Archive for the ‘Business’ Category

Small Businesses Add 89,000 Jobs But Minimum Wage Issues Loom

Friday, January 18th, 2019

It’s another week where, on one hand, things look good for small business across the country.

And then …

There’s that other hand.

In the last week, we reported that small businesses and franchise businesses were each busy at the end of 2018 filling open jobs. That’s great. In total, according to ADP, it was more than 118,000 jobs between the two.

The 89,000 jobs added by small businesses in December, alone, was a record for this particular report.

But are we on the cusp of seeing some negative news on this very soon?

At the beginning of every year, more state and local governments enact their own employment minimum wage. This year was no different. We have a report filed this week on the latest updated minimum wages across the country.

And check out this report from one of our publishing partners, the Daily Caller, which shows the impact of these increasing minimum wages. In particular, check out the impact on small business.

For the rest of this week’s top small business headlines, check out our news roundup below.

Research

58% of Americans Believe Future will be Cashless, Is Your Business Ready?

A new Bank of America (BofA) report which looked into consumer mobility trends revealed 46% of Generation Z use their social media handles like a phone number. The report suggests phone numbers are on the verge of extinction.

Sales

5 Retail Lessons from Holiday 2018

The holiday shopping season is in our rear-view mirror—and there’s reason for retailers to celebrate. Consumer spending for holiday 2018 hit a six-year high of $850 billion according to the Mastercard SpendingPulse report. Online shopping grew 19.1% year over year. Overall, retail spending growth was propelled by strong sales of apparel (up 7.

Small Businesses Contributed to Record Christmas Sales on Amazon, Company Says

Amazon announced the 2018 holiday shopping season was one for the record books. And small and medium-sized businesses contributed to more than 50% of the items sold on Amazon stores this holiday season. The online retailer said the record-breaking numbers were the result of more items being ordered worldwide than ever before.

Small Business Operations

Small Business Owners in NYC Struggling with $15 Minimum Wage

New York City hiked its minimum wage for the third time in three years on Jan. 1 and small business owners are struggling to adapt to the steadily increasing labor costs. NYC Minimum Wage New York City’s minimum wage rose to $15 an hour for all employers with more than 10 employees at the start of 2019.

Startup

Announcing the “New” BizSugar, Here’s a Sneak Peek

We’re excited to announce some big news about our sister site BizSugar.com. There’s a brand new BizSugar! We’ve added some new features with many more coming.  New features include: Free tools: Calculators, templates and scorecards Mastermind Community: A private members community to gain the wisdom of the crowd when it comes to starting, managing and growing a business.

New Facebook Small Business Podcast 3.5 Degrees Launched Today

Facebook’s (NASDAQ: FB) new podcast exploring the unique interactions of small businesses in our shrinking internet-based world launched today.

Taxes

The Ultimate Guide to States with Laws Requiring Collection of Internet Sales Tax

As of June 21, 2018, the United States Supreme Court changed the laws regarding the collection of sales tax by internet sellers. The Supreme Court ruling in South Dakota v. Wayfair Inc., established that individual states can require ecommerce retailers to collect state sales tax on the goods they sell.

Technology Trends

Lenovo Introduces ThinkPad L390 and L390 Yoga Laptops with Business Users in Mind

When a PC manufacturer announces business laptops starting under $1,000 it will get the attention of small business owners. If the manufacturer is Lenovo and the laptop includes the ThinkPad line, their ear perks up even more. Lenovo says the ThinkPad L390 and L390 Yoga have been updated to give small business a reliable and durable device which is also affordable.

Small Businesses in These 12 Cities will be the First to Access 5G Mobile

Major carriers around the world have set 2019 as the year they will start deploying 5G services. For AT&T this will be the case in 12 cities across the United States, and small businesses in these locations will be the first to have access to the new technology.

Wix  Launches Products Allowing Small Businesses to Connect More Directly with Customers

Wix.com Ltd. (NASDAQ: WIX) recently announced the launch of a suite of promising new products for small businesses under the umbrella name, Ascend. Ascend helps entrepreneurs and small businesses easily and more directly connect with customers on the Wix platform using new tools such as SEO, price quotes, marketing and live chat with customers.

Image: DepositPhotos.com

This article, “Small Businesses Add 89,000 Jobs But Minimum Wage Issues Loom” was first published on Small Business Trends

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You Remind Me of a Young … No, That’s Somebody Else

Friday, January 18th, 2019

“You remind me of a young me” is a not uncommon cliche. I don’t know who started it, but although I suppose it’s meant as a compliment, it’s always struck me as just really narcissistic.

There’s a lot of funny ways to go with that but for this one I like the approach that he’s got the wrong guy. And how awful that would be.

Sometimes I feel sorry for my characters and what I put them through. This is one of those times.

This article, “You Remind Me of a Young … No, That’s Somebody Else” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Despite AI, Human Effort Remains Important in Business, LinkedIn Report Says

Friday, January 18th, 2019

Basic Business Functions Surging in LinkedIn 2018 Emerging Jobs Report

The LinkedIn 2018 Emerging Jobs Report says artificial intelligence (AI) is here to stay. However, it also states basic business functions are surging, adding technology can’t replace the power of humans.

This LinkedIn report is put together so professionals and businesses in the US can take a peek at the jobs and skills which are growing the most rapidly.

Additionally, the report analyzes the roles which have emerged over the last five years and the skills associated with them to determine which companies are hiring.

The information the report provides gives small businesses valuable insight into the job market across a range of industries in cities across the US.

Business owners can use the data to prepare for upcoming trends in their industry and identify opportunities in locations which may be underserved.

LinkedIn’s Biggest Takeaway

The report says AI skills are amongst the fastest-growing skills on LinkedIn with a global increase of 190% from 2015 to 2017.

Although LinkedIn says AI is here to stay, it doesn’t quite see robots coming for your job. But there is continued growth in the field along with functions related to AI.

With six of the 15 emerging jobs related to AI in some way, there is no question the impact will be huge moving forward. And the report says it is not just limited to tech, AI is infiltrating every industry.

The growth of AI is undeniable, and the full impact of the technology will not be truly known until it has fully matured. In the meantime, basic business functions will be carried out by humans.

In the report, operational functions like administrative assistant, assurance staff, and sales development representative are also in the emerging jobs list.

When it comes to the largest skills gaps, soft skills still continue to be a challenge for companies looking to fill these positions.

These are skills such as oral communication, leadership, and time management. Currently, they make up almost half the list of skills with the largest skills gaps. LinkedIn says it is imperative for professionals to acquire these skills because those who have them will have a leg up on their competition.

Results from the LinkedIn 2018 Emerging Jobs Report

The emerging jobs LinkedIn identified in the report are in “incredibly high demand” across the country covering industries from healthcare to government services. The growth comes from existing members who added these roles to their profiles covering a variety of business functions and skills.

In this year’s report, the biggest top five growth comes from blockchain developer (33X growth), machine learning engineer (12X growth), application sales executive (8X growth), machine learning specialist (6X growth), and professional medical representative (6X growth).

Basic Business Functions Surging in LinkedIn 2018 Emerging Jobs Report

The top five emerging jobs starts with software engineer (80,000+ job openings), account executive (16,000+ job openings), realtor (2,000+ job openings), account manager (17,000+ job openings), and recruiter ( 8,000+ job openings).

The report says the biggest shortage in skill gaps in almost every city in the US was oral communications. The rest of the skill shortages are people management, development tools, social media, business management, time management, leadership, graphic design, data science, and web development.

In 2017 LinkedIn member in the US classified 26% of all skills as interpersonal or soft skills. Whether it is a systems engineer or a project manager, companies looking to fill these positions want their candidates to have soft skills.

Image: LinkedIn

This article, “Despite AI, Human Effort Remains Important in Business, LinkedIn Report Says” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Is Talus Payments a Fit for Your Small Business?

Friday, January 18th, 2019

Is Talus Payments a Fit for Your Small Business?

Small business fintech payment solution provider Talus has recently made another acquisition totaling three in the payment technology space over the last 18 months.

The move positions them to be an industry force in that service for small businesses while gaining a foothold in the Healthcare, Hospitality and Non-Profit arenas.

The company reported the acquisition of Scottsdale-based Prolific Business Solutions in the middle of September. They’ve also committed $250 million to further acquisitions.

Significant Move for Talus Payments

The move is significant to small businesses who are looking for payment processors that are above the curve. Currently Talus offers a variety of services including a POS system and a mobile reader.

They also offer a terminal option and virtual e-commerce services and software as well as backend office analytics.

Payment Solutions Research

Small businesses looking for payment solutions need to focus at least part of their research on mobile payment processing readers like the ones Talus has.

Another important aspect this company has is Android and Apple compatibility which is a standard feature these days. The Bluetooth connectivity is an important advantage too.

Talus CEO, Scott Cruickshank, is the leader behind the recent moves which include future plans for more acquisition led growth.

“We have a clear plan to evolve and grow Talus into a domestic market leader in payment services for the SMB market,” he wrote in a company release.

“Further, we are thrilled to have the Prolific Business Solutions team now a part of the Talus family. In addition to our Dallas headquarters location, we will also be expanding and growing our presence in Scottsdale going forward.”

Confident Claims

This business has reason to make confident claims. They are a portfolio company of Alvarez & Marsal Capital Partners (AMCP) who are supplying some serious financial clout.

Small businesses are always looking to get the best in payment processing for professional services, retail, restaurants and a variety of other spaces. Partnering with a company that has the kind of backing means accessibility to great tech and savings that get passed along through innovations in equipment and services.

Fintech Thought Leaders

“We are proud and excited to continue our partnership with Talus. Led by Scott, this group of senior fintech thought leaders at Talus have built an impeccable reputation centered on technology driven payment solutions for merchants across attractive industry verticals”, said Mike Odrich, Senior Managing Director and Co-Founder of A&M Capital in a company release.

Image: Shutterstock

This article, “Is Talus Payments a Fit for Your Small Business?” was first published on Small Business Trends

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15 Best Frozen Yogurt Franchise Opportunities

Friday, January 18th, 2019

The Best Frozen Yogurt Franchise Opportunities in 2019

The global frozen yogurt market is valued at about $1.4 billion and is expected to continue its recent growth. Since it’s often viewed as a healthier alternative to ice cream, these businesses can appeal to a wide variety of potential customers.

Frozen Yogurt Franchise Opportunities

If you’re interested in breaking into this business, here are some frozen yogurt franchises to consider.

Pinkberry

The Best Frozen Yogurt Franchise Opportunities in 2019

Pinkberry is a fairly recognizable frozen yogurt brand, with more than 150 locations around the U.S. Locations can range from 200 to 1,500 square feet, so it’s a fairly customizable opportunity. They’re also very popular in airports, malls and other high traffic areas. Fees start at $35,000.

FroyoWorld

Started in Connecticut, FroyoWorld now has more than 40 franchise locations throughout New England and Puerto Rico. The company is currently open to opportunities in markets around the country and internationally, and offers operational and marketing support to franchisees. The initial franchise fee falls around $25,000.

Forever Yogurt

Forever Yogurt was initially founded in Chicago, and each store adopts the character of its own community. So no two businesses are alike. Franchisees are required to have a minimum net worth of around $250,000 to qualify.

TCBY

The Best Frozen Yogurt Franchise Opportunities in 2019

TCBY has been around for about 40 years, so franchisees enjoy brand awareness of about 90 percent nationwide. There are counter service, self-serve and kiosk models, so you can choose the options that fit best with your business preferences and your budget. The average franchise fee is around $35,000 and the average total upfront investment is around $355,000.

Yogurt Mountain

Yogurt Mountain locations offer more than 16 flavors of frozen yogurt and over 50 toppings. The company started in 2009 and has already grown to more than 40 stores. Franchise fees start at $30,000 and build expenses start at $250,000.

sweetFrog

In addition to traditional frozen yogurt stores, sweetFrog also offers franchisees the opportunity to own a mobile froyo truck or trailer. They offer a brand support team to help you with various elements of running your business. And you can get started for about $175,000 or more.

Menchie’s

The Best Frozen Yogurt Franchise Opportunities in 2019

Menchie’s is a frozen yogurt chain that utilizes a self-service model to keep costs down and streamline operations. The company focuses on creating a positive guest experience and supports franchisees with everything from development to equipment and sales. The franchise fee is around $40,000 and total costs usually fall between $300,000 and $350,000.

U-Swirl

U-Swirl offers both full store and kiosk concepts for franchisees. So if you have an existing business and want to add another revenue source, it could be a decent opportunity. It’s also part of the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory brand, which may add some trust in new markets around the country. Since opportunities vary so much, the startup fees also vary widely.

CherryBerry

CherryBerry offers assistance with site selection, construction, training and marketing. Another partner business with Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, this allows you to potentially add products to your offerings, so you can bring in extra income during the fall and winter when you may not sell a ton of froyo.

Yogurtland

The Best Frozen Yogurt Franchise Opportunities in 2019

Yogurtland has more than 325 locations around the country and utilizes a self-serve operating platform to keep operating costs low. They also have proprietary flavors, with new options for customers each quarter. The franchise fee falls at around $35,000, with build costs ranging from $350,000 to $400,000.

Red Mango

Red Mango is a franchise business that serves frozen yogurt along with juice and smoothies, which happen to also be gaining popularity at the moment. The company is currently open to growth opportunities throughout most of the country, with a specific emphasis on a few large U.S. cities. Exact costs are available upon requests, but the company prefers franchisees with a net worth of about $350,000 or more.

16 Handles

16 Handles is a self-serve frozen yogurt franchise that also offers cakes, cookies and other frozen yogurt filled treats. It requires between $450,000 and $650,000 to get started, including a $30,000 franchise fee.

FroZenYo

FroZenYo is a franchise company based in Washington D.C. where customers can choose from a variety of flavors and toppings and then pay based on the total weight. They also offer dessert catering options and complementary products like water and coffee. Though all locations are currently in D.C. and Puerto Rico, the company is looking to expand to other parts of the country as well.

Reis & Irvy’s

If you’re looking for something a bit new and different, Reis & Irvy’s offers a frozen yogurt restaurant concept that’s powered by robots. The initial investment starts at around $172,000 for three kiosk locations, which they’ll place for you at malls or other high traffic areas. Labor and operating costs are also kept low.

Orange Leaf

Orange Leaf offers storefronts and non traditional setups for franchisees. You can also offer catering options and take advantage of a co-brand opportunity with Humble Donut Co. to offer additional sweets. The total upfront cost starts at around $120,000 for a non-traditional model.

Image: FroZenYo

This article, “15 Best Frozen Yogurt Franchise Opportunities” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Improve Your Accounting by Using SKU Numbers

Friday, January 18th, 2019

Improve Your Accounting by Using SKU Numbers

Your accounting and financial tracking are vital to the overall health of your business. Yet, it’s intimidating to calculate the sheer number of variables that play a role in determining your finances. Everything from the bankers you work with to the employees you hire affects profitability. And, the tiniest accounting error can significantly impact your numbers.

Developing and regularly using SKU numbers is one of the greatest tools your small business or side hustle can leverage to improve accounting (and profitability).

SKUs vs. UPCs vs. Serial Numbers

SKU numbers may not seem very interesting or very critical to your bottom-line accounting. However, once you see how deeply integrated they are in your business operations, you’ll come to recognize their value.

First, you need to know what defines a SKU number. SKU stands for “stock keeping unit.” It is a code made of letters and numbers and is usually six to eight characters long. These numbers are designed to keep track of inventory. They are used heavily in both inventory management and point-of-sale (PoS) software as well as accounting software.

At this point, you may be confused about how SKU numbers differ from UPCs (universal product codes) or serial numbers. UPCs are 12-digit numbers that run along the bottom of barcodes on various products. UPCs are, as the name implies, universal, and can’t be unique to any one store. In other words, two companies selling the same products will share the same UPC for a given product but will likely have two different SKUs.

Serial numbers are unique to each individual product. They are usually used for electronics and other big-ticket items. If your store is selling 20 laptop computers of the same make and model, they’ll all have the same UPCs and SKUs. But, each of those 20 laptops will have a distinct serial number.

Advantages for the Accounting Process

So, why are SKU numbers good for your business’s accounting?

  • Loss Tracking

    For starters, SKUs are one of your best resources for loss tracking. Because each SKU number allows you to track your inbound products, and track them quickly and easily throughout their journey to customers, it’s easy to determine where and how your products are disappearing.

  • Inventory-based Decisions

    Inventory management errors are one of the three biggest causes of profit losses in retail businesses. Yet, SKUs make it much easier to keep track of inventory at each of your locations. This becomes critical the more products you have to track and the more locations you have. With accurate inventory numbers through a largely automated process, your team will be able to make smarter stocking decisions. You’ll lose fewer products, have a more reliable stock in each of your locations, and be less likely to make a bad development call.

  • Individual Item Locations

    Accounting can also determine advanced statistics based on the locations of various items. For example, they can see which stores are ordering the highest quantities of each product and determine where most products are being lost. As an added bonus, warehouse managers and store stockers will find it much easier to track down individual items. This can greatly increase your speed and profitability.

  • Reporting Accuracy

    You know the importance of reporting accuracy, and SKUs can make those reports much more accurate. Because you’ll be scanning your items regularly throughout your operation with unique numbers for each item, you won’t have to worry as much about misleading or erroneous information. That helps create more consistent, reliable revenue projections. Plus, it enables smarter accounting decisions.

  • Customer Service and Marketing

    Though not related to accounting directly, it’s also important to note the benefits of SKUs for marketing and sales and customer service. SKUs can help you learn which products are being bought most frequently (and how). This information can be used to create targeted advertising. They can also improve our in-store experience since you’ll be able to locate in-store items faster or order them from the correct locations.

Creating SKU Numbers

You can generate SKUs any way you want; there are no fundamental limits on what formatting you use or how many characters are to be included. When deciding on a format, make sure you consider the application for which you’re using SKU numbers. For example, if you believe your cashiers will need to commit SKUs to memory, it’s a good idea to keep them short, easy to read, and memorable. But, if you’re working mostly in warehouses, and you have many different products, longer SKU numbers may be advantageous.

Once you decide on the length, select a format that allows you to embed some level of meaning into each section of your SKU code. You could split your code into three sections—a beginning, middle, and end—and associate each of those sections with a different element of meaning. For example, you could have the first two digits represent the broad category of the item, the second three digits represent a specific category of the item, and the final group of digits represents some kind of sequential order.

There are many different assignments and designations you could consider, including:

  • Store assignment and location. Track which products belong to which store or the location or department where they’re being held.
  • Sub-category identifier. You can also create groups of numbers that identify a sub-category. These might include “fruits” or “vegetables” within the “groceries” category.
  • Variation identifier. The last set of numbers or letters should take advantage of subtle variations between different products, such as color, size, or the type of item.

Miscellaneous SKU Tips

To get the most out of your SKU numbers, try these tips:

  • You Can Use SKUs Again.

    Common sense might tell you that once you use a specific SKU number, you can never use it again. After all, these are meant to be unique identifiers. As long as you wait a few years between circulating items, you should be able to use old SKU numbers for new products. The only problem you might run into is customers returning several-years-old items that are no longer in your database.

  • Begin SKUs with Letters, and Definitely Not Zero.

    When assigning SKU numbers, it’s a good idea to begin them with letters. This will help your accounting team pick them out easier in a spreadsheet that’s likely full of other numbers. While you’re at it, make sure your SKU numbers don’t begin with zero. This is because some apps and software will misinterpret your zero to mean “nothing,” resulting in errors.

  • Work from Broad to Specific.

    The beginning of your SKU number should be the broadest, highest-level category. Subsequent sections of numbers should gradually work to become more specific. Ultimately, this results in the most specific, narrowest category you can qualify.

  • Avoid Letters that Look like Numbers.

    You can automatically scan some SKUs. Accountants must enter others manually or review them in spreadsheets. Accordingly, you can cut down on errors by specifically avoiding letters that look like numbers. For example, the letter “I” looks like the number “1,” and the letter “O” looks like the number “0.”

  • Avoid Using Manufacturer Numbers.

    To keep it simple, you might use manufacturer numbers — or an element of them — as your own. However, there aren’t many benefits from this strategy. Remember, SKU numbers should be unique for every business. Therefore, it can be confusing to duplicate SKUs from another business.

  • Don’t Pack Meaning into your SKUs.

    While it’s a good idea to imbue some sections of your SKU numbers with meaning—like using “GRC” for “groceries”—it’s a bad idea to overload your SKUs with meaning. This often results in SKUs that are far too many digits This creates more confusion for your accounting staff.

  • Shorten SKUs for Manual Entry.

    If you’re going to be manually entering your SKUs, try to minimize the number of characters used. The shorter the string of characters in a SKU, the easier it will be for people to remember and the less time it will take to enter. That’s going to save your team a ton of time and hassle.

Using SKU numbers to keep your business finances under control is one of the best decisions you can make for your brand, especially if you have a wide variety of products to track across locations. It takes time to set up a system capable of scanning, tracking and analyzing them. However, it’s worth the effort.

Republished by permission. Original here

Image: Due.com

This article, “Improve Your Accounting by Using SKU Numbers” was first published on Small Business Trends

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9 Tools for More Effective Content Marketing Campaigns in 2019

Thursday, January 17th, 2019

9 Content Tools for More Effective Content Marketing Campaigns in 2019

Content marketing is overwhelming: There’s a ton of content to create and amplify, a lot of trends to keep in mind and a lot of tools to try.

Content marketing is one of the fastest moving industries.

These days a digital marketer has to balance social, content, email, and other inbound marketing tactics.

Content Tools

Here are 9 content tools to help.

1. Plan Your Content with CoSchedule

CoSchedule is a platform I have been using for a long time, and I love it. It makes planning content and scheduling it on social media so much easier. It works as a WordPress plugin, creating a section in your dashboard where you can plan posts, assign tasks, give details, schedule posts to auto-publish, and update social media.

This has not only cut down on content marketing tasks for me, but it has made running a team easier, and editing tasks easier.

2. Research and Optimize Your Content with TextOptimizer

TextOptimizer is the tool that drives my whole content creation process: From ideation to search optimization.

It starts with “Topic ideas” providing you with the list of popular questions in your niche. Pick any and it will search for that question in Google and using semantic analysis return the list of:

  • Related terms and concepts
  • Subtopics
  • Related questions

Both subtopics and questions help me break content into sections for easier readability, and related terms drive my research as they show me what should be included in the content.

Once I have my content written, I run the tool again, now letting it compare my text to what Google returns for my core query. TextOptimizer will score my article and, if needed, show me where it can be improved.

3. Create Visuals with Visme

Visme is my most productive image editing tools. I have a bunch of cool templates there for visual quotes, header images, etc., so I just go there to edit them with new text and backgrounds (Takes me seconds!).

Visme has very powerful templates for infographics and presentations which is why I have been using it.

4. Automate Email Marketing with Mailchimp

Mailchimp is an email marketing platform which offers nice automation features to easier manage your lists.

Recently they have unveiled their automated marketing feature and landing pages (customized and optimized for your brand).

Add that to the fact that their email templates and scheduling systems are actually easy to use, and you have a definite winner. No more frustrating and overly complicated drip templates! You never have to create, delete and recreate email lists, only to find the initial settings were wrong and it won’t let you edit. The platform won’t suddenly go down and leave you stranded.

5. Manage Social Media Updates with MavSocial

MavSocial is a social media management platform allowing to publish and schedule updates to multiple streams with one click of a mouse. They also have a solid support of visual sharing and recurring updates.

Not to mention it’s incredibly affordable. You just fill up you queue with posts, set times every day you want them sent out, organize them based on order, and it will do the rest.

Of course, you still need to make social media posts meant to engage, but this is a simple way to keep your profiles active.

6. Increase Your Content Reach with Viral Content Bee

[Disclosure: VCB is the project I founded]

It would be great if you could just post your content on social media, and everyone shares it out for you just because you have a call to action. But we all know that isn’t how it works. If you want to reach new audiences you need a more direct approach.

Viral Content Bee works by putting you in contact with other social media influencers of varying audience sizes. You and those others exchange content, with each posting on behalf of the other. This gives you access to a whole new viewer pool, who will become aware of your brand from another that they trust.

It is a convenient and effective tool, and can lead to long-term connections that can benefit yourself and the others you network with.

7. Monitor Your Content Mentions with BrandMentions

Reputation management requires you to keep up to date on all mentions of you and your industry. In the past I used Google Alerts and Hootsuite for that. Now I still use the first, but instead of the second I use BrandMentions.

It sends alerts and lets you reply in your dashboard. But it is a lot more straightforward and cleaner than other social media dashboards I have used.

8. Research Your Outreach Opportunities with Buzzsumo

What is your competition writing? What content is performing the best? Buzzsumo is a super awesome platform that works by taking information from across the web related to content, and offering it to you to use for targeting your own content campaigns.

Research content from any brand or competitor, see how it is performing, and find out how you match up. Buzzsumo is one of the greatest discovery tools on the web. They offer free searches and data, but it is worth paying for their pro services if you are really serious. Honestly, their agency package is probably the best deal, unless you are a really tiny brand or start up just beginning in the industry.

I love using their Author: search to find where my friends and influencers contribute and get some ideas as to who I need to invite for an expert interview or a guest post.

9. Bring Everything Together with Cyfe

I have been a big believer in Cyfe from the beginning (Disclaimer: long before they became my content marketing client), and it still has no peers when it comes to sheer feature amount for the price. It is an all-in-one business platform that works by giving you all the power over the tool.

I use it to keep a lot of content marketing accounts, spreadsheets, stats and to-do lists handy.

You are only limited by your imagination. Best of all, the premium costs $19 per month for all of this, or $14 per month if you pay the annual fee. It is safe to say it is worth the cost.

Do you have a content marketing tool you think deserves to be on the list? Please share in the comments! I’d love to check that one out!

Image: Shutterstock

This article, “9 Tools for More Effective Content Marketing Campaigns in 2019” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Lenovo Introduces ThinkPad L390 and L390 Yoga Laptops with Business Users in Mind

Thursday, January 17th, 2019

New ThinkPad L390 Series Laptops Designed for Small Business Users

When a PC manufacturer announces business laptops starting under $1,000 it will get the attention of small business owners. If the manufacturer is Lenovo and the laptop includes the ThinkPad line, their ear perks up even more.

Lenovo says the ThinkPad L390 and L390 Yoga have been updated to give small business a reliable and durable device which is also affordable. The update includes Intel’s latest Whiskey Lake 8th-gen processors, which will be a first for the ThinkPad L-series of laptops.

Starting at $659 for the L390, and $889 for the L390 Yoga, it is a price well within the budget of many small businesses. Moreover, this price comes for one of the better-known computing workhorses in the business sector, ThinkPad.

In the press release Lenovo said it made the updates in part to respond to the needs of IT and a workforce which needs to be more agile.

It goes on to say, “Workplace transformation initiatives are in full swing, responding to the desires of energized and dynamic end-users. New workspaces are all about collaboration areas and greater end-user mobility which promote interaction and productivity. Such spaces require technology that enables more flexibility and creativity.”

ThinkPad L390

Features of the ThinkPad L390:

  • Display: 13.3-inch (1920×1080) touch, IPS
  • Processor: 8th-gen Intel Core (“Whiskey Lake”), Core i5 (vPro), Core i3, Celeron
  • Memory: Up to 32GB DDR4
  • Storage: Up to 512GB PCIe SSD
  • Ports: 2 USB 3.0 Type C (5Gbps); 2 USB 3.1 Type A; HDMI 1.4; microSD; miniRJ-45
  • Wireless: 802.11ac (2×2), Bluetooth, NFC
  • Graphics: Intel HD (integrated)

New ThinkPad L390 Series Laptops Designed for Small Business Users

ThinkPad L390 Yoga

Features of the ThinkPad L390 Yoga:

  • Display: 13.3-inch (1920×1080) touch, IPS
  • Processor: 8th-gen Intel Core (Whiskey Lake), Core i5 (vPro), Core i3
  • Memory: Up to 32GB DDR4 2400MHz
  • Storage: Up to 512GB PCIe SSD
  • Ports: 2 USB 3.0 Type C; 2 USB 3.1 Type A; HDMI 1.4; microSD; miniRJ-45
  • Wireless: 802.11ac (2×2), Bluetooth, NFC
  • Camera: 720p HD/depth camera for Windows Hello; world-facing camera

Both laptops also share a 45Wh battery, up to Windows 10 Pro 64-bit operating system, and fingerprint reader, dTPM 2.0.

The Yoga has a full 360-degree hinge so you can use it as a laptop or tablet and the included Active Pen stylus is conveniently hidden within the chassis of the laptop so you always know where it is.

They Yoga also has a better camera system for Windows Hello and world-facing camera for quick log-ins.

You can order the ThinkPad L390 and L390 Yoga in black or silver now.

Image: Levnovo

This article, “Lenovo Introduces ThinkPad L390 and L390 Yoga Laptops with Business Users in Mind” was first published on Small Business Trends

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What is Cash Flow and Why is it Important for Small Business?

Thursday, January 17th, 2019

What is Cash Flow and Why is it Important for Small Business?

Think of cash flow as the blood running through the arteries of your small business. You use it to do those important things that keeps everything moving like buying stock, covering expenses and paying staff.

Small Business Trends contacted several experts to get a complete overview of what cash flow is and why it’s so important to your enterprise.

What is Cash Flow?

Basically, this is one of the best bellwethers for your small business. It shows the money that your small business has in the pot after paying out all the different debts and draws on your money. Cash flow gives you a good idea if you’re in a position to expand.

Why Is It So Important?

Stefanie Ricchio, a CPA/CGA, Author and Professor, further defined cash flow and some of the economic rough patches that make paying attention to it so critical.

“Cash Flow or what is commonly referred to as Working Capital is the heart of any business,” she writes.  “Without it a business cannot survive.  Many small business owners make the mistake of spending without consideration for the future. For example, buying excess inventory that ties up cash in inventory versus having it readily available to meet short and long term obligations of the business.”

How Does it Impact Small Business Loans?

She also notes that cash management is even more important when you consider how tight the banks are with small business loans and other money vehicles that can be used when cash runs short.

“Additionally, smaller businesses run the risk of losing employees, suppliers and facing interest and penalties as a result of poor cash management,” she writes adding that staying current on cash needs means balancing some of the other aspects of your business like tax payments, accounts receivable and inventory. That’s the best way to understand how much money you need in the system for each period.

“This must then be compared to the estimated cash receipts for the same period to determine whether or not the cash flow will be sufficient.”

Think of it as a balancing act of sorts.

How Do You Improve Your Cash Flow?

Of course, most small business owners want to know how to improve their cash flow and keep their business healthy. There’s a few good suggestions including leasing rather than buying equipment and even real estate. This is one of the best ways to make sure that you’ve got money for day-to-day operations because leasing allows you to pay in smaller chunks which boosts your cash flow.

 How Do Credit Checks Help?

If your customers pay in cash you can bypass this step. Otherwise it’s a good idea to do credit checks on all the clients who want credit to purchase your goods and services. Every small business hankers to make that extra sale, but late payments always take a dent out of your cash flow in the end.

Charlie Whyman is a Business Development Strategist and Marketing Trainer. She added that staying on top of things was also critical by “ maintaining control on your payment terms and be clear with your customers what they are before they purchase.”

Why are Down Payments Important?

She also says that asking for a down payment or a deposit on certain kinds of capital purchases is a good idea. That way you are not fronting the cost yourself. She also says that small businesses need to include all the necessary tax payments in their cash flows.

She also suggests bookkeeping remain simple.

“You can easily manage your cash flow using an excel spreadsheet, you don’t need fancy software to do it unless you have a lot of cash coming in and going out of the business,” she writes. “The more control over the numbers in your business, the better you will be set up for growth”.

Image: Shutterstock

This article, “What is Cash Flow and Why is it Important for Small Business?” was first published on Small Business Trends

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5 Retail Lessons from Holiday 2018

Thursday, January 17th, 2019

2018 Holiday Retail Trends

The holiday shopping season is in our rear-view mirror—and there’s reason for retailers to celebrate. Consumer spending for holiday 2018 hit a six-year high of $850 billion according to the Mastercard SpendingPulse report. Online shopping grew 19.1% year over year. Overall, retail spending growth was propelled by strong sales of apparel (up 7.9% from 2017) and home improvement (up 9%).

2018 Holiday Retail Trends

What can retailers take away from this year? Here are 5 things we learned in 2018.

1. Smart retailers incorporate bricks and clicks

Brick-and-mortar retailing is far from dead. In fact, the most successful retailers incorporate both online and offline sales channels. Mastercard’s report concludes that consumers have reached a “tipping point” where they’re equally comfortable shopping online or off, on mobile or on desktop. Shoppers don’t care how they get what they want—as long as they get it.

Lesson: If you don’t offer both e-commerce and a physical store, this is the year to start. Amazon had a record-breaking holiday season and selling on Amazon offers brick-and-mortar retailers an easy way to get online.

2. Thanksgiving shopping has gone digital

The hue and cry over retailers opening on Thanksgiving has faded—mostly because retailers are realizing they don’t need to open their stores on Turkey Day to make sales. Consumers use Thanksgiving to browse and buy on mobile devices in between eating. Thanksgiving sales soared by 28% compared to last year and more than $1 billion of those purchases were made on mobile devices.

Lesson: Close the store, enjoy Thanksgiving dinner and watch sales ring up on your website.

3. Last-minute shoppers are a big deal

Last year’s holiday shopping season was hampered by shipping delays as bad weather and understaffing on the part of shipping companies created a perfect storm. This year, both retailers and shipping services were better prepared. To avoid disappointing shoppers, one-third of retailers didn’t promise customers a cutoff shipping date (i.e., “Order by Dec. 21 and we guarantee delivery by Christmas”). Instead, they focused on “buy online, pick up in store” options (BOPIS) to attract shoppers seeking last-minute gifts. Retailers including Kohl’s, Best Buy and Home Depot offered BOPIS options late on Christmas Eve, while Amazon delivered until midnight that day.  According to ShopperTrak, two of the 10 busiest shopping days of 2018 were December 22 and December 23.

Lesson: Online gift-giving guides or in-store assistance can help customers find what they need at the last minute. In 2019, aim to improve your inventory management so you can tell customers with confidence you’ve got what they’re looking for.

4. Gift cards drive sales

The average consumer bought four gift cards this holiday season, making gift cards the second most popular gift, Supply Chain Dive reports. December 26 and December 29 also made ShopperTrak’s list of the top 10 busiest shopping days, largely thanks to people using those gift cards to search for post-holiday deals.

Lesson: Make it as easy as you can for customers to buy gift cards for your store—including on their mobile devices. A desperate last-minute shopper will turn to their phone to find gift ideas, and an e-gift card could be just what they’re looking for.

5. The shopping season starts earlier than ever

Consumer confidence soared in October—the same month many Americans started their holiday shopping. That confidence continued through the holiday season. Fewer Americans shopped either online or offline from Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday in 2018 than in 2017, according to the National Retail Federation. But overall holiday season spending rose, because holiday deals now start so early that many people power through at least part of their gift list before Thanksgiving rolls around.

Lesson: Don’t offend customers by putting out the Christmas decorations in October—but do start a marketing push to discreetly promote deals on popular gift items.

Image: Shutterstock

This article, “5 Retail Lessons from Holiday 2018” was first published on Small Business Trends

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