Archive for the ‘Business’ Category

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

Friday, June 23rd, 2017

Tips for Marketing in China

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.

Small Business Trends attended the inaugural Gateway’17 event June 20 and 21 at Cobo Center in Detroit. Here’s a report from the conference with tips for marketing products in China according to Gateway ‘17’s speakers and experts.

Tips for Marketing in China

Tell Your Brand Story

“Chinese consumers want to hear your brand story,” said Amee Chande, managing director of global strategy and operations for Alibaba Group in a presentation Wednesday.

That means they want to buy from brands they feel connected to. Especially if you’re importing products, you have to build some kind of trust by sharing information about your brand, both in your store and through other methods.

So don’t simply put your products out there and expect them to sell themselves. You need to provide great products and a great brand in order for Chinese consumers to trust you enough to buy.

Decorate Your Store

If you’re selling products on Tmall, which is a good strategy since it’s the most popular marketplace among Chinese consumers, then you have a lot of options for sharing more information about your products and your brand.

Within Tmall and other marketplaces, you can customize your store completely. Add your own branding elements, product updates and other content. This can help your storefront stand out and also keep customers coming back for more.

Tips for Marketing in China

Update Your Feed

One of the most popular features on Tmall is the news feed, which you can use to “decorate” your store. This is similar to what you might be used to on social media sites like Facebook. You can share new products and company updates regularly.

According to Chande, young people on Tmall log in and look at news feeds from their favorite stores up to seven times a day. So making those updates interesting and appealing to Chinese shoppers could potentially spur a lot of sales.

Utilize Live Streaming

Live streaming is another marketing tool available on Tmall. And it can be a powerful way to build up some brand trust by showing the actual people behind your brand or the product in action. You can share a company event, new product release or even tutorials related to your offering.

Take Advantage of Shopping Holidays

In China, there are shopping holidays just like there are in the U.S. But the actual holidays are different. So don’t just discount your products on Cyber Monday and expect tons of sales. Do some research on the popular holidays in China and the promotions available on platforms like Tmall.

For example, November 11 is known as “Singles Day” in China (because of all the 1’s in 11/11). An answer to Valentine’s Day, Singles Day is all about buying yourself gifts or buying small items for friends. It’s a major opportunity for any business that sells in China.

Try Bundling or Unique Discounts

Like customers anywhere, Chinese customers love a great deal. So discounts and promotions can be a great way to get some attention for your products.

Sam Wolf, founder of LuckyVitamin, a brand that has found success selling on Tmall said of the company’s customers in China, “They love getting a good bargain. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re just looking for rock bottom prices. But they want to feel like they’re getting a good deal when they buy something.”

So it’s not just about cutting prices. But if you can offer a unique promotion or create some bulk discounts so customers can see more value in their purchases, it could be worthwhile.

Tips for Marketing in China

Do Your Research

It’s also important, no matter what actual marketing methods you use, to do research about your customers and market beforehand. There are plenty of cultural and logistical differences that come with selling in China. So you need to do research and work with partners who can help you understand the landscape.

Overall, you need to have patience and make sure to do your due diligence instead of jumping right in. Marketing and selling in China isn’t something that just anyone can do. You need to be really dedicated to it in order to succeed.

Michael Zakkour, Vice President of China/APAC and global eCommerce practices for Tompkins International said in a discussion at the Gateway’17 event, “In China, everything is possible. But nothing is easy.”

Offer Personalized Service

Your customer service is also part of your marketing in China. Chinese consumers expect fast shipping and answers to all of their questions, according to Wolf. So you need to consider your shipping time and customer service availability to be part of your marketing efforts and make it a priority.

Create Virtual Shopping Experiences

Tmall also offers opportunities for sellers to take advantage of new technology like virtual reality and augmented reality in order to create unique experiences for customers.

For example, if you have a unique retail location and also sell online, you could offer a virtual shopping experience that lets customers feel like they’re actually walking around your store when they’re shopping online. Or you could use augmented reality to help customers make buying decisions, like trying on virtual makeup or arranging virtual furniture in a photo of your living room.

Keep Up With New Technology

And that’s just the beginning of the possibilities that technology offers to businesses selling in China. Tmall and other marketplaces are constantly working to update their offerings. So you need to keep up with those trends and adapt with them if you’re going to stay relevant with customers in China.

Shopping on Taobao Photo via Shutterstock

Other Images: Small Business Trends/Annie Pilon

This article, “10 Smart Tips for Marketing Your Brand to Chinese Consumers – #Gateway17” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Best Sales Techniques You’re Not Using … Yet!

Friday, June 23rd, 2017

Best Sales Techniques You’re Not Using … Yet!

When it comes to increasing leads, you must employ the right techniques.

But what are the best sales techniques to use to meet your goal? A new report by sales acceleration software provider InsideSales highlights sales techniques you’re probably not using today — yet.

Best Sales Techniques

No two businesses are the same. But when it comes to lead generation, some techniques are effective for almost all businesses.

Best Strategies for Lead Generation

Data shows company websites (83 percent) are clearly the most widely adopted strategy for lead generation. They are followed by email marketing (74 percent) and LinkedIn (69 percent).

Interestingly, blogs (8 percent) and LinkedIn (7 percent) have seen the biggest increases in adoption since 2013.

Inside Sales Has Gained Momentum

More sales and marketing leaders (13 percent) say they are willing to try inside sales more than any other method this year.

What’s more, 93 percent of sales and marketing leaders who currently use inside sales say they plan to continue using it.

Underutilized Techniques You Might Want to Consider

It’s worth noting that some sales techniques are proving to be effective, despite not being used widely by most businesses. Take small executive events and partner relationships, for instance.

The InsideSales report found both executive events (79 percent) and partner relationships (77 percent) effective but less-adopted.

LinkedIn, on the other hand, was found to be well adopted although leaders didn’t believe it was effective at creating brand awareness.

Time to Take Another Look at LinkedIn?

It’s evident that businesses are focusing a lot of their energies on LinkedIn. But is it really helping businesses achieve their goals?

The InsideSales report shows LinkedIn has not been effective at generating pipeline compared to other methods. As a small business owner, you might want to take a fresh look at your LinkedIn strategy to improve leads.

About the Study

Utah-based InsideSales.com surveyed 678 sales and marketing leaders for this study. To gather data, InsideSales.com sought this group’s opinion on key issues regarding marketing tactics, brand management, lead generation, pipeline creation and marketing challenges.

Business Sale Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “Best Sales Techniques You’re Not Using … Yet!” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Redefining the Meaning of Success

Friday, June 23rd, 2017

Failure Is Relative Business Cartoon

Sometimes cartoons just appear seemingly out of thin air.

I was listening to the business report on the radio and someone prefaced a statement with ‘if by that you mean …’.

Immediately I said, aloud to myself mind you, ‘if by profits you mean …’ and then I went to the dictionary.

Now, there are quite a few definitions of profits, but this one seemed the funniest.

So, yeah, sometimes cartoons let themselves in and you both sit down and have a good laugh over coffee. Not often, but it’s nice when they do.

This article, “Redefining the Meaning of Success” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Apply These 3 Strategies When Dealing with the Ex in Business

Friday, June 23rd, 2017

Ways to Handle Divorce with a Business Involved

Kim Leach and her ex-husband were high-school sweethearts. But after 21 years together — 16 of them wedded — a series of rough patches led to their divorce. With two kids, a house that they’d almost paid off and years of accumulated belongings, the split was bound to be painful and time-consuming.

And there was another wrinkle: The couple jointly owned a small business.

There’s no recent research on the exact number of couple-owned businesses, but in 2000, some 3 million of the 22 million U.S. small businesses were managed by couples.

For these couples, divorce throws a wrench into business management. “When dealing with your ex-spouse, it adds an extreme layer of complication to every decision,” says Shawn Leamon, a certified divorce financial analyst.

Ways to Handle Divorce with a Business Involved

Leamon helped Nerdwallet identify three common ways joint owners might deal with a business during the divorce process, and when to consider each.

1. The Buyout

A buyout, the most common way couples divvy up business assets during a divorce, allows one person to become the sole owner by buying the other’s portion of the business. This can be done either as a “bulk” buyout, using cash reserves or a business loan, or by setting up a payment plan over a certain time period.

Leach took this route, and her husband bought her out of their Oklahoma fitness center. But she was focused on getting custody of her kids and ignored her lawyer’s advice: to have the business appraised and charge interest during the agreed-upon seven-year buyout period.

Instead, she estimated the business’s value at $100,000 and agreed to a $50,000 buyout over seven years with no interest. The business turned out to be worth closer to $200,000 or $250,000.

“Fear overwhelmed me too much,” says Leach, who acknowledges that her conservative approach stemmed from a fear of rocking the boat. “I’m a very confident woman … but when you’re in that situation, everything is an unknown, so you do gamble a little bit.”

Tips

If you can, pay for a neutral appraisal: Business appraisals can be expensive, ranging from a couple thousand dollars to more than $30,000, but Leamon says they’re worth it. It’s easy to under- or overvalue a business, and hiring a neutral party helps ensure a fair deal for everyone.

Consider the future: The longer the payment period, the more likely it is that the spouse who keeps the business will default on payments or shut it down. In her book, “The Little Divorce Survivor’s Handbook,” Leach says that if she could do it over again, she’d negotiate an upfront buyout instead of an installment plan. “You can’t foretell the future,” she says. “You need to plan like this is all you’ve got coming your way.”

2. The Compromise

A riskier option involves running the business as usual, with both parties maintaining control of the company. If you and your ex try this tactic, it’s crucial to develop defined business roles and clear expectations.

It might also be a good idea to review your business structure and legal documents to make sure they reflect your position in the company.

In Leamon’s opinion, staying in business together is the least ideal scenario. A financial advisor since 2010, he says he’s never seen this strategy work in the long term.

“You’re getting divorced for a reason,” he says. “When trying to maintain and run a business together, it adds an extraordinary amount of stress.”

Tips

Leave the personal at home: Your relationship with your ex is now strictly business. Work isn’t the time or place to bring around the new boyfriend or girlfriend, or even discuss those new relationships, Leamon says.

Review your legal documents: This is especially important come tax time, when your divorce might impact federal business taxes.

3. The Walk Away

Divorce is a good time to start fresh in your personal and business lives. If you decide to move on to a new venture, you and your ex can either sell the company to a third party or close up shop.

Selling a business is messier than you might think. It can take time to find a buyer, and the longer the divorce process takes, the more likely it is that something — your relationship, the business, the economy — will take a turn for the worse.

If your company is a franchise, it likely has specific requirements for future owners, which can narrow your candidate field and lengthen the selling process further.

Having a personal connection to the business can also make it hard to sell. So in certain circumstances, shutting down may be the best option. Small businesses often carry a heavy debt load, Leamon says. “Sometimes it’s cleaner to close it than try to dig yourself out of a giant hole.”

Tips

Think beyond cash: You can split profits from a sale 50/50, but your share can also be factored into the overall settlement. Can’t decide who gets the lake house? Consider trading your profit for the vacation home.

Keep it clean: If you decide to close your business, tie up loose ends first. “Business issues, when not properly closed, can haunt you for years,” Leamon says. It’s not as simple as just signing a few documents; you should also review potential issues such as back taxes and lawsuits.

Regardless of the outcome, Leamon stresses the importance of finding a workable agreement. “If you can’t resolve it between your attorneys and you, a judge will decide what ultimately has to happen,” he says. “If you can’t come up with a solution, a solution will be forced on you.”

To navigate the process, try mediation or enlist the help of a divorce advisor to make sure you’re not saddled with an outcome that neither of you desires.

Republished by permission. Original here.

Business Couple Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “Apply These 3 Strategies When Dealing with the Ex in Business” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Stop Wasting Time! Three Reasons Your Rental Business Should Consider a Concierge Service

Thursday, June 22nd, 2017

Real Estate Concierge Services Taking Off In Housing Industry

The rise of the experience-based economy has increased the popularity of services that handle the particulars and make it easier for the customer to enjoy their experience while finding exactly what they are looking for. Travel agencies, clothing curators, and subscription services are just a few examples of how consumers are willing to go with a brand that takes the stress out of the process.

The housing industry is catching on to the concierge trend, especially rental markets that thrive on discerning customers looking for an ideal experience. Researcher Bob Cain found that middle-income individuals represent the largest renter demographic at 37 percent of the total market. These are renters who could afford a home but choose to rent instead. For them, experience and quality of life are everything.

Additionally, the rental market is experiencing steady growth with the Rental Protection Agency reporting an average growth rate of over 2,600 renters per day. These newcomers to the rental market will be looking for better listings and expecting services that help customize their search to find the right home for them.

Concierge services and tech startups aren’t just improving the experience of consumers, they are also upgrading the technological underpinnings of the industry. Ashrit Kamireddi, CEO and founder of VeryApt, a concierge service for apartment hunters, explains, “We use natural language processing to take all of our review content and feed it into the recommendations; we also use millions of data points to optimize people’s commutes and simply convey that information on each apartment listing.” The benefits of data-driven platforms for the industry are more unbiased actors who can help consumers and businesses find each other based on real matching criteria.

What’s Behind the Surge in Real Estate Concierge Growth?

There are a few key trends driving both experiential and technological upgrades in the housing industry, most of which can be attributed to changing expectations from consumers, and the industry’s need to adapt quickly.

Millennial Renters Expect Experiences:

As Millennials advance in their careers, they are becoming the most influential consumer group. Millennials with expendable incomes are looking for luxury apartments in large cities that are surrounded by dining and entertainment options that match their experience and travel-centric lifestyles. They are also more concerned with layout, and quality of life more than they are space. Kamireddi shared, “People are voting with their wallets and smaller units provide greater mobility, better rents, and common amenities.” He adds, “By a longshot, the most called out items in reviews according to our Natural Language Processing system are location, value, and access to transit. Shortly after is the quality of staff and management.”

Millennials are also slower to buy homes than previous generations, with most waiting at least 1-2 years longer before making a first home purchase. That kind of delay will continue to grow the rental market, especially in city centers.

Buildings Turn to Services for Help:

There is a massive amount of administrative work that goes into finding the right renters, and in some cases, large marketing budgets eat away at a building’s profits. Not to mention the onslaught of applications that come from listing sites that do little to curate the quality of applicants.

To help offload some of this administrative overhead, apartment buildings are contracting with concierge services to help increase reach and simplify the selection process. Kamireddi shared, “By providing properties with real data, they can better target their capital investments towards improving tenant retention” Since these tech services often help reduce overhead the shift in thinking involves minimal risk for property managers.

Empty Nesters Want to Shorten Search:

Empty Nesters are opting for smaller footprint homes and apartments more than ever. As baby boomers move out of the house and into apartments, they are going to be looking for solutions that are easy to use and take the hassle out of scrolling through many listings online.

Recent data bears this out, with Mike Fratantoni, Chief Economist at MBA sharing, “Rates are still too high to attract much interest from homeowners looking to refinance, and purchase activity was relatively weak.” He was commenting on how activity week to week has been decreasing by several percentage points. For former homeowners, or baby boomers interested in renting, the idea of searching for an apartment might seem daunting, especially if it’s in a new city. That’s why concierge services are courting these influential consumer groups, not just millennials.

Property managers should consider what functions concierge services may be able to take over to save both time and money for the building. Renters will continue to get more discerning as the data available to them becomes better. Additionally reaching ideal renters will become more difficult for properties that aren’t listed where those ideal renters are searching.

Concierge Bell Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “Stop Wasting Time! Three Reasons Your Rental Business Should Consider a Concierge Service” was first published on Small Business Trends

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20 Products Most In Demand with Chinese Customers – #Gateway17

Thursday, June 22nd, 2017

What Chinese Consumers Want Most

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. There, experts and business owners discussed the growing opportunities for businesses to sell a variety products to Chinese consumers — especially via Alibaba operated online marketplace Tmall.

What Chinese Consumers Want Most

Small Business Trends attended the Gateway’17 event at Cobo Center June 20 and 21 to learn more. Here are 20 types of products that are especially popular in China right now.

Clothing

Fashion is one of the biggest product categories for Chinese consumers looking to buy imported products, according to Amee Chande, managing director of global strategy and operations for Alibaba Group. Chinese consumers, especially young people, like the styles they can get from U.S. brands, along with the quality of garments.

Shoes

For similar reasons, shoes are also popular import products in China. Stadium Goods is one business that has realized success by selling shoes there. The company has found that some of its collectable sneakers that can’t be found in Chinese stores are especially popular.

Jewelry

Jewelry is another popular category due to the quality and style of import goods. Jewelry.com is a large U.S. brand that has been able to increase its profits dramatically by selling on Tmall in China.

Makeup

According to Chande, beauty is another one of the most popular category for Chinese shoppers, especially those using Tmall. And makeup is a major product within that niche.

Skincare

Skincare products like moisturizer and sunscreen are also popular with Chinese consumers. Especially if you offer products made with natural ingredients, you could have a good chance of appealing to health conscious Chinese consumers.

Beauty Accessories

Also in the beauty niche, accessories like makeup brushes are popular in China. Real Techniques is one U.S. brand that has found a lot of success by selling its products on Tmall in China.

Vitamins

Chinese consumers are also becoming increasingly health conscious, according to Chande. So health products like vitamins and supplements are getting more and more popular on platforms like Tmall.

Fresh Produce

If you have the resources to ship to China quickly, you can also appeal to Chinese customers by selling fresh produce like fruits and vegetables.

Seafood

There’s also a growing demand for U.S. seafood in China, both because of the increasing health concerns over local Chinese seafood and because the U.S. has access to some types of seafood that can’t be found in China.

Packaged Healthy Foods

But you can also appeal to Chinese consumers with health foods that are a bit easier to ship. Think packaged food items that include healthy ingredients like dried fruit and whole grains.

Trendy Snacks

Chinese consumers, especially young people, are also interested in food trends. (Think foods like kale chips and superfoods.) Sometimes Chinese consumers can’t get these trendy food items from local Chinese sellers.

Juice

Juice is also a popular product among health conscious consumers in China. And some types of fruit juice, like cranberry juice, have just recently been introduced into the Chinese market. Ocean Spray is one brand that has ushered in that growing trend in China.

Wine

In addition, wineries and small wine brands can appeal to Chinese consumers as import brands. Especially for brands that operate in desirable regions like Napa Valley, selling in China can lead to plenty of growth opportunities.

Baby Food

“Mom and baby” is another one of the most popular product categories among Chinese shoppers, according to Chande. And baby food is a huge product within that niche. Gerber, for example, has found a lot of success by expanding its offerings into the Chinese market and introducing healthy food for the growing number of babies in China.

Breastfeeding Products

Moms also want to make sure they have the best possible products when it comes to taking care of their new babies. So companies that provide breastfeeding accessories and similar products can appeal to new parents looking to get the very best products for their growing families.

Maternity Wear

Though clothing of any type is popular in China, maternity clothing can be especially popular due to the growing number of families in China.

Baby Accessories

In addition, other baby accessories like bottles, rattles and play sets can also appeal to those family oriented consumers who are willing to pay a premium to get the best possible products for their kids.

Natural Cleaning Products

Chinese consumers also regularly purchase everyday products like cleaning goods online. So U.S. businesses could potentially sell cleaning products, especially those with natural ingredients to appeal to families and health conscious consumers.

Sporting Goods

Sporting goods and athletic gear are also popular. This category can range from outdoor gear to equipment for specific sports or workout activities.

Gadgets

And also, technology is a huge market in China. Consumers can obviously get tons of different gadgets from all kinds of sources. But if your company has a unique offering that isn’t everywhere in China already, it could certainly appeal to that customer base.

Shopper Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “20 Products Most In Demand with Chinese Customers – #Gateway17” was first published on Small Business Trends

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

Thursday, June 22nd, 2017

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. Small Business Trends attended Gateway’17 June 20 and 21 at Cobo Center in Detroit. Here’s an overview of the platform outlined to attendees at the event and what it can provide for businesses interested in selling in China.

What is Tmall?

Tmall is an online marketplace created specifically for Chinese consumers. It is operated in China by Alibaba. But if you’re thinking that it’s just the Chinese version of Amazon, you’re mistaken. The shopping experience in China is much different than it is in the U.S. And so Tmall has some features and characteristics that reflect that.

“It’s basically a virtual shopping mall,” said Amee Chande, managing director of global strategy and operations for Alibaba Group during a presentation at Gateway ‘17.  One unique feature, Chande said, is that brands are able to create a more customizable experience for their customers within their own storefronts

Additionally, Tmall is a marketplace only for trusted brands and products in demand with Chinese consumers. There’s another online marketplace called Taobao where anyone can sign up for an account and sell basically any type of product. But to sell on Tmall, you have to be accepted as a trusted brand or wholesaler.

What Are the Benefits of Using Tmall?

Since Tmall is a trusted name for Chinese consumers, using the platform to sell your products can help you instantly build some of that trust for your own brand.

There are a few different routes you can go with this. You can set up your very own store, which requires some work upfront but allows you to control basically the entire experience. You can do this if you have operations in China or if you are going to be shipping your products into the country.

But you can also sign up as a wholesaler. In this case, you would still be able to sell your products under your own brand name. But you wouldn’t have your own storefront to maintain. You instead sell them under a Tmall store, which is responsible for things like marketing, logistics and customer service.

In addition, you can use Tmall partners to help you with everything from trade rules to translation. The process of finding those partners can take some time. But if you find the companies that are the best fit for your business, they can help you create a seamless transition into the Chinese market.

Finally, Tmall offers some unique marketing features like livestreaming and news feeds similar to those on Facebook. So this creates an interactive platform that people actually check and shop with regularly. Chande explained that young shoppers often visit Tmall multiple times per day to check news feeds from their favorite brands.

What Types of Products Can You Sell on Tmall?

Technically, you can sell anything that is from a trusted brand or in demand with Chinese consumers. But there are a few product categories that are significantly more popular than others. They include:

  • Apparel, accessories and footwear
  • Beauty and skincare
  • Mom and baby
  • Personal care
  • Electronics

There are tons of different products that fit into these categories. So if your product line fits, or if you know you have something that is really in demand in China, you may just want to look into opportunities on Tmall.

Image: Tmall.com

This article, “What is Tmall and How Can You Use it to Reach Customers in China? – #Gateway17” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Join This Microsoft Twitter Chat to Get Inspired in Your Business #MSBizTips

Thursday, June 22nd, 2017

Sponsored Post

Join This Microsoft Twitter Chat to Get Inspired in Your Business #MSBizTips

Are you ready to get inspired?

It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day of your business. There are so many projects to complete, so many fires to put out and so many deadlines you can’t afford to miss.

Do you remember when your business was new, when you had that a-ha moment that changed things forever?

It’s the kind of feeling you can have again by tuning in to the upcoming Microsoft Inspire event, the annual conference for Microsoft partners July 9 -13 in Washington, D.C..

It’s a way for small business owners like you to discover what’s coming down the pipeline from Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) in the near future.

But maybe before deciding to livestream the event, you’d like to learn more about what can you can expect.

If so, you’re in luck!

On June 28, 2017 at 3 p.m. EDT, join Small Business Trends CEO Anita Campbell (@smallbiztrends) and Microsoft partner Gene Marks (@genemarks) for the Microsoft-sponsored Twitter Chat “Get Inspired in Your Business” #MSBizTips.

The chat is intended to give the small business community a peek behind the curtain for a preview of what’s coming at the highly anticipated event.

How Do You Get Inspired?

Expect some discussion on how you get inspired. Is it by hearing about how other small businesses overcame challenges, learning about new tools and tricks or learning about something totally different?

Please bring your own answer to this question and be ready to discuss and learn what inspires others in the small business community. Perhaps you’ll get an idea that will inspire you too.

What is a Microsoft Partner?

You may use plenty of Microsoft tools in your business’s day-to-day operations, but do you know what a Microsoft Partner is?

How does a business become a Microsoft Partner? What are the benefits? Does your business qualify?

What Happens at the Microsoft Inspire Event?

You may have heard about a star-studded event filled with big names from the tech world and even performances from big names in the entertainment business.

But really what is all the excitement about? Beneath all the glitz and glamour, what really goes on at one of these events? You’ll learn more by participating in the Twitter chat.

What New Microsoft Products are Most Exciting?

If you have an answer of your own to this question or would like to hear what others have to say, don’t miss this Twitter chat.

If you already use Microsoft tools in your small business and are eager to learn about new solutions that could help your business become more efficient, DO NOT MISS THIS EVENT!

Details

What: Microsoft-sponsored Twitter Chat “Get Inspired in Your Business”

Who: Small Business Trends CEO Anita Campbell (@smallbiztrends) and Microsoft partner Gene Marks (@genemarks)

Where: Twitter

Hashtag: #MSBizTips

When:  June 28, 2017 at 3 p.m. EDT

This article, “Join This Microsoft Twitter Chat to Get Inspired in Your Business #MSBizTips” was first published on Small Business Trends

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

Thursday, June 22nd, 2017

Midwest Small Business Job Market Growing

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.com finds small businesses in Midwestern and Northern states are adding considerably more employees than other states. Some are also adding less, compared to data from three years ago.

South Dakota, Idaho, and Nebraska are the three states with the highest percentage increase of small business jobs over the last three years. Indeed looked at job listings from small businesses — with 200 or fewer employees — and compared the totals from the first quarters of 2014 and 2017.

In South Dakota, alone, the amount of small business jobs posted on Indeed rose nearly 75 percent since 2014. Idaho and Nebraska each saw about 64 percent increases. North Dakota (54 percent), Minnesota (52 percent), Wisconsin (43 percent), and Montana (38 percent) also made the top 10 in this list from Indeed.

Hawaii, Oregon, and Indiana also cracked the top 10 in small business jobs gains over the last three years, according to the information from Indeed.

“We are seeing a trend in which small businesses in northern and Midwestern states are increasing their need for employees,” says Paul Wolfe, head of HR for Indeed.com, “while the number of SMB job postings in the Sun Belt and northeast are decreasing.”

Arizona is truly a desert for small business jobs. The number available at small businesses compared to three years ago has dropped 42 percent.

Other states making the not-top 10 include Maine, Vermont, Connecticut, Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, New York, Delaware, and West Virginia.

Why Are Jobs Hot Where the Weather’s Not?

Jobs appear to be increasing at small businesses located in states where it’s not as expensive to live. This means small businesses can offer more competitive wage jobs because a prospective employee’s earnings will go further.

Not every small business can pick up and move to one of these states. Before you decide on a location for your business, consider the local economy. To grow, you’ll have to add employees and pay them. It’s more difficult to attract the talent to grow if your wages just don’t stack up against bigger companies — and other local competitors.

Image: Indeed.com

This article, “Small Businesses in the Midwest Are in Hiring Mode, Others – Not So Much” was first published on Small Business Trends

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

Thursday, June 22nd, 2017

Making Use of the New 833 Toll Free Phone Numbers

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.

Director of Products at Grasshopper Chris Bohlin shared some insights about the new toll-free exchanges in a phone interview with Small Business Trends. Here are 10 things small businesses should know about the new prefix and what toll-free exchanges can offer to businesses.

Making Use of the New 833 Toll Free Phone Numbers

Toll-Free Numbers Can Help Build a Brand

Of course, any business can reserve a regular phone number that’s just a series of random numbers. But if you have a toll-free number, it can actually be a part of your brand. Think about 1-800-FLOWERS or other businesses that include toll-free numbers in their business name or in marketing materials. It’s much easier to make a catchy or vanity number part of your branding or marketing materials than a random assortment of numbers.

They Make It Easier for Customers to Call

In addition, toll-free numbers can make it easier for customers to actually remember your number so they can call when they need your services. If you just a random phone number, it can be difficult for customers to recall or find it if they just heard it in a commercial or saw it on the side of a bus.

New Prefixes Open Up New Vanity Numbers

There are plenty of toll-free numbers out there already. But prefixes like 800 and 888 have already been picked over. So if you want something that’s easy to remember like 1-800-CAR-WASH, it’s probably already taken. So new prefixes like 833 open up a lot of those vanity numbers for new businesses to take advantage of.

Toll-Free Numbers Are Great for Service Businesses

But not every business necessarily needs a number that’s easy to remember or include in marketing materials. According to Bohlin, these numbers can be especially useful for local service providers.

He says, “If you’re dealing with someone like a landscaper, you need to talk with that person and have an actual conversation about what services you need. So that results in a phone call and your number is the front door to that communication.”

Toll-Free Numbers Aren’t as Necessary for Online Businesses

On the other hand, vanity numbers aren’t likely to be as beneficial for online businesses. If you simply sell products online, then people are going to mainly interact with your website. And if they do need to get in touch with you by phone for some reason, they’re likely to be on your website already. So they can get a specific number from there.

You Can Get Numbers from a Variety of Sources

If you’re interested in securing one of these toll-free numbers, there isn’t just one source you have to check with. Big name phone companies like AT&T and Verizon have access to these numbers, along with smaller providers like Grasshopper. So you can check with the providers of your choice to see which numbers are available.

It’s Similar to Buying Other Business Phone Plans

When you do secure one of these numbers, you’ll have a monthly plan similar to other business phone plans. Grasshopper, for instance, offers three different plans with different features. The basic plan starts at $24 per month.

New Numbers Are Available Now

The FCC originally announced that it would release new numbers with the 833 prefix in April. But the release date got pushed back to June. So the numbers are now available for interested businesses.

Act Fast If You Want a Specific Number

There are still plenty of different numbers available. But the really easy combinations like 833-333-3333 are probably gone or close to being gone by this point, according to Bohlin. So if you have something really specific that you want to reserve, it’s best to act quickly.

New Prefixes Only Come Along as Needed

Before this latest release, the last prefix made available by the FCC was the 844 prefix back in 2013. So new sets of numbers don’t come around that often. In fact, there isn’t likely to be a new prefix until the 833 numbers are nearly all reserved. So don’t count on a new set of numbers being released if you just miss your chance this go-round.

Dialing Phone Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “10 Things Small Businesses Should Know About the New 833 Toll Free Phone Exchange” was first published on Small Business Trends

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