Filing an LLC online
If you are a small business owner looking to expand your service into a full-fledged company, an LLC is the way to go. An LLC, or Limited Liability Company, is a form of enterprise that combines both partnership and corporate structures and is commonly used by independent real estate brokers, retailers and service providers. Easy to set up, LLCs allow business owners to have a flexible management and ownership structure while being able to protect personal assets behind the corporate veil.
The process of creating an LLC can be done through many means. While some business owners tend to go through the expertise of an LLC start-up attorney which is ideal, the costs of legal advice can be prohibitive to some, anywhere from $200 to $450 an hour. In the age of the Internet, more and more business owners look to structure their LLC through an online service. Online LLC filing services offer many perks to small business owners looking to expand, and although there are many options for web filing, we are highlighting five up-and-coming services that can help you take the next step from sole proprietor to LLC member.
BizFilings, an online incorporation provider based in Madison, Wisconsin, has incorporated over 500,000 entrepreneurs since its inception in 1997. They offer multiple options for its incorporation services, with a five-step process that strives to give you a unique and bureaucratically-sound company. Buyers can start off with a basic package for $97 plus tate fees which includes business name availability verification, document filing, phone and email support, six months of agent service, and BizComply, an online compliance tool. For $237 and $347, more goods and services are included that ease the process of incorporation.
Verdict: While one of the more expensive options, BizFilings has over a dozen years of experience, half a million success stories and an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau.
EZOnlineFiling promises a staff of experienced professionals that aim to give the easiest online LLC filing process on the web. From first glance, on the website are two notable features. One, a graphic box with a giant “$39”, and two, a 100% satisfaction guarantee, committing to matching or beating any competitor’s price. EZOnlineFiling has extremely low prices considering the services rendered, charging $39+ state fees for preliminary LLC name research, a custom Articles of Organization, filing the documents with the Secretary of State, unlimited phone and email support, and free business tax consultation. The Standard and Premium packages will run you $169 and $329 respectively, but look for inclusions such as EIN application filing and custom LLC member certificates.
Verdict: A value service that doesn’t appear to skimp on quality, EZOnlineFiling is banking on low prices and guarantees. PRWeb.com names EZOnlineFiling “the fastest growing online incorporation service”, a sign that EZOnlineFiling is known for getting the job done well.
AAAFiling is a rapidly growing Internet-based legal document filing company that has been helping small business owners, entrepreneurs, musicians, and film/movie producers since 2006. While many online incorporation services offer multiple package deals, AAAFiling offers one standard deal of $48+ State fees, including preparation and submittal of the Articles of Organization, reviewing the documents, 24-hour order processing, and unlimited phone and email support. For additional costs, users can add expedited filing, Federal Employer Identification numbers, or an LLC kit with binders, certificates, documents, waivers, and more.
Verdict: Swift and simple, AAAFiling supplies an affordable service that allows customers to add individual supplements to their purchase as seen fit. Clients like Erick Hoffman created Cascadia Equity Holdings LLC and Steve Quan created OverstockPB.com, a paintball gear supplier through the company.
IncorporateFast, celebrating its eleventh year of existence, provides both solid information of the benefits of incorporation, and an affordable service to help your business become an entity of its own. A five-minute questionnaire and $49 plus State fees is all it takes for your documentation to be professionally prepared and sent off to the state for filing. Your money will get you preliminary clearance of your LLC’s name, preparation of your documents, filing, and unlimited toll-free and email support throughout the process. Like many other services, IncorporateFast offers more premium packages, with the first $173 step getting you Federal Tax ID assistance, a deluxe company kit, and a CD with essential forms. The most expensive $265 package will get you professional registered agent service.
Verdict: Relatively more affordable than most services, IncorporateFast will take care of the entire filing process and make certain you are satisfied with your result. With a 4/5 star rating on LegalSpring.com, their reliability is proven.
LegalZoom is one of the best known eLawyering services in the world, and their good reputation extends well into the field of LLC filing. $99 plus State fees will get you the Economy Package- preliminary clearance of your LLC’s name, filing of the Articles of Organization, a custom Operating Agreement, and LegalZoom’s trademark “Peace of Mind review.” The Standard Package will run you $289 plus State fees, but includes Federal Tax ID assistance, a deluxe company kit with custom embossing seal, 20 membership certificates with transfer ledger, and a boost in online presence with the PRWeb.com visibility package. For a higher $359+State fees, you can get the Express Gold Package, which will give you priority rush service on ALL filings, a 30 day trial of Business Advantage Pro Attorney assistance, over 100 important business forms, and a fully functional Peachtree accounting software.
Verdict: LegalZoom is easily the most costly option listed, but it’s also the most recognized and historically successful eLawyering service in recent history. The cost is dwarfed by their reputation for outstanding customer service and speed in which your documentation will be filed. If you can afford the extra cash, LegalZoom is a reputable option.
Making your choice
There are many routes you can take when making the leap from small business to Limited Liability Company, but all will lead you to a golden opportunity for your business to expand and thrive under the corporate veil. Whether it’s low price, fast results, or a record of merit and satisfaction, you will be able to find the service that is tailored to your personal needs. These companies will help you, but first you need to take the leap and plan to create something special and ride the entrepreneurial spirit all the way to the bank!
Video is necessary for your marketing strategy
(BUSINESS MARKETING) As technology and social media move forward, so do marketing opportunities. Now is the time for video content social media marketing!
As an entrepreneur, you’ve surely heard the phrase “pivot to video” countless times over the last few years. It’s the path a lot of media companies are on, but even brands that aren’t directly talking about this pivot have increased their video production. This shift stems in part from studies showing users spend more time on pages featuring video content. Social media has also played a significant role, and recently, new social platforms have made the pivot to video even more important.
Snapchat and TikTok are leading the social video sector as emerging social media platforms, but the audiences for these platforms skew especially young. The content on these platforms also tends toward the meme-worthy and entertaining, raising the question: are these platforms a good use of your time and resources? The answer depends on your industry, but whatever your field, you can certainly learn from the pros dominating these new platforms.
The promotional angle
One of the primary ways that businesses use video content across platforms is by creating promotional content, which range widely in style, cost, and content, but there are a few strategies that can really help a promotional video succeed.
First, a great promotional video hooks the viewer within the first few seconds. Social media has shrunk everyone’s attention span, so even if your video is on a longer form platform, the beginning has to be powerful. Having a strong start also means that your video will be more flexible, allowing it to gain traction across different platforms.
What you’re promoting – what your business does and who it serves – plays a critical role in what kinds of video content you make and what platforms you use. TikTok is a lot of fun, and it’s playing a growing role in business, but if your entire audience is age 30 and up, there’s not much point in trying to master the form and build a viewership there. You need a sufficient youth-heavy market to make TikTok a worthwhile investment, but Snapchat, which also serves a youth-heavy market, might be a different story.
Even if you don’t intend to make heavy use of Snapchat, the platform recently made a big splash in the video sector by opening up its story tools to other platforms. That means businesses will be able to use Snapchat’s tools on platforms like Facebook and Instagram, where they may already have an audience. It will also make crossover content easier, allowing you to maintain consistent branding across all platforms. You may never download Snapchat proper, but you may soon be using their tools.
It’s all about strategy
However you choose to approach video content, the fact is that today video is a necessary part of your content marketing strategy. In part this is because, while blogs aren’t going anywhere, and short-form social media is definitely ascendant, both make use of video, but that’s not the only reason. Video is so powerful because it’s deeply personal. It makes your audience feel that much more closely connected with you and your brand, and that alone is enough to change buying patterns.
Another key advantage of video is that, consumers genuinely enjoy well-made videos. Unlike blogs, which most users will typically only seek out if they need information, there are brands out there who are known for their video content. They’ve found a way to hook viewers and make them feel like they have two products: entertainment and whatever it is they actually sell. You, too, can do this with enough creativity and today’s social media tools.
It’s critical that you don’t let your brand fall behind on video right now, because if you even stop for breath, you will be left behind. As TikTok and Snapchat have made clear, video doesn’t stop for anyone. At this point, video isn’t the future of social media or ecommerce – it’s the present.
Marketing amidst uncertainty: 3 considerations
(BUSINESS MARKETING) As the end of the COVID tunnel begins to brighten, marketing strategies may shift yet again – here are three thoughts to ponder going into the future.
The past year has been challenging for businesses, as operations of all sizes and types and around the country have had to modify their marketing practices in order to address the sales barriers created by the pandemic. That being said, things are beginning to look up again and cities are reopening to business as usual.
As a result, companies are looking ahead to Q3 with the awareness they need to pivot their marketing practices yet again. The only question is, how?
Pandemic Pivot 1.0: Q3 2020
When the pandemic disrupted global markets a year ago, companies looked for new ways to reach their clients where they were: At home, even in the case of B2B sales. This was the first major pivot, back when store shelves were empty care of panic shopping, and everyone still thought they would only be home for a few weeks.
How did this transition work? By building out more extensive websites, taking phone orders, and crafting targeted advertising, most companies actually survived the crisis. Some even came out ahead. With this second pivot, however, these companies will have to use what they knew before the pandemic, while making savvy predictions about how a year-long crisis may have changed customer behavior.
Think Brick And Mortar
As much as online businesses played a key role in the pandemic sales landscape, as the months wore on, people became increasingly loyal to local, brick and mortar businesses. As people return to their neighborhood for longer in-person adventures, brands should work on marketing strategies to further increase foot traffic. That may mean continuing to promote in-store safety measures, building a welcoming online presence, and developing community partnerships to benefit from other stores’ customer engagement efforts.
Reach Customers With PPC
Obviously brick and mortar marketing campaigns won’t go far for all-online businesses, but with people staying at home less, online shops may have a harder time driving sales. Luckily, they have other tools at their disposal. That includes PPC marketing, one of the most effective, trackable advertising strategies.
While almost every business already uses some degree of PPC marketing because of its overall value, but one reason it’s such a valuable tool for businesses trying to navigate the changing marketplace is how easy it is to modify. In fact, best practice is to adjust your PPC campaign weekly based on various indicators, which is what made it a powerful tool during the pandemic as well. Now, instead of using a COVID dashboard to track the impact of regulations on ad-driven sales, however, companies can use PPC marketing to see how their advertising efforts are holding up to customers’ rapidly changing shopping habits.
It’s All About The Platforms
When planning an ad campaign, what you say is often not as important as where you say it – a modern twist on “the medium is the message.” Right now, that means paying attention to the many newer platforms carrying innovative ad content, so experiment with placing ads on platforms like TikTok, Reddit, and NextDoor and see what happens.
One advantage of marketing via smaller platforms is that they tend to be less expensive than hubs like Facebook. That being said, they are all seeing substantial traffic, and most saw significant growth during the pandemic. If they don’t yield much in the way of results, losses will be minimal, but given the topical and local targeting various platforms allow for, above and beyond standard PPC targeting, they could be just what your brand needs as it navigates the next set of marketplace transitions.
The last year has been unpredictable for businesses, but Q3 2021 may be the most uncertain yet as everyone attempts to make sense of what normal means now. The phrase “new normal,” overused and awkward as it is, gets to the heart of it: we can pretend we’re returning to our pre-pandemic lives, but very little about the world before us is familiar, so marketing needs a “new normal,” too.
Advertising overload: Let’s break it down
(BUSINESS MARKETING) A new study finds that frequent ads are actually more detrimental to a brand’s image than that same brand advertising near offensive content.
If you haven’t noticed, ads are becoming extremely common in places that are extremely hard to ignore—your Instagram feed, for example. Advertising has certainly undergone some scrutiny for things like inappropriate placement and messaging over the years, but it turns out that sheer ad exhaustion is actually more likely to turn people off of associated brands than the aforementioned offensive content.
Marketing Dive published a report on the phenomenon last Tuesday. The report claims that, of all people surveyed, 32% of consumers said that they viewed current social media advertising to be “excessive”; only 10% said that they found advertisements to be “memorable”.
In that same group, 52% of consumers said that excessive ads were likely to affect negatively their perception of a brand, while only 32% said the same of ads appearing next to offensive or inappropriate content.
“Brand safety has become a hot item for many companies as they look to avoid associations with harmful content, but that’s not as significant a concern for consumers, who show an aversion to ad overload in larger numbers,” writes Peter Adams, author of the Marketing Dive report.
This reaction speaks to the sheer pervasiveness of ads in the current market. Certainly, many people are spending more time on their phones—specifically on social media—as a result of the pandemic. However, with 31% and 27% of surveyed people saying they found website ads either “distracting” or “intrusive”, respectively, the “why” doesn’t matter as much as the reaction itself.
It’s worth pointing out that solid ad blockers do exist for desktop website traffic, and most major browsers offer a “reader mode” feature (or add-on) that allows users to read through things like articles and the like without having to worry about dynamic ads distracting them or slowing down their page. This becomes a much more significant issue on mobile devices, especially when ads are so persistent that they impact one’s ability to read content.
Like most industries, advertisers have faced unique challenges during the pandemic. If there’s one major takeaway from the report, it’s this: Ads have to change—largely in terms of their frequency—if brands want to maintain customer retention and loyalty.
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