The rise of the internet and the increasing penetration of smartphones has made it necessary for businesses to take the digital route. However, it can be challenging to stay a notch above the competition amid changing customer expectations, Google algorithms, and the emerging digital marketing trends.
Without doubt, digital marketing helps new businesses be where their customers are, putting them on the fast track to success. Consequently, startups are striving to attract and engage their audience using various digital channels like websites, blogs, social media, video marketing, direct mailing and messaging.
If you are a startup owner, you cannot afford to ignore the hottest trends in the digital space. Here are the latest trends in the digital marketing domain, enabling you to create a solid marketing strategy that generates leads and drives business profitability.
1. AI Will Power Customer Segmentation
Artificial intelligence is revolutionizing digital marketing by offering innovative solutions that help businesses understand customer needs and preferences, and deliver customized experiences.
No wonder an increasing number of startups are introducing AI to their marketing intelligence systems. In fact, a recent study revealed that 64 percent of firms want to deploy AI this year to drive their algorithms and marketing campaigns.
Apart from offering chatbots and recommendation engines, AI applications such as voice search, image processing, smart report generation, predictive customer behavior, and digital advertising are helping young startups enhance customer experience and stay ahead of the competition. For instance, AI can track customer habits and shopping behavior and make personalized suggestions, giving the users the impression that the product is specifically designed for them.
Programmatic advertising is another trend within the AI space that enables businesses to automate ad buying and reach a specific audience. It is estimated that by 2020, nearly 86 percent of all digital ads will be powered by AI.
AI remains the most cost-effective solution for boosting the productivity and profitability of businesses, making it an indispensable tool for the success of digital marketing campaigns.
2. Demand for Accelerated Mobile Pages Will Increase
With nearly 60 percent of Google search queries coming from smartphones, businesses will have to work on reducing their mobile websites’ loading time in order to improve the SEO ranking and reduce the bounce rate. Customers expect a webpage to load in less than two seconds, failing which they may leave and never return. Refer to the infographic below to know why faster websites can help you boost your profits.
According to Google, more than two billion accelerated mobile pages cover over 900 thousand domains. In fact, the tech giant is moving towards using factors such as mobile-first indexing, accelerated mobile pages (AMP), and progressive web apps (PWA) to determine website ranking.
Startups cannot afford to lose customers due to slow page loading. As people increasingly use digital platforms for searching content and shopping, the demand for AMP will skyrocket.
3. Micro-Moments = New Consumer Behavior
Statistics shared by Digital Trends reveal that Americans spend an alarming 4.7 hours per day on their mobile devices looking for products, interacting on social media, or reading content. Moreover, customers are experiencing ‘content shock’ due to the constant bombardment of ads, tweets, messages, push notifications, and content.
Consequently, new businesses need to think of innovative ways to reach their high-tech customers. Lately, Micro-Moments has created a lot of buzz in the digital marketing space as it helps businesses learn about consumer behavior and deliver marketing messages that are tailored to the customers’ interests (all within a few seconds).
The Micro-Moments feature allows you to be on platforms where your customers are searching ‘in the moment,’ allowing you to increase your visibility and conversion rate. These platforms include Google, Facebook, Amazon, Google Maps and YouTube, among others.
4. This Is the Year of the Video Revolution for Marketers
Videos are on the growth trajectory within the digital marketing space, with 76 percent of business owners believing that video marketing can give them a good customer conversion rate and ROI. In fact, studies show that 68 percent of customers prefer watching an explainer video as against calling the customer service team for assistance.
Unlike plain content, videos build trust, which is the basis of conversion or sales. Moreover, videos increase the visitors’ time on a website, thereby boosting its SEO ranking. Statistics confirm that websites with videos are 53 times more likely to feature first in Google’s search results.
Video marketing is a hot trend in the digital world. Consequently, startups should develop an appropriate video marketing strategy to increase their website traffic and customer conversions.
5. Live Videos Deserve a Special Mention
Whether you use Snapchat, Instagram, YouTube, or Facebook, live videos are growing in popularity. Social media stories are one of the most profitable techniques used by marketers to promote their brands and improve customer engagement.
The fact that these stories disappear after a specific period makes it easy for marketers to take advantage of the FOMO (fear of missing out) factor, creating a sense of urgency among the target customers. No wonder live video is estimated to grow 15-fold between 2017 and 2022, and will account for 17 percent of the total internet traffic by 2022.
This free-to-use effective marketing tool is definitely a must-try for all startups.
6. User-Generated Content Is King
Users trust insights, reactions, and testimonials from real customers rather than promotional pitches. According to Neilson Consumer Trust Index, 92 percent of customers trust user-generated content (UGC) over traditional sales pitches.
Apart from being a cost-effective marketing technique to generate unbiased content, UGC boosts customer engagement, builds customer loyalty, and maximizes business returns. UGC plays a critical role in instilling trust in the target audience and boosting conversion rates. Hence, new business owners will depend on influencers (not necessarily celebrities) to endorse their brands and create engaging and authentic content across digital marketing channels.
Digital marketing has come a long way in changing the manner in which businesses connect with their customers. In order to stay competitive and drive business profitability, startups should be aware of the latest trends in this domain and use them to their advantage.
The 2019 digital marketing trends shared in this post will help you create a solid online marketing strategy for your startup, positively impacting your customer base and bottom line.
If you are not running one-on-ones with your team members, you are missing out on a fantastic opportunity to build rapport and create a culture of transparency.
Because no matter how well-oiled your team is, one-on-ones go beyond getting a status update on daily projects.
They are about greater matters: an employee’s personal and professional development within the organization, soliciting feedback and creating an environment in which your employees are willing to be transparent.
Need proof? According to a Harvard Business Review study, the TOP 3 drivers of employee dissatisfaction are (1) the lack of recognition of employee achievements, (2) the absence of clear guidance and (3) not having the time to give meaningful commentary to the employee.
So if you're looking into introducing one-on-ones, which will give you that warm, bubbly feeling, here's a guide for you.
If you have never held one-on-ones with your team before, you may want to let your team know what these sessions are all about. This way your people will know what to expect from the get-go.
Set your team members’ expectations from the start by informing them that the purpose of these meetings is to help them feel included, informed, and supported in their day-to-day work. Then send a recurring calendar invite their way.
Build Cadence Through Consistency
After all, the key to running successful one-on-one sessions with your employees is to make them recurring rather than ad-hoc.
It allows for clear, consistent, and transparent communication between you and your direct and prevents them from interrupting you during the week with small questions. Instead, they will wait for your next scheduled meeting.
Now, sometimes things come up, and you will have to do something about your one-on-ones. In which, you want to reschedule the meeting but never cancel it altogether.
On board? Great.
As for timing, try to schedule these meetings weekly, dedicating enough time to address all needs — at least one hour.
You can always end earlier if needed, but rushing through a 30-minute meeting will not provide the opportunity to explore ideas and provide coaching to your employees on their day-to-day responsibilities.
Let Them Run the Show
There’s a time and place when you should dish out your feedback. And that’s during the performance review meetings. One-on-ones should be all about the employee — unless, of course, something major comes up.
So put your employees in the driver’s seat and eagerly solicit feedback.
How? Start your meeting by asking the employee: So, how’s everything going? Any problems/issues?
This is a simple attempt at getting an initial data point that you can use to dig deeper into how they are progressing in their current projects, how they feel about their work, and whatever else that they want to bring up.
It should help you gauge their emotional, mental, and professional state of stability in their role and largely within your organization.
Stay on Top of What You Discuss
Next up, you want to fire up your shared Google Docs file, start documenting your one-on-ones and drive action.
A simple way to do this is to use the same document week in and week out, so employees can easily reference past projects they were working on, and keep an updated account of current tasks and projects (both short- and long-term).
It can look something like this:
List here, including a general timeline
List here, including all relevant details
The idea behind using Google Docs or another document sharing tool is great because it enables you to stay on top of things and have an archived history of things done or planned to be done.
Here is how you can use these shared documents to max out your one-on-one sessions.
Review the Action Items Prior to Each One-On-One
At the beginning of each one-on-one session, make sure you do the legwork before the next meeting to review what needed to be done. This will help you pinpoint potential roadblocks, which you can discuss in the next meeting.
Decide on Takeaways and Deliverables
Throughout the meeting, write up action items and make sure you are on the same page with your direct in terms of what needs to be done before the next meeting arrives.
The greatest thing about one-on-ones is that when employees come to you with a problem, you will not only listen to the problem you will actually take steps to solve it.
And that paves the way for trust and integrity.
At the end of the day, on-one-ones can supercharge your company culture allowing for transparency and higher job satisfaction.
But if you fail to treat each and every employee like they are worth every minute of your time, you will have disengaged employees who are unwilling to be integral and ready to jump ship.
The small business sector across the United States account for 58.9 million employees, 8 million minority-owned businesses, and 99.7% of all businesses in total. And while we are at the end of Small Business Week, there's still plenty to appreciate them for next week, the week after and beyond.
The potential to capitalize on all the momentum you’ve enjoyed during Small Business Week is here, which means there are few opportunities like the present to make the most of your small business plans. Whether that means starting up a small business of your own, showing your enterprising colleagues your appreciation, or even launching a new marketing initiative, here are a few ways you can strike while the iron’s hot:
Read the Trends and Position Yourself Accordingly
Use Google Trends, you’ll find that there’s no better time to have yourself positioned for a few select small business searches:
Is it too late to capture that renewed interest? Not necessarily; trends tend to spike in interest without falling back to earth overnight. But even if that’s the case here, you can use next week as a reminder that there will always be cyclical trends from which you can build a more effective content calendar.
Using Small Business Week as a Wake-up Call
If you’ve ever sat in a cubicle, looking out the window, dreaming of a day in which you controlled your own financial destiny, you’re far from alone.
Small Business Week is more than just a way to appreciate small businesses or celebrate your success. For those who’ve considered starting a small business but have yet to take the leap, it can serve as a wake-up call. Why? Consider the following:
Delaying your business means you aren’t learning entrepreneurship.According to one survey, 51% of people thought starting a company was the single best way to learn about entrepreneurship.
Failure isn’t final. Even if your first business fails, you’ll learn a lot. There’s some data that suggests a slightly better chance at succeeding on your next go around.
Treating Small Business Week as Your Spring Cleaning Week
Even if you don’t make a yearly tradition out of actual spring cleaning, there’s no better time to trim the budget, simplify your life, and cut a few recurring items from your calendar. Think of it as your entrepreneurial spring cleaning time.
A great first step: evaluating the way you currently spend your time. Use a service like RescueTime to observe where you’re spending most of your time online. That’s when it comes time to use the KonMari method on your schedule. What activities do you need more of in your life? What sites do you need to restrict? What word habits do you maintain that seem to generate most of your results?
There are many different forms of clutter in our professional lives. From reducing the amount of clutter in our inboxes to eliminating the mental clutter that comes from managing too many projects, spring cleaning should go above and beyond “sweeping out the garage.” Sustaining the momentum from small business week should affect everything else you do at your business—and de-cluttering is a great way to ensure that happens.
Capturing More Business as a Result of Small Business Week
When you do manage to garner more attention, it’s important to make full use of it:
Include a lead capture form on your site. If your small business is receiving more traffic this week, you don’t have much time to add a lead capture form that will ensure that you make full use of the boost. Software like Growlabs makes this easy to integrate with your web presence.
Connect your web presence as much as possible. It’s difficult to drive a lot of conversions when a customer has trouble identifying your website from your social media presence. Give them the proper links and point them to the right landing pages every time you reach out. Now’s the time to make sure that your calls to action are above the fold, as welEngage Your Audience on
There’s no time like the present to rethink the way you approach your social media. If your social media presence has been lagging behind as you concentrate on other areas of the business, you might want to consider the following:
Engage new influencers. Some 49% of influencers now use influencers to make purchase decisions, and don’t be surprised to see that number grow to a majority in a hurry.
Research new content. If you don’t have a content calendar, Small Business Week is a great time to look around and see what other small businesses are doing to promote themselves. Try following a few small businesses that strike you as particularly engaging. What content do they create, and what do you notice is garnering the most interest from your shared audience?
Try a New Avenue for Advertising
If you find your marketing has grown stale over the past year, branching out can be a great way to mix things up.
In some cases, it may feel like you’re only spinning your wheels here. Why bother with mobile marketing, for example, if you’re just a local business? Keep in mind that statistics suggest that 78% of local mobile searches result in offline purchases. By combining your traditional advertising with something you haven’t tried before, you might stumble on a similar connection for your customers that you haven’t previously imagined.
Maximize Your Momentum
Small Business Week comes and goes rather quickly. The true question is what you did with your time and the subsequent boost that lingers for a few days. Have you committed yourself to another year of successful growth, or are you simply spinning the proverbial wheels until the next important calendar milestone? Take the steps you read here to ensure that you maximize your momentum after Small Business Week is in the rearview mirror.
This week is National Small Business Week! And of course, that means we're celebrating you — our awesome community of small business owners and entrepreneurs. Regardless of where you are in your business journey, remember to take some time and celebrate yourself.
Show your business some love by throwing a party, catering lunch, or celebrating in some unconventional ways that give back to the business you’ve worked so hard to build:
1. Join a BNI, Chamber of Commerce, or Other Business Club
Growing a business is all about who you know. You want to become the go-to accountant or architect that everyone recommends. To do it, you have to get involved. Joining a BNI, Chamber of Commerce, or other business club is a great way to get involved in your community. Membership will help you become a go-to connection.
Why do it:
People trust people they know more than people they don't. Get to know more people and they will help spread word organically (and help you build reviews).
Get in front of a new audience by leveraging partnerships. Find another business who caters to the same people as you do, and dream up a way to collaborate. You might co-host an event, co-write an eBook, or help sponsor a contest where you give away their products.
Why do it:
Other businesses have huge audiences, many of whom may be looking for the very solution you offer but have no idea who you are. Dipping into those audiences is a huge opportunity and could result in some new loyal followers.
Your customers are hanging out on social media, so meet them where they are! Put some money behind carefully constructed ads. Test out a few different ads against each other, and see how the channels work for you.
Networks like Facebook also have some great tools you should take advantage of. For example, adding Facebook Pixel to your website can allow you to target website visitors with ads automatically. And using Facebook’s audience data, you can even target shoppers who have recently looked for similar products and services as your business.
Why do it:
The world's on social media, and paid promotion goes a long way. Just a few dollars can result in huge exposure.
Small businesses give back to their local communities through taxes and job creation, and have a huge impact on our world at large. They also share similar struggles, lacking the resources of big brands. They work tirelessly to keep their customers happy, and their employees are often involved in many aspects of the business, rather than very specific, niche tasks. Celebrate and support the other small businesses in your neighborhood this week.
Why do it:
Small businesses are more powerful when banded together. Help preserve your community and create a sense of belonging.
When it comes to running a small business, time and effort are precious resources, and the last thing you want to do is waste them. Thankfully, there are tools available to make your life much easier. From marketing to accounting, communicating, and more – there's a tool for that!
In fact, you can try Grasshopper’s virtual business phone system for free today! There’s no commitment and no credit card needed.
Why do it:
You're a busy person, and it's hard to stay organized. A tool can't make or break a business, but it can take a load off so that you can focus on more important things.
Getting Google to recognize you may seem harder than climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, but being a top search result can position your brand above the rest (literally). Plus, traffic that comes in (and buys!) via organic search is free. Instead of paying for each click, you simply reap the benefit of appearing when someone is looking for your products or services.
Why do it:
The world is online searching for products and services. If you're not visible and searchable, you're missing out on sales!
Contests are a great way to engage your audience. These contests don't have to be fancy sweepstakes. Instead, you can give away a product or an Amazon gift card in exchange for participation. Contests are a fun opportunity to get customers and clients to share their stories, and they can result in a lot of traffic to your site.
Why do it:
Contests create 'buzz' about your brand, products, and services. They encourage people to visit your website, and you can even use them to build your email list, all the while positively interacting with your customers.
If you don’t already have one, make it a priority to add a mentor to your arsenal of friends, partners and advisers. A mentor is someone who can help you navigate the challenges of running a business, make connections, and help guide you through the complex maze of starting and growing a successful business.
Why do it:
Mentors can be an invaluable asset to your business thanks to their knowledge, connections and skills. Having someone you trust to bounce ideas off of or talk you off the ledge might be just the help you need to take your business from good to great.
A little customer appreciation can go a long way and have a huge impact! It doesn’t have to take a lot of effort either. It could be something as simple as inviting them to the office for a small event, or hosting a happy hour.
Why do it:
The real value of these events comes from talking to your customers. You’ll be surprised at how much they’re willing to share and what you can learn from them. Bonus: They’ll feel appreciated and get to meet other like-minded people; helping not only you grow your business, but theirs too.
Your office should be a stimulating and inspiring space. From the lighting to the décor, or lack thereof, it all plays a role in your mood and productivity at the office.
Why do it:
A quick office makeover (or makeunder if your office looks like it should be on an episode of Hoarders) can make all the difference in office productivity levels and even happiness. Think of all the time you spend at the office. A small investment here could yield big results in the future.
Investing time, energy and money in your business is never a bad idea when it’s done thoughtfully and intentionally. Consider celebrating your business, your customers, and your team members this week (or any week) through any of the ideas listed here, or something entirely unique to your company’s needs. And don’t forget to support others in your region and industry by shopping small!
What will you do to celebrate National Small Business Week?
What is the best SEO strategy? This is a question that haunts millions of website owners across the globe. The answer is both simple and complicated: constant innovation. There is no ultimate solution to ensure a high-ranking position within any search engine, simply because the algorithms change perpetually, changing the way your content is graded. However, there are some things you can do right now to improve your SEO strategy and watch your ranking increase exponentially.
Titles and Headings Optimization
Make sure that your title includes a keyword! Your title tag, after all, is your first line of fire when it comes to SEO. Your “H1 heading”, header tag, or title of your post may not have as big an impact as things such as authoritative backlinks in your text, but as search engines do take a look at your title and section headers, it’s worth including keywords wherever possible. Of course, do so where it makes sense. You don’t want your content to feel like spam to your readers.
You can never be sure if your SEO strategy works and which pages need improvement if you don’t keep track of your traffic. Use whichever tracking tool you prefer to get a more complete visual on which pages need a little “TLC” in order to generate more traffic. More importantly, tracking can tell you where you’re doing it right so you can apply the same best practices to the rest of your content.
Update Existing Content
Don't create a new post if you already have similar content from before. Instead, consider updating already existing posts by adding some fresh content and re-sharing with your audience.
Safety is an important issue for any user, especially if you’re running an eCommerce platform. Apart from user experience improvement, SSL certificates also add to your ranking status. Search engines give an advantage to the website that uses secure connection protocol.
This one is a rather old technique but it's still effective simply because it makes your load speed much faster. If you have a lot of pictures on your website, reducing the file size will enhance the load speed, which is one of the most important features of well-optimized content.
Increase Site Speed
Too many plugins and widgets, along with poor hosting options can also cause poor SEO performance. If there are plugins on your website that you don’t use or there are some widgets that affect only the visual context of your platform, don’t hesitate to remove them. Keep only what is essential for the performance and user experience. The rest is only dragging down your load speed.
Whenever you add new pieces of content, make sure to check if you have any earlier content that might be relevant. Then you can link the old content to the new content through keyword anchor text. When it comes to effectiveness, interlinking is one of the most effective SEO techniques you can use.
Use High-Ranking Sources
Google uses backlinks. It detects a number of high-ranking links within a piece of content and decides to push that content closer to the top of the search results. Whenever you have the chance to use a high-ranking authority website post within your content, don’t hesitate to do it. Just make sure that you link it to a keyword anchor text, simply to add an extra SEO boost.
Use Social Media
Make it easier for people to share your content all across social media. Place some Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, or any other niche-oriented social network button that will allow visitors to seamlessly share your posts with the rest of the community. The more shares, the higher your Google ranking.
Ask for Reviews
Loads of reviews will push your content higher on the ladder. Depending on the quality of your service, the reviews could do your business harm as well as good. However, if you ask your friends and satisfied customers to leave a positive review, your business reputation and SEO will benefit.
Customize 404 Pages
Visitors don’t hang around 404 pages — which appear when the requested address is not available — to kill time. To avoid increased bounce rates and keep people on your website for a while longer, customize your 404 page, add a link to a backup page, or provide some evergreen content. You may even convert a lost visitor into a customer!
Publish New Content Regularly
No matter what type of website you’re running, having a blog section that you can enrich with fresh content on a regular basis is never a bad idea. This not only provides your customers with a great resource, it also shows Google that your page is active, resulting in a better ranking.
Recently, Google started performing searches using a “Mobile first” approach, which means that if your content doesn’t perform well on mobile platforms, you won’t rank high. So if needed, start working on your mobile optimization!
Breadcrumbs allow users to navigate through your site easier, but they also put together all the keywords related to a certain category, which strengthens your overall SEO.
Use Phrases Not Words
Make your keywords longer than just one word. If you’re selling shoes, you’ll have better chances with “men’s leather shoes” than just with “shoes”, according to professional assignment help.
SEO demands a lot of hard work. It’s not enough to use one or two techniques and then expect to see your site ranked highly on any search engine. Use all of the players on the field in order to see better results and ultimately win more attention and business.
Telecommuting at this scale is a recent phenomenon, putting business owners and executives in a very unique but challenging position. Do you also work from home yourself? Do you provide work-from-home opportunities for your staff? Do you upgrade your technology to account for a virtual workplace?
These issues didn’t necessarily exist a decade ago, and as someone who runs a business while simultaneously traveling the world, here are a few secrets I’ve uncovered along with what it takes to make a 21st century enterprise work for all involved.
Running a business and running it remotely are two very different things…
There’s being a CEO, and then there’s being a remote CEO. Some staff may find this setup as a bit distant and impractical, and, to be honest, it can be if the realities of this arrangement aren’t addressed upfront.
For instance, there’s no way for you to be available for every call at the drop of a hat, and it may be hard to attend that industry conference that could land you several leads if you’re two continents away. That said, as long as you’re creating forward-looking calendars and accounting for these potentialities, you shouldn’t have to choose between travel and executive leadership. You can do both as long as you budget your time well in advance, continue to take action on rolling initiatives, and check in often.
This could require an additional late-night email or maybe a red-eye flight or two, but that’s a welcome tradeoff if your workers are happy and the business is performing at a high level.
But don’t be fooled in thinking that everyone is adept at such a potentially hectic schedule. On-site CEOs may tend to stay at work late, micromanage in-house staff and spend more time than necessary on small details, whereas remote CEOs don’t really have that luxury, for better or worse, and for the sake of your own satisfaction and that of your workers, this could be for the better.
...but it’s easier than you think.
It’s 2018, and if you’re not leveraging all of the tech tools on the market, you’re likely losing out on margins somewhere in your business.
Spending money on a proprietary accounting system? Have in-house HR? Paying for several assistants?
Ask yourself, truly, are these necessary for revenue generation, or are they legacy holdovers from the way companies were run decades ago?
With Google’s suite of business products, for example, you gain free communication, free scheduling, free data storage, free networking and free location services.
Considering email is the most effective communication channel for B2B marketers, a simple Gmail account is so much more powerful than many recognize.
Being able to manage your business through your mobile is the key to success here. Tools that simplify basic tasks and complement the flexible nature of your business are invaluable. The Grasshopper mobile app’s virtual phone system allows you to setup toll-free business phone numbers, so you can keep up professional appearances for you and your team, without giving the game away to clients that you’re not actually working from a physical office.
Applying this sort of thinking to other tasks within your organization helps you prioritize job functions that can be outsourced, deleted or made more cost-efficient. As you shift your organization around to be product- or idea-centric, you as a CEO are freed up to do less management and more sales.
Quick tips to make your internal company processes “remote friendly”.
To turn your workforce and your operations into a stronger, virtual model, here are a few techniques we use:
Get an internal communication or project management platform that’s accessible via the cloud.
Slack. Trello. Asana. Wrike. Airtable. There are so many to choose from, and many of the features are customizable to your company and intuitive enough that workers can pick up the necessary tasks in a matter of hours.
Set the standard for how you prefer to interface with clients/prospects.
Depending on what industry you’re in, your clients may still use legacy technology or prefer more face-to-face interactions. It’s important that you set the standard as to what the preferred means of communication are. This may sound counterintuitive - isn’t the customer always right?
Well, the more exceptions you have to make and the more you divert away from your core communication platforms, the more you have to invest in additional training, software or labor. So, while a client may prefer Excel or Microsoft Word docs, offer them an easier way - for them and you - via Google Sheets or Google Docs, for instance. They may be hesitant to change at first, but they also just may have never had the opportunity or need to experiment with other communication vehicles.
Internal teambuilding and recognition is harder, so incentivize in other logical ways.
The corporate retreats and pats on the backs are less feasible in a remote work environment. That’s OK.
Use e-gift cards, virtual birthday messages, membership discounts and investments in small but meaningful workplace improvements that benefit your workers but also your company, such as wireless mice, standing home desks or fronting the cost on pre-selected laptop or smartphone upgrades.
Write every single job spec as clearly as possible, down to the technology used and the hours worked.
Job specs that are unclear only become more opaque when you factor in distance and lax management. It’s imperative to set clear boundaries, expectations and responsibilities for remote workers as it may not always be understood when everyone is supposed to log on each morning, or who reports to whom or what happens when a problem arises. The simplest of issues can go unnoticed for long stretches of time due to poorly designed job specs that lenient CEOs never thought to check in on. Remove these possibilities from the start through prescriptive job mapping.
Create your own virtual workplace routines.
Formulating a work atmosphere that works for you - and your staff - day in and day out is paramount. I factor in one hour of exercise, 15 pages of a good book, one sales call, several healthy meals and three networking opportunities into every workday. Those are the high-level goals that matter to my own productivity and my company’s productivity.
CEOs need to re-program their internal habits down to how they spend every 30-minute block of time, even on weekends. If not, bad habits like sleeping in late and taking long lunch breaks can start taking precedence. So stick to a routine and hold yourself — and staff — accountable.
Hire great managers who can hire great staff.
The longer you are abroad, the more important a solid management team becomes. You need a backbone and an unbreakable bond to your managers — as they’re the ones running a lot of the internal and client calls, setting agendas and deadlines, delivering services, hiring new talent, and devising ways to outpace competitors.
When I started my company, I hired a Head of Growth and a Head of Content & Strategy, and they devised their team structures with remote workers and operations in mind.
Supervisors often uncover room for improvement, process flaws and internal strife much faster than a CEO can, and the more executives recognize that, the more they’ll entrust strong managers to do a lot of the operational tasks that free up CEOs to pursue global opportunities.
And that’s how it’s done. However, we should always be looking to the future to continually evolve our company policies to scale with our growth and work preferences.
Want to start virtualizing your processes today? Check out Grasshopper's virtual business phone systems app. There's no commitment and no credit card needed. Simply get started with a free trial today to see how it can help get your business up and running with a professional kick.
You’re a small business. The U.S. federal government is interested in helping small businesses.
So why haven’t you met the SBA yet?
The Small Business Administration can be a major boost to small businesses—especially for first-time business owners—that want to navigate the world of business with a helping hand. And it’s not a toothless organization, either: the SBA can provide genuine help to small business owners at a wide variety of points in your business, from helping you flesh out your ideas and your business plan to providing disaster relief after hurricanes.
How might the SBA help you? Have a look at some of the little-known resources you might not have yet considered:
1. Free Business Counseling
Ever feel like you need a mentor—or simply a voice to turn to? The SBA offers free business counseling in some cases. Click to their Local Assistance Section to enter your specific location and find out where to find these SBA offices might be.
Once you go through this map, you’ll find all sorts of local resources ranging from veteran’s business outreach centers to disaster field offices.
2. A Start-up Costs Worksheet
Before you decide to dive headfirst into a new business, you should have a concept of what the costs might be. The SBA offers an online startup cost calculator to help you through the following details:
Regular employee expenses: How much will you estimate you pay for payroll, payroll taxes, and benefits like health insurance?
Miscellaneous expenses: “Miscellaneous” expenses are the ones you’ll have trouble predicting. Expenses such as liability insurance, repairs, license fees, and even dues for organizations can eat into your monthly budget.
Inventory: Do you know what your inventory might cost at the start—and what it might include?
The online PDF at SBA.gov allows you to enter your estimates, then adds them up for you at the bottom of the spreadsheet automatically. Although you might want to poke around with some additional research before you’re sure about your own costs, having a ballpark idea of your start-up costs can be invaluable.
3. Emergency Preparedness Checklists
While you might imagine this would be the territory of Ready.gov—and it is—the SBA doesn’t ignore the businesses affected by earthquakes, tornadoes, wildfires, and more. Even businesses in stable areas have to worry about cybersecurity issues, for example. The SBA offers plenty of readiness checklists for businesses who don’t know if they’re up to snuff.
Perhaps most intriguing is the cybersecurity guide. The SBA allows you to enter your company information and generate a unique cybersecurity planning guide for handling issues as far-ranging as privacy and data security to the way you manage your payment cards. At the SBA website, you can enter which specific concerns you have to generate a completely customized planning guide.
4. Help with Applying for Licenses and Permits
When you sell something that requires government oversight, you have to get all of the details right from the get-go. The SBA provides assistance with applying for licenses and permits across a wide variety of business types, from selling alcoholic beverages to handling transportation and logistics. If you’re still in the idea phase of a new business, it’s worth checking with the SBA to get a sense of what kinds of licenses you’ll need before you open up your doors.
5. Connecting with Business Insurance
Business insurance can mean the difference between a catastrophic financial disaster and a small blip on the radar. The SBA helps you find out what kind of business insurance you need—such as general liability insurance, commercial property insurance, and the like—before referring you to a network of licensed insurance agents who can recommend the appropriate levels for your company.
6. Funding Programs
The SBA funds small business in several ways, including:
Loans. In certain circumstances, the SBA may work with lenders for the provision of capital in what are known as SBA-guaranteed loans. Because the SBA works with these lenders, it can reduce the overall risk for the lender, making them capable of offering you the kind of money you might need to start your business.
Investment capital. The SBA regulates companies known as SBICs and offers them funding to allow them to make investments in small businesses like yours—in this way, the SBA doesn’t directly invest in startups, but does make it more possible for startups to find investors.
Disaster assistance. The SBA’s disaster assistance generally comes after hurricanes in the form of low-interest loans to qualifying businesses.
Surety bonds and grants. In creating a surety bond, the SBA might help a company feel more confident that you’ll complete the work agreed upon. For grants, you’ll generally have to run a business focused on research and development.
7. Balance Sheet Templates
Maintaining your balance sheet is at the core of how you manage your business. Do you know what your budget looks like? Whether you’re in the black or the red? Do you know where your money goes each month?
The SBA helps by pointing you in the direction of a balance sheet template that simplifies the process of figuring out what’s happening with your business. Think of the balance sheet as your small business’s own map—and the numbers don’t lie.
8. Getting Your Federal and State Tax ID Numbers
This is one of the most underappreciated areas of starting a new business: you’re going to need tax IDs! To make sure that you go about it the right way, see the SBA’s guide to Federal and state tax ID numbers so they can point you in the right direction.
Building a Better Business with the SBA
The SBA provides plenty of resources for any business—whether that comes through online guidance or more personally by connecting you to local offices. If it’s possible your business could use a helping hand, consider browsing SBA.gov and connecting with the Small Business Administration for guidance in your own company.
And speaking of small business resources, check out Grasshopper's virtual business phone systems app. There's no commitment and no credit card needed. Simply get started with a free trial today to see how it can help get your business up and running with a professional kick.
Spring is here! And you know what that means: it’s time to apply for Grasshopper’s annual Entrepreneur Scholarship! Since 2003, Grasshopper has been making it easier for entrepreneurs to start and grow small businesses, and today their commitment to this cause is stronger than ever.
The Grasshopper Entrepreneur Scholarship aims to help entrepreneurial students pay for the rising costs of education, and supports them along the path to starting a business. Through this program, Grasshopper will award one high school senior or college student a $5,000 scholarship made payable to the university they are or will be attending in 2019.
If you meet the below criteria, please apply via the application page. If you are associated with a high school or university, please spread the word to your students.
2019 Grasshopper Entrepreneur Scholarship applicants must meet the following criteria:
Must be a current college student or an incoming freshman enrolled in an undergraduate or graduate degree program in a 2019 Spring, Summer, or Fall semester.
Must be enrolled at an accredited American college, university or trade school.
Current GPA must be above a 3.0.
How is social responsibility important to you as an entrepreneur? How does it play a role in your company’s (or future company’s) mission?
For more tips for scholarship submission success, and to submit your essay online today, visit the application page. The deadline to enter is August 30, 2019, and the winner will be announced in October 2019.
You can read about last year’s Grasshopper Entrepreneur Scholarship winner here. We look forward to reading your essays. Best of luck to all of our current and aspiring entrepreneurs!
If that one word filled you with fear, there’s a chance you’re suffering from paralysis by analysis in some area of your life. It’s not a pleasant feeling. Sometimes, it can even lead to outright failure—as Psychology Today notes, it might have been behind J.R. Hildebrand’s inability to finish a single lap with a lead when he was a rookie.
Simply put, analysis paralysis sets in when you have too much pressure, too much information, and few skills for turning them into a decisive entrepreneurial action. That’s why we’ve assembled some tips for avoiding this type of decision-based paralysis as you build your business:
1. Define Your Terms
Bestselling author Tim Ferriss once called this exercise “the most valuable exercise I do every month.”
He calls it “fear-setting.” The technique, somewhat rooted in ancient stoic philosophy, is simple: fear-setting forces one to sit down and evaluate the worst-case scenario that may happen if you take a certain course of action. How hard would it be for you to get back to where you are today? Are you risking too much, or are you overstating the negative consequences?
According to Ferriss, this exercise helped him cut down on hours and begin traveling the world—the downside was simply not strong enough.
The key here is in defining your terms. Project the consequences of the decisions in front of you and evaluate worst-case and best-case scenarios. Does the picture become clearer?
2. Decrease the Number of Decisions You Make Each Day
In “stop” decisions, you might have to expend energy getting yourself not to eat that second donut. In “go” decisions, you spend energy motivating yourself to go out in the cold and drive to the gym.
Decision-making is like anything else you do: it requires energy, or it doesn’t happen.
In some cases of paralysis by analysis, you may simply be fatigued in one way or another. If that’s the case, there are a few things you can do to break through:
Decrease the decisions you make every day. Evaluate your current routine and ask yourself how much of that routine requires a decision to be made, no matter how small.
Starting making more routine decisions ahead of time. Some people prepare the week’s lunches far in advance, which means they get to spend their lunch breaks doing nothing but opening a bag and relaxing. What routine decisions do you make that can be performed in advance?
Automate. Use an app like IFTTT (If This, Then That) to decrease your daily burden so you can focus on the important decisions.
3. Give Yourself Rest When You Make Important Decisions
Speaking of decision fatigue, let’s imagine you’re suffering from it right now. You’ve looked at an upcoming decision with your business from every possible angle and it has you feeling stressed.
What if you simply need some rest?
You’ve heard of the old advice—that you should “sleep on it.” As it turns out, there may be something to this science. One study found that it was easy to find negative effects when it came to decision making in a variety of settings. If you face an immediate decision—and the tips from the previous section won’t help you—it may be that the best thing to do is simply rest.
Sleeping on a decision is a start. But it’s also important to give yourself added perspective with a change in scenery. Get away from the office for a while. Do something else that helps you gain a birds-eye view of what you’re considering—you may find that when you return to the decision, the choices come into focus.
4. Get Clear about What’s Most Important to You
Sometimes you might truly face a situation where the analysis shows that you might as well flip a coin. And in that case, it can be difficult to see the right option. Some entrepreneurs keep on analyzing until they find which option has a 51% chance of working out all right—as opposed to a 50% chance.
But you may be pursuing diminishing returns. Instead, get clear about what’s important to you. There’s power to saying no even when you think you may be passing up a lucrative opportunity.
When you’ve analyzed a decision over and over again, there aren’t too many ways for you to decide it—unless you’re clear about where your priorities lie. If you know what your priorities are and what’s most important to you, you’ll stand a far better chance of breaking through paralysis by analysis.
5. Make a Decision You Can Live With and Act On
Sometimes, there’s no clear choice no matter how clear you are about your priorities. Your best bet may be to make your decision and then move on with the assumption that you did the right thing. As businessman Harold Geneen once said, “Better a good decision quickly than the best decision too late.”
Strong leaders—like those entrepreneurial spirits who lead their own businesses—know that not every decision will be accurate. Some decisions may even be mistaken. But it’s far better to make a good, educated guess and then move on than it is to be left frozen by the prospect of analyzing a decision over and over again.
Cutting Through the Paralysis by Analysis
There’s no single one rule for getting rid of paralysis by analysis, because there might be different causes that are forcing you to hesitate before making an important decision for your company. But as you scroll through this list, you might recognize a situation or two that sounds familiar. Failing that, start with smaller decisions and work your way up. Don’t expect to be perfect—just expect that you should make educated decisions and learn from your mistakes as you go along. That’s all anyone can ask, including anyone affected by your decisions.
There’s an old axiom found in the U.S. army: plans might be worthless, but the act of planning is essential. Creating an editorial calendar for your content marketing plans might not be quite as life-and-death as planning a military campaign, but it doesn’t mean the principle doesn’t still hold true:
If you’re going to create valuable content for your business, you need to plan it.
Enter the Editorial Calendar. At its most basic, your EC is like any other calendar—it has some dates on it, some deadlines, and perhaps some notes. But if you’ve never created one before, you’ll likely struggle with a nagging feeling: am I doing enough?
Our recommendation: make sure you do enough. Here are five steps to creating your blog’s first editorial calendar—and making it effective:
Step One: Research
Your first mission: reconnaissance.
If knowledge is power, then Step One is the most valuable step of the process. You need to not only learn your limits and advantages, but get a sense of who you’re writing for. Your audience will have questions that your content needs to answer, and you’re not very well going to do that without a little research. Assemble a master research document and fill it with the following information:
Frequency. Within the confines of your time and budget, how often can you post quality content to your blog? Once per week? Once per month? Twice per day? There’s no definitive answer to what’s best, but you’ll need to arrive at a decision that fits within your company’s structure.
Audience. The question of who you’re writing for is essential. In Step One, you need it both asked and answered. The demographics and concerns of your readership will largely determine the type of content you develop. Browse through Quora to get a sense of what questions your audience is asking—as well as the type of content that becomes most popular.
Competition. What’s the best content out there that already exists for your audience? How might you beat it? Can you try different media—populating your blog with more infographics than walls of text—to make your business stand out?
Step Two: Brainstorming
Once you know what your audience is asking, you can start creating a schedule of content that fills in the holes posed by their queries. But your brainstorming session should go a step above and beyond jotting down notes. Use the following tools to help spur some creativity so you can schedule content that’s a little more engaging than the usual:
Ubersuggest. Maybe you have an idea of one keyword that you can start with—you just don’t know what else you can target in the same field to differentiate yourself from the competition. Use a suggestion tool like Ubersuggest to get the gears cranking.
Blog Ideas Generator from HubSpot. The idea is simple: you enter a noun and Blog Ideas Generator will spit back an entire litany of potential blog posts. You won’t necessarily use all of these ideas, but you will get some suggestions that are worthy of your EC.
BuzzSumo. BuzzSumo lets you input a simple key phrase—such as the subject of your blog, for instance—and spits back a list of some of the most engaging content already created in that field. This is a great way to evaluate the competition as well as get an idea of what your audience is looking for.
Step Three: Decisions
After the first two steps, you should have a giant honking list of blog ideas, competitive insights, and audience research notes. But you don’t have an EC yet.
That’s because the next step requires you to make decisions about the insights you’ve gathered. By now you’ll have looked in on the competition, browsed through audience queries, and recorded some of the insights that most stuck out to you.
So what’s next? Whittling.
You’ve armed yourself with education—now, the best you can do is make educated guesses about the types and styles of content that your audience most wants. Your goal here should be to end up with at least 10 distinct content ideas. They don’t need to all be blog posts—but they can be if you so decide. Once you have this list, you’re ready to create the calendar itself:
Step Four: Implementation
Now that you have your ideas and know how often you need to create fresh content, it’s time to implement them and create a calendar for easy organization. Here are some tools for making that happen:
Google Calendar or Google Docs. The beauty of using Google tools it that you’ll have no problem sharing your calendar with anyone else on the content team. It’s up to you whether you want to use an actual calendar or simply use a spreadsheet with dates input in one column—it’s really a stylistic choice more than anything else.
Project management software like Trello or Slack. These are especially ideal if you already have a large team in place and need to get your editorial calendar to a point where everyone can collaborate on it.
Step Five: Action and Review
Once your editorial calendar is in place, all you have to do is execute. Okay—that’s not all you have to do. Remember how that Army axiom said that “plans are worthless”? So is yours. But that’s okay, because you remember that planning is essential—and as you go on, you can use analytics to review the success of your editorial calendar and continue honing your content to cater to your audience’s tastes.
You can use tools like KissMetrics to get a sense of how successful you’ve been. From there, schedule a regular EC review to update the calendar with fresh content and use the lessons you’ve learned from the content you’ve already published. As you go on, your calendar will only get stronger—as will your content marketing strategy.