Archive for the ‘Business’ Category

10 Ways to Keep Your Team Busy When Slack is Down

Tuesday, August 21st, 2018

10 Ways to Keep Your Team Busy When Slack is Down
On August 16, Slack experienced connectivity issues in the middle of the working day, with certain features not working. The messaging app services was down for some time until Slack resolved the problem. Slack’s outage followed similar software outage failures this year. In fact, in a year from April 2017, the leading business messaging service suffered 40 days with outages and 51 days of limited functionality incidents.

With some 8 million users from more than 500,000 organizations relying on Slack’s tools and services, naturally when outages occur, business is negatively affected.

How to Stay Busy When Slack is Down

Fortunately, there are steps your small business can take to remain functionable and productive when Slack experiences problems. To prepare your business for future Slack downtime, take a look at the following ten ways to keep your team busy when Slack is down.

Start Looking for an Alternative

Moving your business communications to a more reliable service could be a sensible precaution to offset productivity issues caused by Slack outages. There is a whole host of popular messaging and collaboration apps available that act as an alternative to Slack, such as Google Hangouts and Jostle. Start looking for alternatives now.

Develop a Backup Plan

You should start developing a backup plan to cover you if Slack goes down again. The backup plan should include exporting data and important information from Slack in case you need it and can’t access it during downtime.

Send Messages Via Email

Whilst Slack is down, you might have to resort back to using email to communicate with team members and clients.

Pick Up the Phone to Communicate

As well as using email to collaborate with colleagues and customers, you could always pick up the phone and talk to them directly to ensure important communication doesn’t have to wait until Slack’s connectivity or other issues are resolved.

Work on Projects that Don’t Involve Slack

Whilst Slack is down, get your team to work on tasks and projects that don’t involve using the business messaging service, such as writing blogs for digital marketing purposes or working on an important sales proposal or presentation.

Have an Impromptu Team Meeting

If work simply can’t be carried out during a Slack outage, now’s the time to call an impromptu face-to-face meeting with your team to talk about business objectives, strategies and other vital business features that often get neglected because everyone is so busy.

Carry Out Staff Appraisals

When Slack’s down, now might be the ideal time to carry out those annual staff appraisals so precious company time isn’t wasted.

Encourage Staff so Spend Time Reading

During Slack downtime it might also be a good idea to encourage staff to take advantage of the outage by reading company reports, manuscripts, health and safety literature, and so on.

Have a Brainstorming Session

If team members are stuck for things to do when Slack experiences issues, now could be a great opportunity to have a brainstorming session.

Take a break

Slack claims it does not have long periods of outage. An outage on May 23 lasted for around 20 minutes before the issue was resolved. For those shorter Slack outages, getting team members to take a well-earned break and enjoy relaxing, having a cup of coffee and chatting to colleagues in the breakout room, could go a long way in boosting productivity when Slack issues are resolved and its full services are back up and running.

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This article, “10 Ways to Keep Your Team Busy When Slack is Down” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Trump Era Forces Brands to Examine Core Values, Expert Says

Tuesday, August 21st, 2018

The 1 Thing Your Small Business Should Do to Manage the Lack of Trust in Businesses

Today, good business is about more than great products, services, and outstanding customer care. It’s about learning how to navigate through all the new and fast moving risks to your brand. Small Business Trends spoke with Fortune 500 Chief Marketing Officer Peter Horst MBA about these potential marketing bombshells in what’s been refereed to as the Trump Era for business. He talked about the one thing that all small businesses can do to steer around or through any social or political frays.

How to Manage the Lack of Trust

“Whether you call it the Trump Era or the Fake News Era, there are more new and fast moving risks to any brand asset than ever before,” he says. “That’s because of a perfect storm of trends and forces that have been brewing even before Trump came into office.”

Understand the Threats Your Brand Faces

Horst says that while the public have lost trust in their institutions over time, the process has accelerated in the past year. This loss of trust covers every public institution including government, business and even NGO’s.

“Along with that comes a rise in fear. It’s a generalized fear that things are broken and not going well,” he says, adding worries like corrupt politicians and war cut a big swath.

That, in turn leads to the radical polarization we see today. It’s a highly charged environment that often pits groups against each other on any given social issue.  Horst says when all of this gets layered into the business and brand arena, the result is consumers that expect small businesses to put their values on display.

Understand the Risks of Taking a Stand – Or Not

“They’re being expected to declare what they stand for and even play a role in making the world a better place,” Horst says.

This higher expectation to engage can be a dangerous place for your brand if you don’t do the work to navigate it successfully. Brands need to be constantly aware that social media can illicit immediate, crippling responses for any missteps.

In the end there are risks for getting involved and risks for staying on the sidelines and not taking a stance. He suggests shaping their values is the one thing that every small business should do using the following blueprint.

Stick to Your Brand’s Core Values

Horst feels that every company should be ready to hang their brand hat on their company values – no matter what they are.

“That’s where you say, ‘Listen, because of my values which include my business model or my customers, I choose not to wade into the dialogue about social or political issues’,” he says.

This process can exempt a small business from entering the fray, but you need to be clear and have done the work to demonstrate what your values are.

Horst also suggests having these core values clearly mapped can help a small business draw a line when they find themselves being pulled into a debate against their will.

“Because you can’t choose whether the President will call you out in a tweet or an associate will do something unfortunate at a coffee shop,” he says, “you need to know who you are and what your response will be if any one of a number of things happen.”

He suggests collaboration is a great way to put this kind of company DNA together. A management team and even a founder’s input can be valuable.

“You’ll also need to find out what the issues are that have become near and dear to the hearts of employees because they’ve become a big force in forcing companies to adopt policies,” he says.

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This article, “Trump Era Forces Brands to Examine Core Values, Expert Says” was first published on Small Business Trends

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10 Most Popular Crowdfunding Platforms: How They Work and How Your Business Can Use Them

Tuesday, August 21st, 2018

These are the 10 Most Popular Crowdfunding Platforms of 2018

Crowdfunding has become a popular way to get funding for a new project or startup business.

It’s an excellent way to gauge interest since people will only fund what they’re seriously interested in.

However, not all crowdfunding platforms are equal. Each one specializes in a different purpose.

Most Popular Crowdfunding Platforms of 2018

You can choose among 10 of the most popular crowdfunding platforms online as of 2018.

Kickstarter

The most popular crowdfunding site on the Internet, Kickstarter has become a household name.

However, it’s more for funding inventions and creative works and not for helping nonprofit organizations or funding your own endeavors without something in return.

Also, you don’t get to keep the money pledged if the kickstarter goal is not reached.

Indiegogo

While it tends to play second fiddle to Kickstarter, Indiegogo has a number of advantages its counterpart doesn’t provide.

For instance, Indiegogo has flexible funding that lets you keep the funds you’ve raised, even when you haven’t been able to reach your goal.

It also lets you buy funded products in the platform’s marketplace, so successful projects have another potential source of income.

Patreon

Another popular crowdfunding platform, Patreon sets itself apart with its subscription model.

Instead of being for straight-up campaigns, this is more for providing ongoing financial support for a creative venture or artist.

There’s also the option to provide content exclusive to patrons who are subscribed to your Patreon through the site itself.

GoFundMe

This one is more popular for individuals who need money right away.

You may often see people asking for crowdfunding for short-term projects and medical emergencies in GoFundMe, which is common practice in this platform.

Crowdrise

While not as popular as the platforms mentioned above, Crowdrise has garnered attention for its focus on crowdfunding “real-world issues” over funding for-profit ventures.

It can also be used to fund college scholarships, weddings, and even birthday parties.

Due to this mostly socially-conscious objective, GoFundMe took notice and acquired it in early 2017.

PledgeMusic

If you’re a musician and need a way to cover expenses for things like launching a new album or going on a tour, then PledgeMusic may be good for that.

You can also provide rewards for donors who pledge a certain amount of money, like free digital copy of your music or such.

Razoo

Like Crowdrise, this platform has its focus on crowdfunding worthy causes, so it’s not really the right platform for businesses and for-profit ventures.

Razoo is great if you’re looking to fundraise for charity.

RocketHub

This one is mostly for venture capital, so businesses and other for-profit ventures can use RocketHub for crowdfunding their startups.

Meanwhile, their ELEQUITY Funding Room lets you pitch your project idea and generate interest, which can then lead to getting advice and even additional funding.

Crowdfunder

It has a fairly straightforward name, which matches what it’s for.

Crowdfunder lets you sell equity and debt in your business to attract angel investors and venture capitalists to raise money for your projects.

It’s like a regular venture capital program, but with the online infrastructure to raise awareness usually beyond smaller business’ means.

Give

Rather than a website, Give is a WordPress plugin you can install in your blog to help you collect donations from visitors.

However, it’s meant for non-profit ventures only, so it’s not really a “beg for money to pay your rent” type of plugin.

On the other hand, it doesn’t take any fees for collecting donations.

If you’re looking for a way to fund your next unicorn idea, crowdfunding could be the key.

These are the 10 Most Popular Crowdfunding Platforms of 2018

Republished by permission. Original here.

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This article, “10 Most Popular Crowdfunding Platforms: How They Work and How Your Business Can Use Them” was first published on Small Business Trends

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5 Most Common Ways Small Business Can Use Funding from Kabbage

Monday, August 20th, 2018

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5 Most Common Ways Small Business Can Use Funding from Kabbage

Online lending continues to make a big impact on small business growth. A recent study conducted by NDP Analytics found that every $1 borrowed by small businesses produces $3.79 of gross output in local communities. It sums up to nearly $40 billion in economic growth across the United States, generating close to 400,000 new jobs and $13 billion in wages throughout local economies.

The study references companies like Kabbage, which has provided access to more than $5 billion for over 150,000 small businesses. Online lending simplifies the traditional lending process. With Kabbage, small businesses connect live data to the platform and can quickly qualify for a line of credit, which go as high as $250,000 and continually adjust to match the performance and seasonality of the business.

Growth, however, is not the product of idleness. Dollars only produce more dollars when they’re appropriately put to work. So, what are these businesses investing in with these funds? Here are five ways small businesses use the extra capital accessed by online lending to generate revenue.

How Small Business Owners Are Investing Their Funds for Growth

1. They’re Bringing on More Talent

Whether they’re hiring their first employee or bringing on additional members to meet business demand, these small business owners are investing in great talent. In an SBA survey, 42 percent of small business owners ranked hiring as their biggest obstacle. A bad hire and high employee turnover can cost a business potentially 30 percent of its annual earnings. A primary use case of funding from online lending companies is to hire. With the security of a line of credit, small business owners have access to the funds they need when finding, hiring and retaining the best talent for their businesses.

2. They’re Focusing on their Marketing Strategies

In today’s atmosphere, it’s nearly impossible to compete without having the right marketing strategy. In fact, business owners regret not investing more in marketing every year they are in business, especially during the first four years when growth is critical, according to a Kabbage report.

Today, businesses must be present in both offline and online media. With extra funds, even lines of credit as high as $250,000, these business owners can invest in building an attractive website with a great user experience. They also can invest in the right tools to help boost their rankings in search engines and promote their businesses on social media, radio, TV, advertisements and more. Whether it’s building an internal team or outsourcing to contractors, small business owners take advantage of extra capital to take their marketing to the next level.

3. They’re Expanding their Businesses

The Fed Small Business conducted a Small Business Credit Survey and found that 59 percent of small businesses apply for funds to expand their business and take on new opportunities. From selling new products or services to opening a second physical location, these businesses can invest in growth.

Expansion is a good sign for small business success, but unfortunately, it can come with a high price tag. New locations mean new equipment, supplies, furniture, décor, marketing and more. Offering new products or services means purchasing additional inventory or bringing on new hires to expand services. And new hires mean more people on payroll. This all can add up quickly and hurt your cash flow if you aren’t prepared. With hassle-free access to working capital, businesses can cover these expenses while meeting their expansion goals sooner than they imagined.

4. They’re Addressing their Business’s Critical Needs

Broken equipment must be repaired right away. Seasonal businesses need help during their lulls. Payroll needs to be met when bringing on new staff. No matter the need or the industry, all businesses must address critical needs to keep their business up and running. In fact, 40 percent of businesses struggled with paying operating expenses in 2017, and 67 percent used personal funds to address their challenges, according to the Small Business Credit Survey.

With extra capital, small business owners are able to cover operational expenses and weather unexpected problems without dipping into their personal savings, leaning on credit cards or asking friends and family for funds. Having the resources in their back pocket, or even on their phones, gives them security and peace of mind.

5. They’re Taking Advantage of Opportunities

Business is rooted in innovation and the right timing, supplying a unique product or service that customers love. Simplifying access to capital via online lending gives businesses the confidence and ability to act when presented with new opportunities. They can form new partnerships, take advantage of limited time offers on inventory, test new products or services, sponsor events and more.

A line of credit can help business owners tap into the creative aspects of their business and try new strategies. For example, Kabbage restaurant customers have tried pop-ups and food trucks to help both their marketing and expansion efforts. Having secure, 24/7 access to funding can make the difference between staying stagnant and standing out from the competition in the marketplace.

Online Lending Empowers Small Businesses

Small businesses are the cornerstone of the economy and are especially essential to local communities. However, they may not be able to receive funding from traditional lending institutions as quickly as they like or if they’re still young. Kabbage knows businesses are more than a credit score and old financial statements. That’s why we look at a variety of factors to see the overall health of the business and the character of the business owner. Applying is simple, and there is no obligation to take funds if qualified.

With online lending on the upswing, the funding gap for small businesses is finally being filled, and according to the NDP Analytics report the U.S. economy is greatly benefiting in result.

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This article, “5 Most Common Ways Small Business Can Use Funding from Kabbage” was first published on Small Business Trends

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The 12 Best Places to Find eBay Listing Templates for your Small Business

Monday, August 20th, 2018

The 12 Best Places for eBay Listing Templates

Selling items on eBay can be a lucrative business and an effective way to make money working from home. Listing items on eBay can be time consuming, and if you’re a frequent seller on eBay, finding ways to save time conducting listings is desirable.

One way to save valuable time is to create quality listings with reusable eBay listing templates. With such templates you no longer have to start from scratch with your listing, as you simply have to revise the information. Listing templates also give buyers more consistent information across all a seller’s listings.

Where to Get eBay Listing Templates

Start saving time and create quality and consistent item listings on eBay with the following 12 best eBay listing templates sites.

Seller Hub

eBay’s Seller Hub allows you to run your business on eBay in one convenient place. Seller Hub has a number of tools to help sellers run more efficient businesses on eBay, including a listing template. You can create up to ten different templates on Seller Hub designed to streamline listings and save time. Seller Hub is free for eBay sellers.

eSeller Solutions

eSeller Solutions enables you to design a bespoke, custom-made template for your brand rather than using a generic template, thereby giving your small eBay business a more professional edge. By associating your brand with your listings, eSeller Solutions can be an effective promotional tool.

The matching listing template tool is available in all three of eSeller Solutions’ eBay seller packages. The eBay Pro Theme Package costs approximately $630, plus VAT.

eBay Template Shops

Enjoy professional-looking templates for an affordable price at eBay Template Shops. Custom-made templates start at around $3.99 a month for the template wizard package. For small businesses with bigger budgets, the basic shop design provides more comprehensive design features for your eBay store.

Sellercore

Sellercore offers custom-made eBay action templates for free. You can create listing templates on Sellercore quickly and efficiently and then reuse them to save time and generate higher quality auction listings designed to increase sales.

OC Designs Online

OC Designs Online provide eBay listing templates that can be tailored to your individual brand. All OC Design Online’s listing templates are mobile responsive. eBay design packages start at $249.

WidgetChimp

WidgetChimp allows you to create stunning template for eBay listings within seconds. WidgetChimp templates are also mobile responsive, which is essential for today’s consumer who like to browse and shop online from mobile devices. There is no limit on how many templates you can create with WidgetChimp. WidgetChimp’s Professional plan costs $15.95 per month.

CrazyLister

CrazyLister offers over 200 quality eBay templates to choose from. With simple listing management software, you can create new listings quickly and edit live listings instantly with CrazyLister. All templates on CrazyLister are mobile friendly and sellers can keep ended listings forever. CrazyLister plans start at $7 a month.

Super Action Template

Super Auction Template provides free eBay listing templates, which you can copy and paste into your listing. A total of eight templates are available in simple designs.

NinjaTemplates

NinjaTemplates provides templates designed to help eBay sellers cut through the competition by creating stand-out listings. NinjaTemplates can also revise, install and test your eBay templates in what the company claims to be “less time than anyone else.” NinjaTemplates’ eBay design package costs a flat price of $599.

Frooition

Frooition listing templates for eBay are fully compliant with eBay’s active content regulations, giving you peace of mind your listings adhere to eBay’s selling guidelines. Sellers can process listings and revisions in bulk quickly and efficiently. You can book a free listing review with an eBay certified Frooition team member. Frooition’s listing rescue feature costs from $149.

InkFrog

As well as allowing users to create bespoke eBay templates for listings, InkFrog enables sellers to auto-renew certain listings, meaning unsold items are only delisted for a minimal period. InkFrog’s catalogue auto-suggest feature makes it easy to match your items with eBay’s catalogue. InkFrog has different pricing plans designed to help sellers grow their eBay business. The basic plan costs $9 a month, billed annually.

Free Boutique Templates

Free Boutique Templates provides eBay sellers with different templates for free to use by providing the html code. Sellers can choose between fun, animated templates, designed to create eye-catching eBay listing that help sell products.

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This article, “The 12 Best Places to Find eBay Listing Templates for your Small Business” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Just 65% of Companies Have a Cybersecurity Expert on Staff, Survey Says

Monday, August 20th, 2018

Just 65% of Companies Have a Cybersecurity Expert on Staff

When it comes to cybersecurity, many businesses aren’t as prepared as they should be. A survey conducted by Gartner (NYSE: IT) revealed although 95% of CIOs expect cyber threats to increase in the coming years, only 65% have a cybersecurity expert on staff.

Not having a cybersecurity expert doesn’t necessarily mean an organization is not adequately protected, but as threats get more sophisticated, having an expert on staff is extremely important. Still this may not always be possible for many organizations.

What If You Have No Cybersecurity Expert on Staff?

For the vast majority of small businesses having an expert on staff is not an option. This requires coming up with creative and innovative solutions to protect the digital presence of a company, even with a limited budget.

This is because cybercriminals never rest and, according to Gartner, operate in ways organizations struggle to anticipate. Rob McMillan, research director at Gartner, explains this particular challenge in the press release announcing the survey results.

McMillan says, “In a twisted way, many cybercriminals are digital pioneers, finding ways to leverage big data and web-scale techniques to stage attacks and steal data. CIOs can’t protect their organizations from everything, so they need to create a sustainable set of controls that balances their need to protect their business with their need to run it.”

The Gartner 2018 CIO Agenda Survey was carried out in 98 countries with the participation of 3,160 CIOs. Even though these CIOs represented large organizations, there are lessons small businesses can learn from the survey.

Lessons From the Survey

One of the key lessons from the survey comes from McMillan who says, “Security investments must be prioritized by business outcomes to ensure the right amount is spent on the right things.”

As a small business, you have to be meticulous when it comes to spending your security budget. There are no one size fits all solutions in the marketplace. You have to take into consideration the industry you are in, regulatory compliances you might have to abide by, the service providers in the sector and more.

And just as you examine your company, you must also scrutinize the service provider you choose. The Gartner survey says there is a cybersecurity skills shortage. So whether you are going to hire a full-time employee, freelancer or a company, you have to do your due diligence to ensure they are qualified.

In addressing the shortage of skills and finding qualified talent, McMillan recommends, “Finding talented, driven people to handle the organization’s cybersecurity responsibilities is an endless function.”

The survey also indicates the growth of your company will introduce more vulnerabilities.

New vendors, suppliers, contractors, and even staff can all be new vectors for attack. And the risks they introduce in many cases are not addressed until it is too late.

More than anything else, the survey indicates cyber threats are an ongoing problem ad must be addressed accordingly. This requires being proactive and always vigilant no matter what size your business is.

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This article, “Just 65% of Companies Have a Cybersecurity Expert on Staff, Survey Says” was first published on Small Business Trends

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10 Types of IT Services Your Business Can Provide

Monday, August 20th, 2018

10 Types of IT Services Your Business Can Provide

If you’re thinking about starting an IT business, one of the essential steps is specifying your services. No two IT companies are the same because there are tons of different opportunities out there for delivering value to clients.

Types of IT Services

Here are some popular types of IT services to consider.

Managed IT Service

Many IT service providers that work with small businesses are called managed service providers. This can actually encompass a variety of specifics, but allows the business to service the company’s network on an ongoing basis at a regular rate. It is often less costly for companies over time, since it can prevent expensive problems from forming in the first place.

This is the type of service that Joerg Laves eventually landed on for his business, IT Secure Services. Laves says, “We decided to make the change from reacting to problems and move toward a standards based configuration where we provide surveillance to see what’s going on and resolve issues before they actually turn into problems.”

On Demand IT

Another way to structure an IT service business is by offering services on demand. You can still offer the same variety of specific functions. But instead of companies paying a regular monthly fee, they just pay for each individual service when they need it.

Network Setup

You could also offer a preliminary setup service for businesses just looking to get their networks up and running. It’s possible to offer this as a standalone service, but could be even more valuable as part of a managed IT package.

Network Security

Cybersecurity is a major concern for all businesses. So evaluating and responding to potential threats is a popular service for a lot of IT businesses. IT Secure offers this as one of the services in its managed IT offerings. But some businesses also offer it as a separate service.

Database Management

A database is the system that a business uses to monitor and access its data throughout the lifecycle. It would include things like customer and employee information, sales and finances. Database management includes organizing that data to ensure compliance, security and performance of data-driven applications.

Cloud Computing

This category includes any type of IT service that is delivered over the internet or a dedicated cloud network. So a cloud platform or SaaS offering would fall into this category. So essentially, you could create a type of software that is delivered to users over the cloud and then charge them a membership fee for the ability to access it.

Software Support

If you enjoy dealing with software products like those that run databases, spreadsheets or multimedia, you can offer a service where you provide support for users that are in need of technical fixes. You can focus on a specific type of software or list of programs, or offer a more generalized service.

Data Storage

You can also simply provide a platform or service for companies or individuals to store their data. You can provide a cloud platform or on-premises storage option for system backups or additional storage so that users don’t have to keep everything on their main devices. You could also combine this with a security offering if you deal with sensitive or proprietary data.

VoIP Service

VoIP stands for Voice over Internet Protocol. You can offer an online service that allows your clients to communicate with others via voice calling, either on an ongoing or as-needed basis. You can even add this service in as an option for a managed IT service, as IT Secure Services does.

Computer Repair

If you prefer working with hardware like computers, motherboards and graphics cards, you can provide repair services for companies or individuals in your area. This type of work does usually require meeting with clients in person at some point, so you probably need to focus your target market within your local community.

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This article, “10 Types of IT Services Your Business Can Provide” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Only 66% of Businesses Advertise Online, Even though 89% of their Customers are There

Monday, August 20th, 2018

Online Advertising Stats: 2/3 of Businesses Advertise Online

A survey of digital marketers by The Manifest has revealed 2/3 or 66% of them advertise online. But when they do, they use different channels to reach their audience and influence them.

When you take into account 89% of Americans use the internet, just as many businesses — or more — should also be advertising there. Online advertising demonstrates greater reach at a lower cost than traditional channels.

For small businesses, it means a higher return on their ad dollars while reaching a much larger and targeted audience. The digital ecosystem also provides data with different metrics small businesses can use to improve their marketing campaigns and deliver better results.

Reporting on the survey on The Manifest’s official blog, Kristen Herhold writes “Online advertising helps businesses reach consumers using more innovative and cost-effective methods than traditional advertising… Businesses can more easily target potential customers with online advertising.”

The Manifest surveyed 501 digital marketers from US businesses included 73% B2C and 27% B2B companies. Respondents to the survey included managers (36%), associates (15%), C-level executives (13%), senior managers (12%), and directors (12%).

Online Advertising Stats

There are many reasons a business uses advertising and each of these reasons have to be taken into account to launch a successful campaign. While the ultimate goal is to increase revenue, today’s digital ecosystem requires a higher level of engagement to connect with potential customers.

According to the survey, 24% of businesses said their top goal was to increase sales and revenue. This was followed by another 18% who said they wanted to improve brand recognition.

Online Advertising Stats: 2/3 of Businesses Advertise Online

 

Another 16% of businesses participating in the survey said they wanted to drive website traffic, 13% wanted to acquire new leads and 11%  said they hoped to convert customers.

As to their preferred online advertising channel, businesses invested across different platforms. The top three channels are social media at 86%, display and banner ads at 80%, and paid search at 66%.

Online Advertising Stats: 2/3 of Businesses Advertise Online

According to Herhold, businesses are able to reach the maximum number of consumers if they invest in the top three channels together.

In the report, Flynn Zaiger, CEO of Online Optimism, a digital marketing agency in New Orleans, said, “Social media and paid search allow you to reach users on the main platforms they use: Facebook, Instagram, Google, Bing, and Yahoo. Display advertising lets you extend that reach and awareness across most other major web platforms. With all three, you can reach nearly all your likely customer population.”

Online Advertising is Essential

As Herhold put it, “Businesses that don’t invest in online advertising miss out on successfully reaching the majority of Americans who are online.”

With smartphone penetration rates fast approaching 100%, more people will be online more often. When that happens, online advertising will become even more important for businesses he survey predicts.

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This article, “Only 66% of Businesses Advertise Online, Even though 89% of their Customers are There” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Top 3 Games to Improve Your Team’s Customer Service

Monday, August 20th, 2018

3 Games for Customer Service Training

When it comes to customer service, everyone has something to learn. Even people who are naturals at interacting with others can find ways to improve their people skills — and, of course, first-time customer service reps always have a lot to learn.

One of the best ways to teach people any skill is to have them practice that skill in a hands-on but relatively low pressure environment.

Customer service training games are a great way to illustrate important factors about the customer-representative relationship. And, if you’re working with a set of new employees, these games can also help to break the ice and build solid working relationships among employees.

The caveat is that the games have to actually work. The only thing worse than not including activities in a training session, is to include activities that flop.

Games for Customer Service Training

Here are three customer service training games that you can use in your next employee training session.

Customer Service Training Game 1: Don’t Tell Me, Let Me Guess

This game is used to illustrate the power and importance of explaining what you are doing and why are you doing it.

Especially in cases where the customer is likely unfamiliar with the process that the customer service rep is following, it can be incredibly frustrating to sit through seemingly pointless questions or long wait times. This customer service training game will help your new representatives step into the shoes of their future customers.

The Game

To play this game, select two volunteers from within the session. Have the first volunteer come up to the front of the room, and instruct them to answer each of your following questions quickly but accurately.

Ask a series of questions, without context. Here are a few sample questions, although you can tailor yours to your career field:

  • What if your favorite climate?
  • Do you have any allergies?
  • Are you color blind?

Then, thank the first volunteer and have them sit down. Call up the second volunteer and ask the same series of questions. But this time, explain why you are asking each question.

If you use the above series of questions, for instance, you can explain:

  • We are pairing each new representative with the most fitting branch of our company. Some of these branches are located far north in the mountains, while others are bordering on the equator. For this purpose, can you tell me what favorite climate is?
  • Some of our branches are pet-friendly, and dogs and cats regularly roam through the offices. Do you have any allergies that we should take into account?
  • One of our branches’ primary customers is a paint company. They often call with questions about how to test the consistency of the paint color. That job is best tackled by someone who can see in color. Are you color blind?

Once the second volunteer is done, have them sit down. Ask the group to consider how frustrating it could be to have a series of questions asked of you when you don’t understand the purpose of the questions.

Note also that giving context to your conversation can even make a customer give a different response. For instance, a lot of people don’t include animal allergies when they list their allergies, so removing context can even lead you to incorrect answers at times.

The Lesson

This customer service training activity shows the importance of giving customers context when you’re speaking with them. No one can read your mind and since customers often don’t work in the same field as you, they may not understand how your job works.

Taking a few minutes to explain yourself and your process can help customers feel at ease and taken care of. It can also give you more accurate information to use, making your job easier as well.

Customer Service Training Game 2: Never Say Never

No one likes to hear that the thing they want is not possible.

In customer service, this fact translates to a basic rule of customer interactions: don’t tell a customer what you can’t do. Instead, frame your response in terms of what you can do.

Instead of just saying, “I can’t do X” say, “I can do Y.”

This is an easy concept to grasp, but a difficult concept to put into practice. This game is meant to train customer serviceemployees in this tactic, before they use it with an actual customer.

The Game

Make sure that everyone has clearly legible name tags, and then have your new employees gather in a large circle.

Instruct each employee to think of two or three requests that they’d like. The requests can be reasonable or outlandish, realistic or entirely imaginary. Give a few examples of different requests, such as:

  • I want to switch places with you in this circle.
  • I want a fire-breathing house-trained dragon.
  • I would like you to give me a $50 gift card.

Give the employees a few minutes to think up a couple requests (as a side note, make sure that every employee understands that these requests can be fun or funny, but must be appropriate, which means there should be no potentially offensive requests).

Then, tell each employee that they will take turns calling out another employee’s name and requesting one of the things they have in mind. That named employee then has to deny the request, without actually saying, ‘No.’ That named employee will then name another employee, ask for a request that must be denied, and so on.

Start with an example between yourself and another group leader, and then get the group started.

The Lesson

No matter the request, whether it’s reasonable or absurd, there are ways to decline the question without saying, ‘No.’ Once you realize how to do this, it gets easier and easier to answer questions in positive, solution-oriented ways.

This customer service training game is really about exposing your employees to a new way of thinking, and allowing them to get comfortable putting that thought process into action.

Customer Service Training Game 3: Call Me by my Name

Nothing kills a professional relationship more quickly than forgetting the other person’s name. In customer service, when you work with dozens of people every day, it’s particularly important to be good with names.

But this isn’t just a natural skill — you can learn techniques to remember names better and for longer periods of time.

One of the most proven ways of remembering names is to use the memory palace. This is something that Sherlock Holmes, in the BBC/Masterpiece version, uses to remember an absurd amount of information.

An employee orientation session is a great time to teach this method, as the new employees can use it to remember the names of their new co-workers.

The Game

This activity works best at the very beginning of a session, preferably with a fairly large group of people who have just met each other.

To begin with, explain the concept of the memory palace to the entire group.
Here are the steps to building your own memory palace:

  • Select a place with which you are very familiar.
  • Many people choose homes, such as the one where they grew up, or other familiar buildings, such as your high school or your college dormitory. You can also choose a road or an outdoor location, but you must be very familiar with the place.
  • Begin to list off the things that you want to remember.
  • As you go through the list, place each item (or, in this case, each name) in a specific place within the building that you are using as your memory palace. Cement this in your memory.
  • “Walk through” your memory palace a few times, naming each item or name that you have placed in each room. Do not move anything around, simply observe.

It’s that simple. Your memory palace has now been created, and you’ve placed each thing you want to remember within the memory palace.

Now, whenever you want to recall the items or names on that list, simply walk through your memory palace and “find” each item or name.

Although this technique works well for remembering grocery lists or to-do lists, it can also be used for names. To associate the name with the correct person, you may imagine each person standing in a certain part of the house that is similar to their name.

For example, you may picture “Frank” standing next to the fridge, where you keep hot dogs, which can be called “franks.” Or, if you know that Frank likes to ski, picture Frank standing in the attic, pulling his skis out from storage.

Even if the correlation between the name and the location is a stretch, it doesn’t matter so long as you can remember it.

Once everyone understands how the memory palace works, have each person say their name and a fact about themselves. Give everyone in the room a moment to place that person and their name in their own memory palace, and then continue on to the next person.

At the end of the session, have a few people try to remember the names of everyone in the room.

The Lesson

This customer service training game teaches not so much a lesson, but a memory technique that is proven to work.

Remembering names and other key items about a person are absolutely crucial in the customer service world. Often, a good memory is the difference between a decent customer service employee and a truly excellent one.

But it isn’t just about person’s natural ability to memorize. There are things that you can do to improve your memory and your recall.

Overall

These three games are an excellent place to start for an employee training session. Remember that the more interactive you can make the session, the more that employees will learn.

Sure, you could have someone stand at the front of the room and lecture about methodology and rules, but hands-on learning is always preferable. Throw in a few customer service training games, and you’ll already be on your way to a memorable and educational training session.

Republished by permission. Original here.

Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “Top 3 Games to Improve Your Team’s Customer Service” was first published on Small Business Trends

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9 Small Business Mobile Trends You Can’t Afford to Miss

Sunday, August 19th, 2018

9 Top Mobile Trends that Change the Game

Mobile devices, especially phones, are ubiquitous. Everyone who has a phone carries it everywhere and people use it for simple and complex interactions alike. From chatting to shopping, the uses for mobile phones seems endless. We asked members of the Young Entrepreneur Council for their thoughts on the best mobile trends that they’ve used or experienced.

“Mobile devices are one of the best ways to interact with potential customers. What’s one mobile trend that you’ve noticed lately in the small business space? “

Top Mobile Trends

Here’s what YEC community members had to say:

1. Simple Design

“Simplicity, in many aspects, wins. Mobile users want a web design that is easy and simple to use, but they also want as seamless a payment strategy as possible. Make sure that your app is ready and able to take payments in a quick and easy fashion.” ~ Andrew SchrageMoney Crashers Personal Finance

2. Progressive Web Apps

“A Progressive Web App is a web application that takes advantage of new web technologies like Service Workers and the Cache API to create a native-like experience. They are fast, can do push notifications, and work offline. PWAs are great for small businesses because they only have to manage one codebase and they can avoid the expense of creating a native application.” ~ Vik PatelFuture Hosting

3. SMS Marketing

SMS marketing has increased with many more text message campaigns with promotions and offers that small business audience likes to receive.” ~ John RamptonCalendar

4. GPS Related Marketing

“There are many more brands contacting me on the go through my mobile device based on my location, which is great because the deals come to me rather than having to search for them.” ~ Serenity GibbonsNaacp

5. Charging Stations

“In the event industry, we are noticing that mobile device charging stations are at every event these days. You’re not directly interacting with your customers, but you are facilitating their interactions with you in the most simple way possible, making sure their phones are charged!” ~ Jessica GonzalezInCharged

6. WhatsApp

“As our global presence has grown and we’ve received more international inquiries, connecting over more than just email has been key. We use WhatsApp for texting and hopping on calls with clients overseas. It keeps costs down but allows our international clients to feel like they are getting the same treatment as local clients.” ~ Leila LewisBe Inspired PR

7. Facebook Messenger Chatbots

“Small businesses love Facebook and I’ve noticed that some of them have been incorporating Messenger bots. It could be as simple as having an automated message saying that they will respond as soon as possible or as advanced as answering frequently asked questions.” ~ Syed BalkhiWPBeginner

8. Transactional Texting

“So much can get lost in emails. What we’re seeing more of is the use of text for transactional activities. Things like receipts, confirmations of payment, shipping confirmations, appointment reminders, etc. These are all highly useful and relevant to the user who receives them and it improves the service of the business by getting these automations in place.” ~ Baruch LabunskiRank Secure

9. Live Stream Video

“A lot of small businesses, especially restaurants or event companies, utilize live stream video to attract people to the restaurant or party. By posting a live video, their online followers can get a pulse for what the scene is like and decide to stop on by. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, well, I say videos are priceless for marketing.” ~ Andy KaruzaFenSens

Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “9 Small Business Mobile Trends You Can’t Afford to Miss” was first published on Small Business Trends

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