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Small businesses pouring more cash into their digital marketing budgets

(BUSINESS) Small business owners in the US are shifting their focus and their funds

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2017 and the budget shift

According to a January 2017 study conducted by Thrive Analytics, 40% of small businesses in the US plan to increase their digital marketing budgets this year–and this could be their key to massive growth.

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The modern customer journey begins with an online search. A business can be right down the street, but without a solid presence online, it might as well not exist. Getting that competitive edge online comes at a price, putting many small businesses at a disadvantage.

Until now.

Things are looking up

Encouraged by the current state of the economy, small business owners have been more willing to loosen their purse strings and leverage the power of the world wide web.

Recent research reveals that SMBs (small to medium businesses) will be pouring more of their overall marketing budget into all areas of digital marketing–from social media to mobile, video, and search engine marketing.

Social media is already one of the most widely used marketing methods for small businesses, and 56% of SMBs plan to up their social media budget this year. However, more than 30% are also going to focus on digital advertising and search engine optimization (SEO).

Whether you’re a dentist, a realtor, or a traveling theater troupe, chances are your prospects are looking for you online–88% of US adults (not just Millennials) used the internet in 2016, and that number has only been growing each year.

The struggle to go digital

Money isn’t the only obstacle between SMBs and digital marketing. All of the time and effort involved in developing a successful online strategy are also hard to come by.

According to InfusionSoft, 49% of small-business owners are doing all the marketing for their business, and only 22% have hired marketers.

Even with room in the budget, tackling a whole new vein of marketing and advertising is difficult with a limited staff, especially without a full understanding of what exactly needs to be done: 10% of small business owners say the most challenging part about digital marketing is understanding tactics and trends.

Leap of faith

Sometimes the best way to learn something is just to jump right into it, and for many small businesses, the stable economy is just the push they need. For those that are making the leap into digital marketing this year, here’s the breakdown of their main focus areas:

Mobile: more than 50%
Online video: 48%
Paid search: 47%
Event marketing: 47%

With the right approach, a little money can go a long way. Looks like 2017 will be a big year for small businesses.

#DigitalMarketing

Helen Irias is a Staff Writer at The American Genius with a degree in English Literature from University of California, Santa Barbara. She works in marketing in Silicon Valley and hopes to one day publish a comically self-deprecating memoir that people bring up at dinner parties to make themselves sound interesting.

Business Marketing

Ten podcasts that every business owner should hear

(MARKETING) If you’re a business and want to learn something, give one of (or all of) these ten podcasts a listen.

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So many choices, so little time

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

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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.

Business podcasts for your listening enojoyment

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 populat 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 thna 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 techology 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.

#LearnSomething

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Business Marketing

Society has changed – no one wants help in a store anymore

(CUSTOMER SERVICE) Times are changing in the retail environment: a once customer-service driven experience is evolving into a minimalistic customer service approach.

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Once upon a time, good retail management meant good customer service skills – asking customers if they needed assistance, helping them decide what looked best on them, and politely stalking customers to insure a sale was completed.

As technology evolves and become more prevalent and pervasive in our lives, these skills are no longer needed or wanted. A new study suggest that shoppers want to be left alone while browsing in stores, rather than be stalked, questioned, and coaxed into buying items they may not explicitly want due to persistent pressure from sales associates.

An HRC survey found that a whopping 95% of shoppers would prefer to be left completely alone while navigating the retail environment, rather than shopping under a constant barrage of questions: “Can I help you find anything?” “How are you today?” “What brought you in?” and the seemingly endless stream of inquiries, not to mention the sales pressure from those employees working on commission, can simply be too much for consumers looking to relax, browse in peace, or simply get in and out of a store quickly.

While the greater majority of shoppers may prefer to be left alone, this should not come as too much of a surprise, considering how much technology has supplemented the shopping experience. With enhanced apps and self-checkout lines it’s not hard to understand why most shoppers prefer to browse solo.

Smartphones have given us the ability to check prices, order goods, and check stock all without interacting with another human.

For many shoppers, this is an efficient way to save both time and money while shopping. For other shoppers, like myself, smartphones offer another way to shop without triggering my anxiety. Asking for help, or a price is nearly impossible – I’d rather go without an item than have to ask someone for help.

Sounds ridiculous? Believe me, it feels ridiculous too, but nevertheless, having alternative ways to shop without interacting, is a blessing for many people, for a variety of reasons.

What does this mean for stores? It’s time to take another look at your apps and/or mobile presence (and in-store wifi availability). Since customers are shying away from human interaction, is your app allowing people to scan for prices? Can your customers check stock and order things online to be picked up in store? Can customers use your app to enhance their shopping experience in-store? If not, you may lose customers to stores that offer these enhanced apps.

Times are changing.

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Business Marketing

How small retailers can adapt to new holiday shopping trends

(BUSINESS NEWS) Is your brand keeping up with shifting seasonal shopping trends? The changes are accelerating and small retailers must play catch up.

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Sometimes it really is Christmas in July. Shopping seasons for holidays are shifting, creeping into earlier slots each year. Specialty retailers have to keep up or risk losing business to larger competition.

When I worked at a locally owned children’s toy store, big box retailers often dictated our holiday seasons.

If Michael’s put out Halloween crafts at the end of August, we were pressured to follow suit or lose business. HEB groceries started lining the shelves with Valentine’s offerings almost immediately after Christmas.

It became a running joke to see how quickly other stores would skip to ahead to the next holiday.

One year at the toy store, we actually wrapped Christmas presents as early as July. While it was tempting to make the easy joke, we had a bigger question: is it really time to start ordering for the holidays already?

Smaller businesses, locally owned shops, and specialty stores typically don’t have the same purchasing power as say, Walmart. So if retail tycoons start stocking up on holiday items early in the season, other stores are left with limited inventory to order.

With less product choices, stores that don’t get ahead of the curve fall behind in sales and customer happiness.

Additionally, advertising inventory is limited. Since consumer holiday spending shifted to the six-day retail holiday starting on Thanksgiving, pressure is on marketers to capture customer interest.

Although larger retailers engaging in heavy marketing may lift the market as whole, success is not as equal. Only those who have the inventory to back up interest will see growth.

Online retail holidays account for a significant chunk of e-commerce spending. In 2017, online desktop spending between Thanksgiving and Cyber Tuesday accounted for 17.7 percent of all e-commerce holiday spending according to comScore.

Back in 2016, the same shopping period clocked 16.8 percent of online spending. We’re seeing a steady increase in early spending, but less days to spend.

This year there are 33 days between Thanksgiving and Christmas, but in 2019 that drops to only 27 days. There’s less time for marketers to capture attention before budgets get blown during Thanksgiving holiday sales.

Online retailers may lose out on sales if they aren’t able to leverage Thanksgiving retail shoppers.

Executing strong marketing strategies early in the season (rather than just joking about what the big boys are doing) is now crucial for brand success, especially smaller storefronts.

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