.

Surprised Reactions

There are plenty of GIFs out there that portray surprised faces, perfect for those instances where someone shares a shocking story or statistic with you.

Clapping GIFs

Clapping is a great way to show someone that you approve of what they just did or said. So clapping GIFs can do the same online.

High Fives

Or maybe you just completed a project where everyone did a great job. So a high five GIF can convey your happiness with everyone’s efforts.

Group Hugs

Similarly, a group hug GIF can help you celebrate an accomplishment and build a stronger bond among your team members.

Dancing GIFs

Whether you’re communicating with team members or social media followers, dancing GIFs can help you share general happiness while adding a little silliness.

Celebratory Scenes

Other celebratory scenes like a leap in the air or arm pump can also be appropriate in any situation where you’re celebrating a big win.

Fail GIFs

On the other hand, you can also use GIFs to make light of situations where things didn’t go your way. Don’t use them to criticize your team! But if you made a silly mistake that you want to acknowledge, you could use a number of different fail GIFs to convey that.

Frustration GIFs

You can also use GIFs to express frustration. Again, this doesn’t apply for serious situations. But if, for example, you’re experiencing an extra long Monday, you can share a GIF of frustration with team members.

Funny Faces

Funny faces are appropriate in a number of different situations to lighten the mood or react to messages on social media.

Holiday Greetings

On holidays, you can also use GIFs to send out greetings and well wishes to specific team members or followers on social media.

Happy Weekend Messages

Similarly, you can celebrate the start of the weekend with a GIF post that includes a celebratory message.

Reminder Messages

Let’s say you have a big event coming up at your office. In a reminder message to your team, you can include an eye-catching GIF aimed at calling attention to that event so that everyone will be sure to remember it.

Text GIFs

A lot of GIFs also include text captions. So they can convey more specific sentiments to specific people. As long as the text is appropriate, these GIFs can help you communicate with people in your team or on social media.

Popular Characters

There are also plenty of GIFs that feature popular characters from TV or movies. So if you’re having a conversation with someone who you know loves a particular character, using a GIF of them could be a great option.

Cinemagraphs

Cinemagraphs are GIFs that usually feature fairly wide scenes but include just one moving part. Picture an image of a full auditorium but just one person is clapping or moving around. As long as the content is appropriate, these GIFs can let you share even more creative scenes.

Looping GIFs

There are also GIFs that basically loop around when they start over, so it looks like a never-ending movement.

Anything G-Rated

Basically, depending on the situation and the person or persons you’re communicating with, you can share just about anything that is G or PG-rated in GIF form.

Cute Animals

And finally, when in doubt, don’t forget about GIFs of cute animals.

Rabbat says, “Cute animals are appropriate in most situations. They’re crowd pleasing, G-rated and get tons of attention on social media.”

GIF Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “25 Perfectly Acceptable GIF Reactions for Businesses” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Rewriting the Manual With The Accidental Entrepreneur’s Handbook

Saturday, June 24th, 2017

Rewriting the Manual With The Accidental Entrepreneur's HandbookIf you wanted to become an entrepreneur, chances are that 99 percent of the people would tell you that you need a business plan. They would tell you to study the market, estimate how much money you need, and how much in sales you need to cover your expenses. The Accidental Entrepreneur’s Handbook: Useful Stuff For Your Enterprise Voyage would question that logic. This book argues that you don’t need some external requirement (like a degree or fancy 50 plus page business plan) to become an entrepreneur. You only need to take that first step on your entrepreneur’s voyage and then another one.

What is The Accidental Entrepreneur’s Handbook About?

The Accidental Entrepreneur’s Handbook begins with the premise that everyone can be an entrepreneur. History seems to bear this out if you think about. People from all walks of life have become entrepreneurs. If this is true, then why are prospective entrepreneurs constantly held back by those who insist on a  more formalized approach? Why do some supposed “experts” seem to believe only a certain type of person can be an entrepreneur?

The Accidental Entrepreneur’s Handbook argues potential entrepreneurs hold themselves back from entrepreneurship because they (consciously or subconsciously) allow circumstances to opt them out of it. They might have an idea for a business but they don’t want to leave safety for the unknown. They might have been told only people who display certain traits (extroverts, for example) can run a successful business. They might believe they need a world-changing idea before they can become accepted as an entrepreneur. So they bury their entrepreneurial dreams and read about other success stories while quietly wishing they could experience the same success.

The Accidental Entrepreneur’s Handbook calls this approach just plain wrong.

Entrepreneurship isn’t about fancy PowerPoints or even suits. It’s a way of thinking. Entrepreneurs make stuff happen by implementing ideas that fulfill another person’s need, whether that is a haircut, BMW, or someone to watch the kids while a couple goes on date night.

Accepting this broader definition is the point of The Accidental Entrepreneur’s Handbook. The book asserts that readers don’t need any external validation to be an entrepreneur. They only need an idea and a key set of characteristics (discussed in the book) to get started on their “enterprise voyage,” the author’s name for the rough-and-tumble ride of entrepreneurship.

Author Iain Scott, also known as Enterprise Iain, is a former teacher who left a career in education (despite constant reminders of his loss of security) to become an entrepreneur. Although he knew nothing about entrepreneurship, he utilized the techniques he discusses in his book. In his book, Scott describes how he found a calling to help others launch their entrepreneurial dreams (instead of managing his own business.) He is the founder of Can Do Places + Spaces, a website focused on entrepreneurship, and works as an author, podcaster and filmmaker with a long history covering entrepreneurial support programs.

What Was Best About The Accidental Entrepreneur’s Handbook?

The best part of The Accidental Entrepreneur’s Handbook is the redefinition of the concept of “entrepreneurship”. Most books, to this day, run under the assumption that you have to follow a set path to becoming an entrepreneur. Scott’s book shares why this is misleading and ultimately blocks prospective entrepreneurs into a cycle of “wantepreneurism”. Prospective entrepreneurs feel they don’t meet the requirements even though they are blocking their own paths with these beliefs. The Accidental Entrepreneur’s Handbook dispels those ideas and provides readers with a more realistic overview of the entrepreneurial journey

What Could Have Been Done Differently?

The Accidental Entrepreneur’s Handbook can best be thought of as an inspirational guide to an entrepreneur’s first step. The book, however, lacks sufficient detail on the next steps an entrepreneur should take once they decide to move ahead with starting a business. As the book points out, there is no straightforward “check off the box” path to entrepreneurship. That being said, prospective entrepreneurs can learn a lot from following the previous steps of entrepreneurs. Adding more case studies (including more details about the author’s journey in his food specialty business) may help readers navigate their initial first months as an entrepreneur.

Why Read The Accidental Entrepreneur’s Handbook?

The Accidental Entrepreneur’s Handbook should appeal most to prospective “wantrepreneurs” and new entrepreneurs in their first few months of business. While some more detail could be helpful, the book provides an excellent overview of entrepreneurship. It is a motivational and realistic guide to entrepreneurship outside the more formal approach and complicated business jargon (although some business terms are used.) And it shows how anyone can adopt the entrepreneurial spirit. If you are an entrepreneur who is waiting for the right moment, a new entrepreneur who is wondering if you are going in the right direction or just someone who wants to take more ownership of your life, The Accidental Entrepreneur’s Handbook is a creative and inspirational boost that urges you to chase your dream now, rather than someday.

This article, “Rewriting the Manual With The Accidental Entrepreneur’s Handbook” was first published on Small Business Trends

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How the Best Businesses Are Preventing BrandSlaughter

Friday, June 23rd, 2017

How the Best Businesses Are Preventing BrandSlaughterThis is a branding book that covers a unique topic, the death of a brand. Using a fictional case study, Reliance Hospital, the book shows why businesses must remain proactive about every important aspect of their brand or risk watching their brands die.

What is Preventing BrandSlaughter About?

Understanding the importance of proactively managing your brand is the core message of Preventing BrandSlaughter: How to Preserve, Support, and Grow Your Brand Asset Value. In this book, branding is more than a graphic you slap on a product to identify your business. Branding is the lifeblood of your organization. Without attention to the things that feed your brand (dedicated employees, high standards, focused leadership), your brand suffers and eventually dies. When a brand dies, the business is next to fall.

To illustrate his point, David Corbin provides a fictional case study of a hospital. The book follows two stories. The first is about new employees attending an orientation at the hospital. These new employees are introduced to the concept of Preventing BrandSlaughter along with the specific principles the hospital uses to prevent the death of its brand. The second story follows two doctors at the hospital who want to integrate new technology but encounter a clash of personalities.

As both stories in the case study emphasize, branding involves more than the marketing department. There are two major aspects of a successful brand, the external (how you define your business to the world) and internal (what your employees do to support your brand). The goal of a business is to be consistent with its external and internal branding. A brand that accomplishes this is said to have integrity.

Reaching brand integrity isn’t automatic. It requires regular auditing to identify and fix areas that need improvement. By doing this, brands reinforce a high-performing culture that continues to evolve. This high performance, in turn, keeps the brand growing. High-performing businesses that proactively grow their brand avoid the same fatal missteps of a business that takes its customers and branding for granted.

Author David Corbin, known as “Robin Williams with an MBA“, is a former psychotherapist and consultant who currently works as a keynote speaker, author, and entrepreneur. Corbin has worked with the top leaders at companies such as AT&T, Hallmark and Sprint. He was a host and the star of a movie called ”Pass It“ and was recently featured in another movie ”Three Feet From Gold“. Corbin was ranked as one of the top speakers at INC Magazines’ national conferences. He also received the International Enterprise of the Year award for designing a touchscreen patient interview system.

What Was Best About Preventing BrandSlaughter?

As described above, most branding advice focuses on how to launch a brand. This advice doesn’t focus on maintaining a brand over the long-term. Preventing BrandSlaughter fills that role and does so with ease. Utilizing a heart-warming case study, it reinforces the core simplicity of branding rather than getting obsessed with the technical details. This focus on branding fundamentals and high standards of excellence remains crucial in a world requiring businesses to balance growth and agility.

What Could Have Been Done Differently?

Preventing BrandSlaughter has a heart-warming story, an empowering message and a principles-based perspective that can be applied to any organization at any level. But the the book’s examples focus more on principles than specifics. For example, the book references a specific type of branding audit (called “Accreditation of Brand Integrity” or ABBY audits) but fails to give any detailed examples or guidance on how to create one.

Why Read Preventing BrandSlaughter?

Many business owners have relegated branding to the marketing department, but David Corbin’s book emphasizes why readers should not do this. Instead, Corbin asserts that branding is something everyone is continually engaged in. Every transaction, every communication, every touchpoint is an opportunity to build or destroy the brand. If a brand isn’t integrated into a business demanding accountability and excellence from its employees,  it runs the risk of bringing about its own death.

Because the concepts discussed in Preventing BrandSlaughter should be utilized by everyone in a business, the book is relevant for everyone. However, the content will be of special interest to leaders because of the core message it reinforces: Branding is everything. Unlike other branding books which tend to get abstract when discussing branding, Preventing BrandSlaughter focuses on the down-to-earth implications of not taking your brand seriously.

This article, “How the Best Businesses Are Preventing BrandSlaughter” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Will Your Customers Soon Be Shopping in Virtual Reality? – #Gateway17

Friday, June 23rd, 2017

Virtual Reality Shopping

The way customers shop is changing. And it’s not just about buying products online anymore. New technology like virtual reality also has the potential to change the way people discover and purchase products.

This might not be commonplace in the U.S. just yet. But it’s starting to catch on in other parts of the world. At this week’s Gateway ‘17 event, experts on the Chinese market discussed the way virtual reality is catching on quickly with Chinese shoppers.

Small Business Trends attended the inaugural Gateway’17 event June 20 and 21 at Cobo Center in Detroit.

“It’s not that the technology is more advanced, but the rate of adoption is a little different in China,” said Amee Chande, managing director of global strategy and operations for Alibaba Group in a presentation at Wednesday’s Gateway ‘17 event.

Virtual Reality Shopping

Basically, if your business sells products online, you could use VR to offer an online shopping experience that mimics the actual retail experience. Customers can look around a store and locate specific products without having to actually make the trip to a store. And if you don’t have a retail location, you could theoretically create one to offer a similar experience to customers using VR headsets.

But VR isn’t the only type of technology changing the shopping experience in China. Some businesses have also made use of augmented reality to give customers the ability to do things like try on virtual makeup or see virtual home decor items in their actual rooms.

Even though this technology hasn’t caught on in the U.S. quite as quickly, businesses still have access to the tools needed to make shopping experiences like this possible. So if there’s something that you think could improve the shopping experience for your customers, you could benefit from jumping on this technology early on.

Virtual Reality Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “Will Your Customers Soon Be Shopping in Virtual Reality? – #Gateway17” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Bing Mobile Ad Targeting, Gateway ’17 Make Small Business Headlines

Friday, June 23rd, 2017

If you want to be relevant in today’s business world, you need to be able to market to mobile customers. And Bing is now making it easier for businesses to target mobile advertising on its platform.

Another way to stay relevant is to keep an eye out for new opportunities — like selling to the growing market for import products in China. You can learn all about those opportunities discussed at this week’s Gateway ’17 event, along with more small business news below. Read on for more in this week’s Small Business Trends news and information roundup.

Local Marketing

Bing Rolls Out Mobile Ad Targeting – Now on Par With Google

Bing Ads fully rolled out the pilot launch of its mobile ad platform recently, setting the stage for competition with Google AdWords putting Bing Ads on par with the undisputed search leader’s ad network. The update to Bing Ads brings with it expanded device targeting, allowing for greater control of bids specific to device type.

Economy

Alibaba Takes Detroit By Storm With Sold Out Small Business Conference – #Gateway17

Gateway ’17, an inaugural small business event aimed at businesses interested in exporting goods or otherwise expanding their customer base in China, took Detroit by storm this week. The sold-out event features big name speakers like Founder and Executive Chairman of Alibaba Group Jack Ma, CEO of UPS David Abney, and style-maven Martha Stewart.

Trump’s Rule Changes on Cuba Cause Worry, Will U.S. Businesses Suffer?

President Donald Trump visited Miami Friday, where he announced a tightening of the rules on trade and travel enacted under former President Barack Obama.

Looking for a New Customer? How About the Pentagon?

There’s been plenty of focus on American manufacturing lately. Much of that focus has been placed on benefits like job creation and local economic growth. But there’s another factor that not many have considered — national security. And this is an area where American manufacturing still lags behind.

70 Percent of Small Businesses Support Buy American-Hire American Policies

Small business owners continue to back President Donald Trump. Seventy percent of small businesses are in favor of the President’s Buy American-Hire American executive order. If approved, it will require the government to review its current H-1B visa program. Meanwhile, 52 percent rate Trump’s first 100 days in office as a success.

Ranking Democrat Calls for Relief from Tax Burden on Small Business

Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), ranking member on the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, recently issued a statement calling for removing the burdens the U.S. tax code imposes on small businesses. The statement by Sen. Shaheen was made June 14 at a Senate hearing examining the impact of the current tax structure on American small businesses.

Employment

Small Businesses in the Midwest Are in Hiring Mode, Others – Not So Much

No matter where your small business is located, if you’re hiring right now, you’re likely competing against big demand from small businesses in the Midwest. Small businesses in large portions of the nation’s breadbasket are looking for a lot more breadwinners. Midwest Small Business Job Market New data from the job site Indeed.

Marketing Tips

10 Smart Tips for Marketing Your Brand to Chinese Consumers – #Gateway17

So you’re interested in selling in China? Great! There are plenty of opportunities for companies looking to expand into the Chinese market, according to speakers at Alibaba’s Gateway ‘17 event this week. But it’s not as easy as just listing some products and arranging shipments to China. You actually have to learn how to market to Chinese consumers.

UPS and Martha Stewart Talk Growing Global and Exporting Your Brand – #Gateway17

What do CEO and Chairman of UPS David Abney and style-maven Martha Stewart have in common? They both think that growing globally is a great way to expand a business. Global Expansion Tips Both spoke at the Gateway ‘17 event in Detroit today, sharing their thoughts on opportunities for small businesses in China and beyond.

Retail Trends

20 Products Most In Demand with Chinese Customers – #Gateway17

With a middle class of 300 million that’s growing annually, there certainly are plenty of opportunities for selling products to Chinese consumers. But some products are more in demand than others. To help small businesses attempting to enter that market determine which is which, online seller Alibaba held its Gateway ‘17 conference in Detroit this week.

What is Tmall and How Can You Use it to Reach Customers in China? – #Gateway17

At the Gateway ‘17 business conference this week, entrepreneurs learned about the different methods you can use to get products in front of Chinese consumers. One of those is Tmall. Tmall is an online marketplace where Chinese consumers can purchase anything from health food to athletic shoes. But there’s more to it than that.

Vistaprint Gets New Brick and Mortar Store in Toronto

Almost 20 years after Vistaprint (NASDAQ:CMPR) began providing small business owners with professional marketing services and products, the customized marketing materials specialist has opened its first ever bricks and mortar store. Vistaprint’s retail space is located in downtown Toronto. The Vistaprint Studio enables customers to physically feel and touch Vistaprint’s products.

China Needs Your Small Business Products – #Gateway17

China is the next big frontier for small businesses, according to a Keynote from Jack Ma, founder and chairman of Alibaba, at Gateway ‘17 at Detroit’s Cobo Center today. When the internet was booming in the mid ‘90’s, Ma did a search for “beer and China” and found no results.

Moving to the Mall: How the Death of Department Stores Could Benefit Small Retailers

Once a staple of suburban life, America’s malls are going through a sea change. A recent rash of department store closures, including many Macy’s, J.C. Penney and Sears locations, is making news. However, although more than 300 department stores are slated to close this year, this is just the latest wave in a trend that’s been going on for years.

Small Biz Spotlight

Spotlight: Bryson City Bicycles Offers a Friendly Atmosphere

If you’ve ever been to a bicycle shop, you may have been struck by how exclusive or unwelcoming the environment was. But that’s where one shop, Bryson City Bicycles, aims to set itself apart. Read about how this destination bike shop has built its business around a simple philosophy in this week’s Small Business Spotlight. What the Business Does Sells bicycles and more.

Small Business Operations

10 Things Small Businesses Should Know About the New 833 Toll Free Phone Exchange

The FCC just released a new toll-free prefix on June 3, meaning there are now a whole new series of toll-free numbers for businesses to claim. The 833 prefix opens up more vanity numbers and combinations that are easy for customers to remember. And those numbers may provide some unique benefits to certain businesses.

Microsoft Dictate Types While You Talk

If there is one word synonymous with digital technology, it is efficiency. And the folks at Microsoft Garage have released a new tool which will make you more efficient over typing on a keyboard, Dictate. As the name implies, Dictate is an add-in designed to convert speech to text by letting you speak what you need to type.

Is FourKites Tracking Technology a Game Changer for Small Trucking Companies?

The bigger trucking companies like UPS and FedEx employ expensive and sophisticated tracking technology to pinpoint where a package is at any point in its journey. Retailers like Amazon have added two-day shipping and real-time tracking to heighten consumer expectations. The result? More pressure on smaller trucking companies and businesses to compete.

Social Media

Twitter Introduces a New Look, But Will It Revive Anemic Traffic?

Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) just unveiled its latest redesign with a new interface, which is mostly cosmetic. The company is refreshing the brand as it looks to increase its user base by, “making it feel lighter, faster, and easier to use.

Startup

Shocking! Fake News Now a Booming Business for Hire Online, Report Says

Twisting the truth and spreading it online is no longer just a fad. It’s a growing industry with a range of services on offer, a new study finds. The whole business of making money by spinning lies of course presents a moral dilemma. But its rapid growth creates a business opportunity that many people are apparently finding hard to resist.

Technology Trends

YouTube Introduces Heatmaps for Virtual Reality Videos

YouTube recently introduced heatmaps for virtual reality (VR) videos with over 1,000 views. The Google-owned video site said the heatmaps will give you specific insight into how your viewers are engaging with videos created in VR.

White House Tech Summit Good News for Small Businesses? Hope So!

The White House wants to improve technology across government agencies. And that could lead to some opportunities for small businesses.

BBB Says Fake RFP Emails are Targeting Small Businesses

You’ve got mail! And it could be a scam. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) says fake malicious emails are circulating right now that target small businesses. The emails purport to contain an RFP (Request for Proposal). That’s usually an easy hook to get a small business to open the email. After all, it could mean more business.

One in Five Americans Can’t Get Enough GIFs

Looking to promote your small business on social media, your website and in emails? You might want to consider using GIFs for quick how-tos, product demos or even lighthearted ads. According to a recent study by Gfycat, a popular user-generated GIF platform, 63 percent of Americans are GIF users — and one in five Americans can’t get enough of them.

Restaurant Owners, App Use Among Foodies is Up 70 Percent

If you have a restaurant, this is one data point you can’t afford to ignore. Since 2014, food app usage among foodies has increased by around 70 percent. A Revealing Restaurant App Trend A 70 percent positive increase on any other segment of your restaurant business would be cause or excitement.

New Google Backup and Sync Tool Gives Small Businesses More Cloud Power

Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL) just released a new app that could help businesses backup and sync files more efficiently. Backup and Sync is the aptly named application that will essentially replace parts of the existing Google Drive desktop apps for Mac and PC.

Bing Mobile Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “Bing Mobile Ad Targeting, Gateway ’17 Make Small Business Headlines” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Art Papas of Bullhorn: 65 Percent of Millennials Would Rather Talk to Chatbots than Humans — So Why Not Let Them?

Friday, June 23rd, 2017

Anyone who’s been checking this series over the years knows I attend a lot of CRM industry events. And, as we’re in the midst of wrapping up the spring conference season, there have been a flurry of events this month, including Bullhorn’s Engage — the user conference for the leading CRM platform for the staffing/recruiting industry servicing more than 7,000 companies.

AI For CRM

I had the pleasure of speaking with Bullhorn founder and CEO Art Papas during the conference, where he shared his thoughts on why he feels all the AI talk is just that — talk, for now. He also shares why AI and voice assistants like Amazon’s Alexa will play a major role in CRM in the not-too-distant future.

Below is an edited transcript of our conversation. To hear the full interview check out the embedded video and/or audio clips below.

* * * * *

The Future of AI For CRMSmall Business Trends: I’m back (in Boston) for Bullhorn Engage. I’m sitting here with the CEO and founder of Bullhorn, Art Papas. Art, thank you for joining me.

Art Papas: Thanks Brent. Thanks for coming to Boston.

Small Business Trends: You know, it’s almost starting to be like my second home all of a sudden. I’ve been here a couple times already. Like I said, we’re here for Bullhorn Engage, this is my first time checking it out. I’ve been really impressed, but just for folks who don’t necessarily know about Bullhorn, give me a little bit of your background, a little personal background and tell me a little bit about Bullhorn.

Art Papas: Okay. I’m the founder of the company. I started Bullhorn in 1999, back right before the dot-com bubble crashed. I was originally the Chief Technology Officer and became the CTO about 2002. We are based in Boston, with offices all over the world, have about 600 employees, growing very fast. We are a CRM platform that really specializes and focuses deep on the staffing and recruitment industry.

Small Business Trends: What’s important in staffing when it comes to CRM?

Art Papas: Staffing firms, recruitment firms are an interesting business in that there’s no product. They build relationships with customers, then they go build relationships with talent, and they try to make a match. It sounds relatively simple, but it’s a two-sided sales process that culminates with a lot of logistics and a lot of back and forth; A lot of documents trading hands like, “Here’s a resume, here’s a job description, this resume is a fit for this job description.”

They manage complex projects for their customers. It’s a really big challenge and you end up with things like deep search and match requirements, in terms of being able to take a document and reflect it against your database to say, “Who might be a fit for this job,” or vice versa, “I have a great candidate, which customers would be a fit for this candidate?”

Then there’s just a whole bunch of deep work flow that happens after a sale is made, around things like time and attendance tracking and document management and on-boarding, contract management …

Small Business Trends: Where do you see AI fitting in when it comes to staffing and engagement? How does AI impact in what you guys do for your customers?

Art Papas: I’m a realist and what I’ll say is nobody is really doing any Artificial Intelligence, yet. Everybody says they’ve got machine learning, but the reality is, as a true computer scientist, the best stuff that’s going on at Google is, you can take a bunch of images and turn it into a binary, multi-dimensional array and map it back and call that learning. But it’s all just predictive algorithms. At the end of the day, that’s what the state of the industry is, but I do believe that it’s advancing.

I think that natural language processing has reached a point where computers can generally understand what human beings are trying to say. Especially in a case where you know what they’re most likely to say, you can “fake it ’till you make it” and do exception management.

Art Papas: I think for recruitment, where it’s powerful is that it’s … for a stat, 65 percent of millennials would prefer to talk to a chat bot.

Small Business Trends: That’s pretty amazing.

Art Papas: It is amazing and you think of how much in the recruitment process people apply to jobs and nobody ever gets back to them. Low hanging fruit is, to have a chat bot, if they prefer it anyway. The chatbot can actually do what humans don’t like to do.

Small Business Trends: Break bad news, explain why …

Art Papas: Yeah, yeah. Human beings avoid that stuff. I think there’s actually huge opportunity to improve the customer experience in this industry using technology. I get excited about it and my customers yesterday were pretty fired up about it.

Small Business Trends: That’s an interesting thing you just mentioned because most people look at how AI can free up people … AI lacks empathy and it frees up people’s time [from doing mundane activities] to actually use their empathy. But, what you just said, AI actually adds empathy because a lot of folks don’t get the response after they spent a lot of time looking for jobs. They’ve spent a lot of time filling in applications and then they hear nothing back. You’re saying that actually, using a chatbot in this case is almost like being more empathetic because you’re giving them a response where they wouldn’t get one.

Art Papas: Especially if you care about your brand. You really have to invest something and technology could be the answer. I going to invest something in making sure that everybody who interacts with my brand has a great experience, regardless of whether or not there’s a transaction today.

Small Business Trends: Let’s ask the one last question. The voice. You talk about that’s coming and how you are starting to look at that as well.

Art Papas: I have an Alexa, a Google Home, and I have Siri. My daughter says, “Siri’s dumb.” But, I’m sure the HomePod, it will upgrade looks. Alexa is super useful and so is Google Home and I think that we’re now at a point where that the voice user interface will become strong. It’s not going to replace text. You’re not going to be in a meeting and say, “Hey, Siri, send John a text.” No, you’re not gonna do that; you’re still going to text that with your fingers. Until we have a telepathic user interface, I think that’s pretty far away.

Small Business Trends: Facebook is working on that, by the way …

Art Papas: They are, and someday we’ll have it. We’ll know what neurons are firing and what the heck they mean. But, right now, I think voice will become … especially when people are driving and they want to say for example … “I just met with a customer, please add a note to the system, and set a follow-up task, and move the stage of the opportunity, and tell my colleague, and do this, and do that.”

It’s a virtual assistant in the home, it’s going to be in the office, too. It’s funny because we used to hire salespeople in the early 2000’s salespeople … and I was always astounded salespeople come in and say, “Do I have an admin to do my CRM notes?” “No, no, of course not, nobody’s going to enter data into the CRM for you.” Now, maybe we should find those guys …

Small Business Trends: Come on back, we’ve got something for you.

Art Papas: Yeah, talk to Alexa, she’s your admin.

This article, “Art Papas of Bullhorn: 65 Percent of Millennials Would Rather Talk to Chatbots than Humans — So Why Not Let Them?” was first published on Small Business Trends

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23 Percent of Millennial Entrepreneurs Value Influence Over Personal Wealth

Friday, June 23rd, 2017

The Values of Millennial Entrepreneurs

When it comes to fundamental goals, 23 percent of entrepreneurs in their 20s cited becoming more influential or having a positive impact on their communities.

It’s a considerable increase over the 13 percent of entrepreneurs over 50 who say the same.

The data shows a considerable difference in values between two generations of entrepreneurs,  says the 2017 HSBC Private Bank: Essence of Enterprise with a fairly comprehensive global survey of entrepreneurs from the two generations.

Each generation has a different take on life, both personal and professional. For millennials, another important consideration was to a work-life balance.

The Values of Millennial Entrepreneurs

But certainly, one of the many places where millennials diverged from their counterparts from previous generations was in this strong desire to directly impact their communities. Compared to entrepreneurs aged 50+, this was important for one in four, or a quarter of millennials. For the older group it was one in 10.

The Values of Millennial Entrepreneurs

This desire to have a positive impact was also mentioned as the biggest motivation in achieving influence. Millennials said it was more important than wealth, which was the opposite of what respondents in their 50s said.

In the report, Stuart Parkinson, Chief of Staff of HSBC (NYSE:HSBC) Private Banking highlighted the importance of understanding and supporting this group. He goes on to say:

“It is important that we understand the challenges faced by the next generation of entrepreneurs so we can support them as they create jobs and economic growth, as well as prosperity for themselves, their families and their communities.”

The survey also points out the differences between millennials around the world. Forty five percent of the entrepreneurs in Mainland China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Australia indicated ‘personal wealth’ as the biggest reason for going into business. Across Europe it was 29 percent, with America coming in at 40 percent.

When it comes to gender, during a start-up women are motivated to achieve flexibility over their work-life, while men said their reason was financial.

As to what millennials are looking for, work-life balance, 83 percent of entrepreneurs worldwide said they have achieved it. For this group, according to the survey, this meant spending an average of 10.1 hours each day on business tasks.

The Values of Millennial Entrepreneurs

The Survey

The second Essence of Enterprise report was carried out in 11 markets around the world, including the US, UK, Mainland China, Australia, UAE and others in September 2016. The online survey had 4,038 participants who were entrepreneurs, active decision-makers in privately-owned businesses or major shareholders.

Takeaway

As small business owner, millennials will make up increasingly larger numbers of your workforce and partners. Understanding what makes them tick will go a long way in creating an environment in which both employer, employee, partners and vendors can thrive.

Bearded Millennial Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “23 Percent of Millennial Entrepreneurs Value Influence Over Personal Wealth” was first published on Small Business Trends

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16 Gas Station Franchise Businesses

Friday, June 23rd, 2017

16 Gas Station Franchise Businesses

With billions of dollars’ worth in annual sales, gas stations are big business in the United States. Gas station franchises offer the chance for individuals to jump on the gasoline retail bandwagon and run a busy and profitable business.

Small Business Trends takes a look at 16 gas station franchise businesses throughout the U.S.

Gas Station Franchise Businesses to Consider

7-Eleven Franchises

16 Gas Station Franchise Businesses - 7-Eleven Franchises

7-Eleven has more than 8,600 convenience stores, many of which have gas stations, across the U.S. 7-Eleven aims to make franchising easy and convenient. The company provides a turnkey solution, meaning they deliver everything franchisees need to run their business. 7-Eleven franchise stores come fully operational.

Franchisees are required to pay an initial franchise fee, which varies by store, as well as a down payment on the store’s opening inventory of approximately $20,000.

AMPM

16 Gas Station Franchise Businesses - AMPM

Founded in California in 1978, AMPM rapidly grew and now boasts hundreds of combination gas stations and convenience stores throughout the U.S.

The financial requirements for an AMPM franchise includes an initial investment of between $400,509 and $7,807,883 and a liquid cash sum of $800,000 – $1,200,000. In-class sessions and hands-on training is provided with AMPM gas station and convenience store franchises.

Circle K

16 Gas Station Franchise Businesses - Circle K

Circle K franchises are located in more than 20 different states throughout North America. These convenience stores and gas station franchises offer a lucrative business opportunity for investors. An initial investment fee of $211,450 – $1,601,500 is required, as well as ongoing franchise fees of $25,000 – $25,000.

Circle K offers financing options to cover equipment costs with third-party sources.

LUKOIL Franchise Gas Station

16 Gas Station Franchise Businesses - LUKOIL Franchise Gas Station

Franchisees have the opportunity to own LUKOIL franchise gas stations in various locations. LUKOIL offers visionary entrepreneurs the opportunity to operate an independent business in the family of the LUKOIL brand.

Street Corner

16 Gas Station Franchise Businesses - Street Corner

Street Corner was set up in 1988 and has been franchising since 1995. An initial investment of $45,645 – $1,479,800 is required for a Street Corner franchise and franchisees must make a net-worth of $100,000.

Financing options are available from third party sources, which cover the cost of the franchise fee, equipment, start-up costs, accounts receivable, inventory and payroll.

Sunoco APlus

16 Gas Station Franchise Businesses - Sunoco APlus

Sunoco APlus convenience stores and gas stations are located all along the east coast of the U.S. and west into New York and Ohio. Sunoco APlus offers franchise opportunities for investors wanting to run their own convenience and gas store.

Franchise candidates are assessed on their business experience and abilities, financial strength and personal drive. The total estimated investment for a Sunoco APlus franchise is $25,000 to $600,000.

Alliance Energy

16 Gas Station Franchise Businesses - Alliance Energy

Alliance Energy offers the opportunity to lease gas stations at numerous locations in the company’s northeast footprint.

Successful franchise applicants will be given all the necessary tools and logistics to create and sustain their business.

Dash In

16 Gas Station Franchise Businesses - Dash In

Dash In provides franchising opportunities for its gas stations and convenience stores across the U.S. Dash In gas been franchising since 1979 and has 58 franchise units available. Total investments of $138.6 – $187.2K is required. Financing options are available for Dash In franchises.

Express Convenience

16 Gas Station Franchise Businesses - Express Convenience

Express Convenience has been franchising since 1984. The gas station and convenience store franchise has a total of 19 franchise units located in the Midwest. With a $165 – $200,000 total investment, franchisees are provided with training to help their business. Financing is available for Express Convenience franchises.

Marathon

16 Gas Station Franchise Businesses - Marathon

Marathon brand gas stations with convenience stores are available to franchise across the U.S. In fact, Marathon stations are primarily owned and ran by independent entrepreneurs. In 2015, Marathon brand retail outlets sold around 5.02 billion gallons of vehicle fuel. Franchisees can benefit from the Marathon brand’s experience and leadership support, designed to provide entrepreneurs with the necessary skills for growth.

Kangaroo Express Convenience

16 Gas Station Franchise Businesses - Kangaroo Express Convenience

The Pantry is a leading convenience store operator in south-eastern United states. The pantry has around 1,500 stores in 13 states. Kangaroo Express is the Pantry’s principle operating banner. Franchises are available to operate Kangaroo Express gas stations for successful candidates.

Quik Stop

16 Gas Station Franchise Businesses - Quik Stop

Quik Stop Markets offer quality fuel and convenience product shopping in more than 100 locations within Northern California and Northern Nevada.

The Quik Stop franchise offers motivated entrepreneurs the opportunity to run their own retail and gas station store. Quik Stop franchise business owners receive classroom and in-store training, marketing support, promotional advertising, bookkeeping and accounting assistance and ongoing business consultation.

Murphy USA

16 Gas Station Franchise Businesses - Murphy USA

Murphy USA is a nationally-recognized brand and gives franchise owners the opportunity to use their existing professional experience and skills to build a thriving convenience store and gas station business.

Liquid capital of $100,000 plus is required to be a Murphy USA franchisee. Successful applicants must have already been self-employed or have held a management level position.

On the Run

16 Gas Station Franchise Businesses - On the Run

On the Run convenience stores are franchised with TMC Franchise corporation, a subsidiary of alimentation Couche-Tard.

As well as offering typical convenience store products and gas, On the Run gas stations offer fresh snacks, quick meal options, health and beauty supplies and more.

A total investment fee of $50,000 is required, with liquid assets available of $100,000.

Shell

16 Gas Station Franchise Businesses - Shell

Shell is one of the world’s biggest names in petroleum. In the United States, Shell has a network of strategically-located local service stations, offering convenience retailing as well as a variety of fuel products.

Shell offers franchise opportunities for suitable candidates. Successful applicants are required to have at least 10 percent unencumbered cash of the total capital required for investment. Financial institutions can be approached to franchisees to obtain a loan for the funding.

Extra Mile

16 Gas Station Franchise Businesses - Extra Mile

ExtraMile’s convenience store and gas stations combination offers the world-recognized Chevron gasoline brand with retail food outlets. The ExtraMile franchise brand was established in 2007 and has gone on to expand to more than 200 stores.

Successful candidates for an ExtraMile franchisee recieve support from the Chevron Corporation in areas training, advertising, ongoing business advice and mechanizing. The estimated total investment to buy and manage an ExtraMile station franchise is $1.5 – $2.5 million.

If you’ve got the drive, commitment, motivation and financial means, becoming a gas station franchisee with any of the above franchise companies, could prove to be the lucrative business investment you are looking for.

Gas Station Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “16 Gas Station Franchise Businesses” was first published on Small Business Trends

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