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5 digital trends small businesses should take advantage of

(Business Marketing) Everyone knows they should have email and a website, but many small businesses are still not taking advantage of some very basic digital trends, discussed here today.

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digital trends

Digital trends you may be missing

You already know that you need to be on Twitter, and that you should have a modern website, but are there other general digital trends that you’re inadvertently neglecting?

Kabbage‘s Chief Marketing Officer, Victoria Treyger acknowledges that being a small business owner can be tough. “It takes a lot more work to get your business out there, to train good employees, to have the best customer service, and to have superior products than it does for big box organizations.”

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Treyger notes that “Staying on top of new technology and trends can be a huge help when it comes to running your small business effectively because it makes your business more convenient to use and allows you to keep in close contact with your customers. The Internet is always changing and technology is constantly becoming more advanced, but it is in the best interest of your small business to use trends so that you adapt with the changes. Being one of the first businesses in your city or town to be on top of cutting edge technology can generate its own publicity as well as open up a whole new marketplace. Being aware of social media techniques and platforms as well as retargeting and upgrading your mobile applications is helping small businesses grow.”

In order to grow your business, you must market yourself efficiently, and Treyger relays that digital trends can be an inexpensive and fast way to market, especially in the era of relationship building.

In her own words below, here are some digital trends for the coming year that you need to take advantage of as a small business owner:

1. Customer Relationship Management Web Tools

We live in a world where a vast majority of small businesses exist online, and with the advent of online shopping, customer relationships have become increasingly less personal. Many customers and merchants prefer to keep their relationship short, direct, and to the point. This year look into software such as SalesForce and Hubspot to digitalize your customer relationships and create automated systems to handle them.

These systems track, organize, improve, and manage your current customer base, making it easier for you to expand that base and to help your small business grow. Customer relationship management web tools give small business owners an easier, more effective way to improve their eCommerce Store. These online tools allow you to connect with your customers in a more direct way through feedback and account tracking. By using CRM tools, you can give your customer an online platform to troubleshoot, which makes their experience with your small business easier and more convenient.

2. Content Marketing

Market your small business effectively online by providing your consumer base with valuable information regarding your service or product through social media platforms. By doing this, your small business can attract new customers and earn their trust. Basically, content marketing is marketing by creating your own content surrounding your business and then promoting it on your website and social media platforms.

Content marketing helps your customer better understand your business, and it brings new attention to your business by divulging information that the consumer base might not have previously known. Content marketing allows you as a small business owner to tell your own story and get your product or service out there in exactly the manner you prefer. Content marketing is built upon a foundation of solid trust between merchant and consumer, and it helps build loyalty for your small business by creating a pathway of constant communication.

3. Website Content Management Systems

Website Content Management Systems make it easier for you to understand and control your small business website. These systems do not require extensive computer code knowledge, just basic computer skills. These systems make it quick and easy to update your website with current news, events, product information, and shipping information.

A CMS can save you time and money because you won’t have to hire a web developer, and you won’t have to constantly worry about updating your business’s online presence. WordPress is the current leader in providing CMS. These systems could mean all the difference for your eCommerce store and even for the online presence of your brick and mortar store. Using CMS allows you to keep your website content as up to date as possible, making it more searchable and easier to use online.

4. Online Payment Methods

PayPal opened the door to a conglomerate of new online payment methods. Customers can now pay for goods and services using their smartphone’s Bitcoin or Square Wallet application. Google has also come out with their own version of a wallet, which essentially allows the customers to load currency onto a mobile application and use this application as a payment method. Any system that makes the payment process faster, easier, and safer for consumers is seeing increased popularity this year and should continue to grow.

These types of online services for payment will continue to reduce consumer use of cash because it safeguards against a lost physical wallet and makes it easier to make purchases online without having to put in all your credit card information. Catching onto this trend can open your business’s doors to a whole new realm of tech-savvy consumers while also making your payment processes faster and easier. Many of these systems automatically integrate into your bookkeeping system, as well.

5. Image-based Content

A new type of online search is becoming available and increasingly popular. Image searches are now allowing for consumers to search using digital images in large databases. Systems like Google Images allow you to either describe an image and then search directly for it or upload an image to the system and it will describe the image for you. A variety of other marketplaces are making use of this technology by creating apps for their businesses. Walgreens allows you to take a picture of your prescription and upload it via app or website to order a refill. Other businesses allow you to use QR scanners and pictures of products to search their inventories.

As this type of search becomes more common, think of creative ways your small business could use this technology to improve sales and marketability. Also consider what Internet video could do for your small business. Video as a medium for marketing is highly useful because it has high content availability and it engages viewers. Videos are also now being ranked on search engine pages, which add another platform for your business to engage with its customer base on. Image-based content is a great way to market an eCommerce business.

Business Marketing

10 must-listen-to podcasts for business owners

(MARKETING) If you’re a business owner and want to learn something…anything…give one (or all) these podcasts a listen.

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As podcasts grow more and more popular, it has become increasingly difficult to sort through the sea of excellent options out there.

From interviews with business leaders to industry-specific advice from experts, podcasts are an incredible free and convenient way to get a small dose of inspiration and knowledge.

This short list offers just a taste of the myriad of business podcasts available. Whether you’re an aspiring entrepreneur looking for some tips on breaking into a new industry or a seasoned vet hoping to get some new inspiration, we hope you’ll find something here worth listening to.

How I Built This, hosted by Guy Raz.

Podcast fans will recognize Guy Raz’s name (and voice) from TED Radio Hour. While that show can be a great source of inspiration for businesses, one of the most consistently inspiring shows is his new project that shares stories and insight from some of the biggest business leaders in the world. In just four months, Guy has talked to everyone from Richard Branson and Mark Cuban to L.A. Reid and Suroosh Alvi. While there are plenty of excellent interview-driven shows with entrepreneurs, if you want to hear about the world’s best known companies, this is your best bet.

The Art of Charm, hosted by Jordan and AJ Harbinger.

The Art of Charm is a business podcast by definition, but the advice it provides will definitely help you in other parts of your day-to-day life as well. With over three million listens a month, the incredibly popular show provides advice, strategies and insight into how to network effectively and advance your career and personal life.

StartUp, hosted by Alex Blumberg and Lisa Chow.

If you’re an entrepreneur, there is no excuse not to be listening to StartUp, the award-winning business podcast from Gimlet Media. The show’s talented hosts come from incredible radio shows like Planet Money and This American Life and bring a top-notch level of storytelling to the show, which provides behind the scenes looks at what it is actually like to start a company. Now on the fourth season, StartUp is one of those business podcasts that even people not interested in business will get a kick out of.

The Whole Whale Podcast, hosted by George Weiner.

One of the best things about podcasts is the wide variety of niche shows available that go in-depth into fascinating topics. One of those shows is the Whole Whale Podcast, which shares stories about data and technology in the non-profit sector. You’ll get detailed analysis, expert knowledge and can hear from a long list of social impact leaders from Greenpeace, Change.org, Kiva, Teach For America, and more.

Social Pros Podcast, hosted by Jay Baer and Adam Brown.

Navigating the surplus of social media guides online can be a nightmare, so look no further than Social Pros. Recent episodes talk about reaching college students on social media, the rise of messaging apps, and making better video content for Facebook. Plus, there are great case-studies with companies doing social right, like Kellogg’s, Coca Cola and Lenscrafters.

Entrepreneur on Fire, hosted by John Lee Dumas.

One of the original entrepreneurship shows, Entrepreneur on Fire has logged over 1,500 episodes with successful business leaders sharing tips, lessons and advice learned from their worst entrepreneurial moments. Sometimes humorous, sometimes heartbreaking, always inspiring, this show is sure to have at least one interview with someone you can learn from.

The $100 MBA, hosted by Omar Zenhom.

Think of The $100 MBA as a full-fledged business program in snack-sized portions. The daily ten minute business lessons are based on real-world applications and cover everything from marketing to technology and more. Cue this show up on your commute to or from work and watch your knowledge grow.

This Week in Startups, hosted by Jason Calacanis.

This is your audio version of TechCrunch, Gizmodo, or dare we say The American Genius. Each week, a guest entrepreneur joins the show to talk about what is happening in tech right now. You’ll get news about companies with buzz, updates on big tech news and even some insider gossip.

The Side Hustle Show, hosted by Nick Loper.

This is the show if you want answers for the big question so many entrepreneurs face. How do I turn my part-time hustle into a real job? Featuring topics such as passive income ideas, niche sites, and self-publishing, host Nick Loper is upfront and honest about the tough world of side hustles. The show features actionable tips and an engaging energy, and may just be that final push you need to grow your gig.

Back To Work, hosted by Merlin Mann and Dan Benjamin.
Focused on the basics that you don’t think about, Back To Work looks deep into our working lives by analyzing things like workflow, email habits and personal motivation. Somewhere between self-help, and business advice, Back To Work takes on a new topic relating to productivity each week.

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Business Marketing

Why your coworkers are not your ‘family’ [unpopular opinion]

(MARKETING) “I just want you to think of us as family,” they say. If this were true, I could fire my uncle for always bringing up “that” topic on Thanksgiving…

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The well-known season 10 opener of “Undercover Boss” featured Walk-On’s Bistreaux & Bar. Brandon Landry, owner, went to the Lafayette location where he worked undercover with Jessica Comeaux, an assistant manager. Comeaux came across as a dedicated employee of the company, and she was given a well-deserved reward for her work. But I rolled my eyes as the show described the team as a “family.” I take offense at combining business and family, unless you’re really family. Why shouldn’t this work dynamic be used?

Employers don’t have loyalty to employees.

One of the biggest reasons work isn’t family is that loyalty doesn’t go both ways. Employers who act as though employees are family wouldn’t hesitate to fire someone if it came down to it. In most families, you support each other during tough times, but that wouldn’t be the case in a business. If you’ve ever thought that you can’t ask for a raise or vacation, you’ve probably bought into the theory that “work is a family.” No, work is a contract.

Would the roles be okay if the genders were reversed?

At Walks-Ons, Comeaux is referred to as “Mama Jess,” by “some of the girls.” I have to wonder how that would come across if Comeaux were a man being called “Daddy Jess” by younger team members? See any problem with that? What happens when the boss is a 30-year-old and the employee is senior? Using family terminology to describe work relationships is just wrong.

Families’ roles are complex.

You’ll spend over 2,000 hours with your co-workers every year. It’s human nature to want to belong. But when you think of your job like a family, you may bring dysfunction into the workplace.

What if you never had a mom, or if your dad was abusive? Professional relationships don’t need the added complexity of “family” norms. Seeing your boss as “mom” or “dad” completely skews the roles of boss/employee. When your mom asks you to do more, it’s hard to say no. If your “work mom or dad” wants you to stay late, it’s going to be hard to set boundaries when you buy into the bogus theory that work is family. Stop thinking of work this way.

Check your business culture to make sure that your team has healthy boundaries and teamwork. Having a great work culture doesn’t have to mean you think of your team as family. It means that you appreciate your team, let them have good work-life balance and understand professionalism.

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Business Marketing

Market your side hustle with these 6 tips

(BUSINESS MARKETING) It can be hard to stand out from the crowd when you’re starting a new side hustle. Here are some easy ways to make your marketing efforts more effective.

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Side hustles have become the name of the game, and especially during these turbulent times, we have to get extra creative when it comes to making money. With so many of us making moves and so much noise, it can be hard to get the word out and stand out when sharing your side hustle.

Reuben Jackson of Big Think shared five ways that you can market your side hustle (we added a sixth tip for good measure), and comment with your thoughts and ideas on the subject:

  1. Referrals: Don’t Be Afraid to Ask!
    If you’re going to make a splash, you have to be willing to ask for favors. Reach out to your network and ask them to help spread the word on your new venture. This can be as simple as asking your friends to share a Facebook post with information that refers them to your page or website. Word of mouth is still important and incredibly effective.
  2. Start Where You Are
    Immediately running an expensive ad right out of the gate may not be the most effective use of your (likely) limited funds. Use the resources you do have to your advantage – especially if you’re just testing things out to see how the side hustle goes in the real world. You can do this by creating a simple, informational landing page for a small fee. Or, if you’re not looking to put any money into it right away, create an enticing email signature that explains what you do in a concise and eye-catching way. Check out these tools to create a kickin’ email signature.
  3. Gather Positive Reviews
    If you’ve performed a service or sold a product, ask your customers to write a review on the experience. Never underestimate how many potential customers read reviews before choosing where to spend their money, so this is an incredibly important asset. Once a service is completed or a product is sold, send a thank you note to your customer and kindly ask them to write a review. Be sure to provide them with links to easily drop a line on Yelp or your company’s Facebook page.
  4. Be Strategic With Social
    It’s common to think that you have to have a presence on all channels right away. Start smaller. Think about your demographic and do some research on which platforms reach that demographic most effectively. From there, put your time and energy into building a presence on one or two channels. Post consistently and engage with followers. After you’ve developed a solid following, you can then expand to other platforms.
  5. Give Paid Marketing A Shot
    Once you’ve made a dollar or two, try experimenting with some Facebook or Twitter ads. They’re relatively cheap to run and can attract people you may not have otherwise had a chance to reach out to. Again, the key is to start small and don’t get discouraged if these don’t have people knocking your door down; it may take trial and error to create the perfect ad for your hustle.
  6. Go Local
    Local newspapers and magazines are always looking for news on what local residents are doing. Send an email to your town/city’s journal or local Patch affiliate. Let them know what you’re up to, offer yourself for an interview, and give enticing information. The key is doing this in a way that your hustle is seen as beneficial to the public, and is not just an ad.

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