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Four Ways Service Businesses Can Stand Out This Holiday Season

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bigstock-businessman-creative-design-39173434 Christmas Creep started even earlier this year (was it my imagination or did I see ads before Halloween?). For retail owners—both brick and mortar and online—the pressure is amped up to get in the holiday spirit, rack up sales, give deep discounts, and plaster their real and virtual storefronts with holiday decorations. But for professional services and consulting businesses, it’s a different time of year: distributing cards and gifts to clients while phone calls and emails slow down, filing more—in other words it’s low season.

Fortunately there are many ways you can stay on your customers’ radar, show appreciation for their patronage, and leave a lasting impression to start 2014 off right. So get going now with ideas from real people in the service business trenches.

Fill Someone Else’s Pockets, Not Your Own

The holiday season is a popular time for people to give back—whether donating food to shelters, taking part in a coat drive, or giving to a favorite charity. For service businesses, think about tying that donation to a meaningful cause in your industry. For example, Forward Push Media came up with a promotion for a client who does prenatal chiropractic treatments: the company is taking online donations through the season to help out moms-to-be facing financial hardships; the perfect outreach for staying true to the brand while giving back to the community.

Your Blog Can Be A Gift (Really)

Your blog is a great tool for your business year-round, but the holidays present more personal opportunities to detour from business as usual, throw in some creativity and spice, and yes, everything nice. Add to that, you can use time you’d normally allocate for follow-up calls to connect with your clients in a different way.

For example, tell a personal story that inspires you—it doesn’t need to be work-related but should remind readers of the season or what’s important in life; do a funny year-in-review, or post predictions that you hope don’t happen in 2014; think up an evergreen post that’s good all year long, such as tax deadlines if you’re an accountant, or the best months to buy furniture if you’re an interior designer. And remember, your blog doesn’t have to be written: It can be a short, crisp video (or depending on your audience, use super-hot Snapchat‘s new “Stories” feature for a holiday greeting that hang around for 24 hours).

Invite Clients “Over”

When we think of service businesses, some people envision slaving away in their PJs or crammed in a teeny cubbyhole, but this is not always the case by a long shot. Many professionals have offices with multiple employees scurrying about. That said, you won’t witness a “50% off” sign in the window. All the more reason to invite customers to your place of business during the holidays. And you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg; if you have a great idea and you promote it, they will come.

Just ask Carla Higgins, a real estate agent with Grubb and Co. For their wildly popular annual holiday promotion, Santa Claus makes an appearance at the office to entertain clients and their families, while treats are served. Mona Koussa of ehomesurf is inviting clients and prospects to the office parking lot for a “Shredding Event”. A mobile, environmentally-friendly truck will destroy confidential documents and guests can nibble on sticky buns and drink hot chocolate all the while. Plus mortgage- and real estate-related vendors will be on hand to answer questions—nice touch.

Embrace Your Inner Black Friday

When it comes to promoting, there’s no reason you can’t turn up the volume and play like the big-box retailers who thrive during the season: From having a one-day “flash sale” on your priciest services to free add-ons for 2014. Your only barrier is imagination (plus your time and ability to do the work).

This time of year, Diane Shapiro Sommerfield, a social media marketing consultant, offers 25 percent off her normal price for a new client package, which range from kick-starting a social media program to a facelift on clients’ current social networks.

These are just a few ideas to get you started on the holiday season. Are you now spurred to come up with a promotion of your own? Well tick-tock!

Editor’s note: Stay tuned! NMX will be featuring our very own holiday promotion, the 12 Days of Giveaways, where we’ll be giving away tons of freebies starting in mid-December. Want an email when the 12 Days of Giveaways starts? Make sure you are signed up to our newsletter list on the sidebar!

Image Credit: Bigstock

Six Ways to Make Your Brand Shine in a Small Business Blog

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Ask a dozen marketers what “branding” means and you’ll get a dozen answers. Why? Because it’s a word with many meanings, depending on who’s doing the defining. This blog alone shows 30 unique definitions, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

What we do know is that branding is that it is the yin-yang of your business: You tell the world how you want to define your services or products, what differentiates you, and why people should trust and buy from you. Ultimately though, your brand ends up in the hands (and minds) of customers and prospects—they will be the ones collecting experiences and driving business to or away from you. Some even argue that companies have lost control of their brands altogether, unintentionally passing the baton to consumers, thanks to the power of social media. That’s why it’s even more important to exploit the brand equity you do have with the vast web connections, from your web site to social media presence to search, and anywhere else your business lives.

In the end, your blog can be one of your biggest brand assets, or do nothing to add value and attract business. Here are some top tactics to work it to your advantage:

#1 Mirror, Mirror On The Web

Starting from the outside in, your blog should walk the walk as a natural extension of  your company name, logo, color scheme, and all other tangible elements that make up your brand identity. The best way to stop that natural flow in its tracks is to publish a blog that lacks brand identity. A company blog should be a seamless transition from anywhere you’ve marked your (brand) territory: a real-world meeting where your business card was passed, a visit to your store, an eBook you wrote, or a transaction on your site. Make sure to give your blog a name—not just a “blog” section on your web site—one that reinforces who you are and what you do (My business name is LiveWire Communications and my blog name is Marketing Sparks. Get it?). And don’t forget about a tagline so readers know what your blog is about (Mine is “Insight about Advertising, Marketing, and Branding.”).

#2 No Blog-ots 

Of course your blog should not only walk like your business, it needs to talk the talk too. Speak in your brand voice at all times: Is it funny? Conversational? Whimsical? Even if you’re a number-crunching accountant, you can still let your personality come through (unless you’re crabby). The tone, style, and words that you use act as a conductor for your brand. Be true and authentic, whether you’re a storefront or a one-person shop. No one would question speaker and self-proclaimed “Unstuck-er” Erika Napoletano about this: Whether or not you like her cussin’, in-your-face style, her brand is illuminated in every word of her blog, even the four-letter ones. That also goes for your “About” page too. This is a great opportunity to showcase and reinforce your brand story.

#3 Stand Out From the Competition

It’s pretty easy to be a “Me Too” when it comes to blog topics for various industries. You can go outside the lines, but only so far. Your blog is a prime opportunity to bring out the uniqueness of your brand, no matter what the post is about. Marc Sheridan turned River Pools blog into what it calls itself  “…the most educational swimming pool blog in the country” through his efforts to educate and inform readers on the pool industry (which he turned into a successful content marketing/speaking career as The Sales Lion). Conversely, another tactic is to deliver contrasting point of views from industry bloggers. For instance, if all graphic designers are writing about the hottest trends in typography, write about the suckiest fonts instead—you’ll stand out for your knowledge in a different way.

#4 Dole Out Your Branding in Quick Hits

Another way to continue brand extension in your blog (and amp up your content promotion while you’re at it) is to leverage a thought-provoking quote, stat, or visual from a post and blast out to your social networks at various intervals. It will make a brand statement and also serves as a call- back to the blog while you’re at it. And don’t forget to make thoughtful, impactful comments on related blogs, this can be another great opportunity to put your branding stake in the ground.

#5 Hitch Your Wagon to a Like-Minded Star

Reinforcing your brand in your blog can be also be achieved by bringing someone else into the writing mix. Think interviews, quotes, or a guest posters. And I’m not talking about using a generic quote from Abraham Lincoln here; more like showing your affinity with a thought leader, industry luminary, or cheeky scofflaw who will draw attention. This will speak volumes about who you are (not to mention getting your blog some back links).

#6 Look Inside Yourself

Still stumped on how to bring out the essence of your brand? Conduct a brand audit to get more clarity. That may seem fancy pants if you’re a consultant or small business, but it can also lead to valuable insights. Do a free quickie one with a consultationdownload a tool, or ask yourself a few pointed questions. Doing these exercises can help reveal the true essence of your brand and point to any disconnects communicating to your audiences. If you’re strapped for time, try Wordle to visually capture brand descriptors and get a snapshot of who you are. After all this soul-searching, you may find that your brand is not reflecting what your small business is about, and it might be time to rebrand—but we’ll save that subject for a future post.

What tactics do you use in your blog to bring out your brand?

Creative Blogging with a Persona: An Artist, Journalist, and Reviewer Walk into a Blog…

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We’re all guilty of going on auto-pilot with our blog once in a while: maybe we missed our deadline and need to whip up something quick, or we have to churn out a piece on a hot topic everyone else has done already, or worse yet, our eyes glaze over at the same old format on a blank screen. Such is the life of a blogger and time-crunched small business owner.

But what if you had someone else writing your posts occasionally? No, I’m not talking about a guest blogger, ghostwriter, or God forbid copying and pasting content from elsewhere…It’s You. Take on a new persona and “profession” for your next post. Who knows? By being creative, you could end up enjoying it, learn a new skill, and best of all, attract new readers and shares.

The Amazing Artiste

We hear over and over that visual web content—be it graphics, video, or presentations, is much more likely to be looked at, engaged with, and shared than its less sexy but equally important counterpart, text. Our brains are wired to pretty, shiny things. It’s no wonder Pinterest and Instagram have grown by leaps and bounds.

Graphic content also helps us digest information quicker: In fact, 40% of people will respond better to visual information than to plain text. And with all the choices on the Internet, our attention spans have shrunken to ADD proportions, so we are instantly attracted to snackable web moments. In other words, serve up imagery to tell your story quickly instead of relying on numerous keystrokes.

When it comes to visual storytelling, pretty much anything you can say with words will work with images. Find that challenging? For starters, you can keep it simple with brief commentary on an animated gif, a baffling series of Tweets from a major brand, one stark photo, or slideshow.

If you’re feeling more ambitious, go the data visualization route and combine data and graphic elements that blend well as an information shortcut. Create graphical representations of content with Infographics, the fastest growing way to display facts. There are many free resources to help. Or consider Mind Maps to explain big and small concepts alike.

More interested in videos to show your artisitc prowess? Photobucket, Vine, and Instagram Video are a few that can help. Or grab an existing video and write a few choice sentences about it. Some examples include: How a TED Talk inspires your work or makes a point about your industry, or an educational video for your readers. The only barrier is your  imagination. Either way you’ll be pulling double-duty delivering pre-packaged content that is already validated, while reinforcing your brand.

Reminder: Before you post content on your blog that is not yours, always check content usage guidelines.

The Rugged Reporter

Add instant color and flavor with interviews and quotes to your post by playing the enterprising journalist. Whether it’s a tech celebrity, industry luminary, or the chef at the hottest restaurant in town, get the words directly from the source to breathe new life into your blog. Also, the Q&A format of the interview is easily digestible and ready-made for readers to scan.

When interviewing someone “famous” or better known than yourself (which happens often), it can be intimidating. Believe it or not, though, by virtue of the fact that you have a blog, you’ll be granted instant credibility (even more so if you’re a published writer).

Truth be told, most people love to talk about themselves no matter who they are, and will happily promote their latest book, or whatever is most important to them at that time. For instance, in my post about bogus cosmetics claims, I located, researched, and interviewed the lead FDA attorney on a related and well-known case as an expert without any red tape (impressive for the government!). Or do a straight up interview. Posting a conversation with web-famous people also helps to build your SEO and traffic.

The Rogue Reviewer

Or take the opposite approach: Give your opinion, no holds barred. But let me clear about “reviewing.” We’re not talking about pay-for-play: I’m not advocating sponsored and/or paid reviews (unless they are clearly disclosed as such), but rather  expressing your opinion, and sharing your knowledge.

Do your homework before you try this style, and research the type of review you are doing. For instance, if you are doing a book review, take a look at popular review sites, or, if you’re doing a roundup on the latest phone apps, note the style and soak up some inspiration for what works (and what doesn’t) in that circle. Your readers will appreciate that you are doing the work for them, from product reviews to industry trends.

Be Everyone You Want to Be, Anytime

If you’re getting bored with your blog, chances are so is your audience. Why not shake things up for yourself and your readers?

Are You Setting Yourself Up for Online Business Success? All You Have to Do is SMILE.

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smile Here at NMX, we have an all-staff meeting the day before the show to make sure everyone is on the same page and the event can run as smoothly as possible. Since I’ve been a part of NMX (and I’m assuming even before), one of the points our CEO Rick Calvert always makes is that we set the tone for the conference (find out more about the show here). Even when there are problems or we’re frustrated and tired, you’ll see us smiling in the halls, in sessions, and on the show floor. If the entire staff walks around grumpy, it won’t be long before everyone at the show is grumpy too!

It’s advice that has stuck with me and overflowed to my personal life as well. If you just smile, even when things are going wrong, y set yourself up for success. For me, however, smiling is about more than just putting on a happy face. That’s only step one. For true success, you can’t just smile…you have to SMILE: Share, Mingle, Initiate, Learn, and Empathize!

Share:

Whenever I am at NMX or even just “meeting” people online, I also try to share in whatever success I have. Even if I don’t overtly ask it, the question on my mind is always, “How can I help you?” Too many people in the business world are only concerned with, “How can you help me?” But if you share opportunities and help people as much as possible, others helping you takes care of itself. When you need a favor, people will jump to help you because of all the help you’ve given them in the past. Send people links (without being spammy), answer their questions via social media, and connect people via email. Share as much knowledge as possible in your industry so that people see you as the go-to person.

Mingle:

In every industry, there are cliques. It can feel comfortable and safe to only mingle with people you already know, especially if you are an introvert like I am. But if you truly mingle and get to know other people, your network will grow exponentially, which means more opportunities for you over time. Yes, it is important to strengthen the relationships you already have, but be aware that others might perceive you as being in this elite clique that isn’t interested in getting to know other people. Even online, you should spend time looking for new people to bring into your flock, rather than just following the same list of profiles forever. Check out these tips for finding new blogs to read.

Initiate:

A lot of people are shy. Really shy. Not only do you have to initiate the mingling, but you also have to initiate follow-up contact afterward. Even people who aren’t shy tend to be extremely busy. Be the person who sends holiday cards, emails just to say hello, and randomly promotes someone else via social media. Be the person who keeps relationships alive instead of relying on others to do so.

Learn:

The “L” in SMILE stands for “learn,” which means that I take the time to learn about other people. With the Internet, it’s not hard to do! When meeting someone new or even talking to old friends and colleagues, especially when uncomfortable with social situations, we have a tendency to talk a lot about ourselves. Flip this on its head. Ask questions and learn as much as you can about the other person. Then, make a note of what you’ve learned and learn more afterward by looking them up online. When you meet the person again, you want to be able to say, “Yes, I looked up your blog, and here’s what I think…” or “I signed up for the mailing list you were telling me about…” or whatever the case may be.

Empathize:

Lastly, an important part of the SMILE concept is learning when not to smile. Sometimes, people have problems and are upset at you, the situation, or the entire world. Learn to empathize, not just put on a happy face and placate people. Most people understand when you are insincere versus when you are actually trying to help them. So, when problems arise in your company or personally, really listen to people and come up with a solution as quickly as possible. It’s easy to feel defensive (guilty!), but most times it just makes more business sense to swallow your pride. Even when people are being mean, kill them with kindness.

Do you SMILE online? How can these concepts help your business?

Financial Terms Every Serious Blogger Should Know

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Who knew that blogging would someday become a legitimate career choice? And that a blog could be classified as a real business? Ten years ago, blogging was considered something cat lovers did in their spare time, and now it’s a bonafide business venture.

As a small business accountant during those ten years, I’ve seen it all. But the biggest thing I’ve noticed is the upswing in the amount of online ventures, such as blogging.

Blogging It’s not just a hobby that makes a little money, it’s a main source of income for many entrepreneurs — myself included. Unfortunately, there not a lot of expert advice available for organizing the financial part of running an online business.

Becoming Your Own Expert

We all know if you want any type of business to succeed, you’ve got to treat it like one! But with the lack of expertise available, we’re left to be our own financial experts — or at least have enough knowledge to stand behind our business.

It’s hard enough to tell friends and family that you’re a blogger, much less to find an accountant or financial advisor who can understand what your business does.

Even the IRS is so outdated they don’t have proper schedules and forms for income received through online ventures. So it’s up to us to research the right financial terms — and decisions — for our unconventional businesses.

  • Quarterly Estimated Taxes (QET’s)

The IRS requires that taxes be paid on income as it’s earned, which is why a traditional employer withholds taxes from earnings each paycheck.

But when you have your own business, you’re responsible to pay your own taxes on a quarterly basis. Otherwise you’ll get slapped with fees, if you expect to owe more than $1,000 in taxes at the end of the year. And let’s face it, no one likes to pay extra fees to the IRS.

Whether you run an LLC business of one, are a sole-proprietor, have an ecommerce business or sell digital products, it’s all the same to the IRS. But it’s important that you file QET’s on time, in order to minimize your audit risk.

  • Self-Employment Tax

As a business owner, you may not fully realize that on top of paying the normal Federal Income tax rate, you’re also responsible for your own Medicare and Social Security tax. When you work for an employer, they pay ½ of this tax, leaving you to pay the other half.

But with the privileges of being your own boss also comes the tax burden of having to pay the entire 15.3% of Self-Employment tax (SE tax). Add that to your effective tax rate and you could end up owing a lot of tax at the end of the year.

As a small business, you’re working with a tight budget, so start putting a simple plan in place now, so you don’t to get slammed with a large tax bill. For instance, I set up a separate savings account labeled “taxes”, where I set aside 30% of each month’s earnings, to be paid out each quarter.

This not only makes it easier to pay taxes once the time comes, but helps, your often irregular budget, prepare for the QET’s that need to be paid each quarter.

  • Ordinary Income Versus Capital Gains

Income earned from a blog or website is often confused as investment income or even passive income. However, as any blogger will tell you, it’s far from a passive source of income, as we put in enormous amounts of time and energy into making it successful.

It’s also not considered investment income — which is generated from buying and selling other investments or assets, and is taxed in a different way than ordinary income.

There are many different types of investments that produce investment income, like stock market investing, savings accounts, and purchasing other tangible assets like art or collectibles. None of which can be used to categorize income from monetizing your blog.

However, you can get a bit of a tax break if prove that your blog is a business asset. Then it could be classified as a capital gain, versus just ordinary income.

On the other hand, if you’re in the business of buying, restoring and flipping websites, then the profits are considered ordinary income. It’s really all about intent, how long you’ve owned the website and the amount of investment you’ve poured into it that determines what kind of taxes you’ll pay once it’s sold.

Classifying Blogging Income

Classifying your blogging income correctly and keeping good records is vital for any solopreneur. Until the IRS and accounting methods catch up to the ever-changing pace of the online world, it’s your job to educate yourself on the right methods for organizing your business finances.

We all aim to pay our fair share of taxes (and no more) while making a decent income for ourselves and our families. The good news however, is that this industry is still relatively new, which means we can forge our own financial path and make our own rules — within reason of course!

With all the time, effort and money you put into your blog, you need to understand these financial terms, so you can make your business a success and pay the least amount of taxes.

Do you treat your blog like a business? How do you handle the financial part of it?

How Does Blogging Help You Boost Traffic and Generate Leads? [Infographic]

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Whether your company blogs or not, it’s important to not disregard its significance. Blogging has three proven ways to help boost your brand and market your business. They are proven to generate traffic, leads and help spearhead your social media marketing efforts. Blogging takes effort, but as this infographic shows, time spent implementing a blog strategy can pay dividends. They key is to remain consistent and blog often!

Blogging-IG-Blogworld

How Social Media is Changing the Face of Hiring

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Social media has made a huge impact on recruitment and the recruitment process. Companies, head hunters, and recruitment agencies are turning to social media sites to promote available positions, research potential applicants, and make a decision on whether the applicant they have chosen is the best match for their business. On average, recruitment statistics show that around 89% will use social media at some point during the recruitment process to make a decision, with 80% of recruitment agencies using LinkedIn in particular to find potential applicants for positions they are working on.

Why Social Media?

Social media will simply tell you a lot about a person that might not be apparent on a CV or resume. A basic Facebook page can tell companies how the person conducts themselves and how they interact with other people online. It also tells recruiters about the person’s communication skills, whether they were truthful on their application, and whether there is any reason they shouldn’t be accepted for the position.

In fact, a large number of companies will now turn to social media before they even contact the applicant for the first time. This saves them time and energy and ensures that anyone they interview is the right fit for the company. Many times when I have been approached for a job myself, it is because I have been headhunted by a recruiter who has found me through Twitter, Facebook, or even Google+.

One Step Further in Recruitment

Interestingly, recruiters are taking social media one step further when hiring. For example, the Omnicom Group used Twitter to find five interns for summer work without every seeing their CV or resume.

The company took note how each applicant responded to five tweets which were posted over five days, and from this information they were able to make a decision on the best five interns for the job.

Other companies have also turned to new media instead of relying traditional hiring processes. Skype, for example, is used for interviewing potential candidates, allowing recruiters to cast a broader net instead of just looking at the local pool of candidates.

What Recruiters Look For

The majority of companies using social media for their recruitment process use this valuable social media tool to ensure that the applicant has been honest about who they say they are. Companies can match this against the CV they received. Photographs on Instagram, for example, can show talent, but poor language on tweets and bad communication skills on Facebook can reflect badly on how a future employee conducts themselves on the social media sites.

Social media pages are brimming with information on schools attended, places worked, communication skills, photographs, and so much more. Often, it’s not just about a person’s skills, but also about whether or not they will fit with the team. Social media can help companies determine this. It’s easier for recruiters to make a decision between two very qualified applicants once they have read through their social media profiles.

Digital, design, and web have also combined to bring innovation to recruiters and simple innovation like these when applying for a job speaks more to businesses these days. Infographic CVs and resumes, for example, demonstrates skills without much explanation needed.

Exactly what a company looks for when it comes to social media will vary, but one this is for sure: the social media world is forever expanding and will not be stopping in the new face of hiring.

Do you use social media to hire new employees? Or have you been hired based on your social skills, even for a non-social job?

Image Credits: mkhmarketing, spencereholtaway, qubodup

Small Town Business Values in an Online World: Yes, It is Possible!

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small town business values

Growing up in a small town of fewer than 100 people (yes, you read that right…fewer than 100!) was not always the easiest, but one thing I will always treasure is the values I learned growing up and working in a small, family-owned business. We worked hard and we played hard. We helped our neighbors. We knew our customers by name.

A lot of people will tell you that these things are not scalable as your business grows, especially if you take your business online. But you know what? Those lessons I learned during my high school years at the corner of Main Street and the cow pasture have stuck with me, and they shape how I choose to do business to this day. I attribute my greatest successes to the fact that I bring small town values to a world-wide scale.

People are People are People…and We Want Others to Care

I have friends and colleagues from around the world and guess what? People are people, no matter what color or gender or nationality or education level or worldview. There might be cultural differences, but the fact of the matter is that we all want others to care about us. When I worked at my neighborhood deli as a teen, I would pride myself in knowing the regulars. As I was preparing their order, I would ask them about their families, suggest items I knew they’d like from our shop, and call them by name.

There’s no reason you can’t do this online as well. As your business grows, get to know your “regulars” – they people who always retweet you or comment on your Facebook posts. Thank people by name. When someone has a complaint, address it personally instead of sending a form letter.
You hate it when you feel like a number. Others do as well. This is true whether you have one customer or one million customers.

The advantage is that when you get to know your customers on a more personal basis, especially those who are your biggest fans, selling to them is much easier. You can make personal recommendations based on what you know they’d like and you can ask for their feedback on new products. This isn’t just about getting cozy with customers to make them feel good. It actually helps your business.

Putting a Face to the Brand

No one wants to do business with a logo. On a small-town level, you as the owner might be regularly available or even working at your store. You probably have employees that are “faces” to your brand as well – those who are naturally customer favorites. When my dad has a doctor’s appointment, for example, he will go out of his way to see his favorite nurse, Brittany, even if it means walking to another wing changing his schedule so he can make an appointment when she’s working.

Online, the same is true. People want to interact with other people, especially employees they enjoy. Get your face out there as much as possible online and make real connections. Encourage your employees to do the same by interacting with people via social media. If you’re worried about how an employee will represent you online, that’s probably a good indication that he or she shouldn’t be working for you. Hire people who can be the faces of your brand, whether it’s in person or online. Give them training, create a social media policy, and then give them the freedom to get out there and talk to people.

Love Your “Competitors”

It’s important to love your “competitors” online…and I put that word in quotes because in actuality, you don’t have competitors as much as you have colleagues.

Let’s say you own a seafood restaurant, for example. There are probably several other places in town where people can get a meal, plus you’re competing with local grocery stores since many people will also eat at home. But does that mean you put up big signs that say “Eat Here! Joe’s Pizza Place Sucks!”? No way. You all have to live in the same town together. Joe’s Pizza Place might be a competitor, but it’s in both of your best interests if the relationship is friendly.

After all, you might both be serving food, but you offer different products for different tastes. There’s no reason you can’t agree to refer people to one another. Maybe Joe’s Pizza Place recommends your more upscale establishment for an upcoming wedding reception. Maybe you recommend their restaurant for the Little League team’s post-game dinner. Maybe you even partner to offer coupons to one another’s patrons.

Online, the same small town rules apply on a world-wide scale. Rather than hating on your competitors, think about how you can work together. At the very least, you can learn from one another. What cool Facebook promotions is that seafood place from three states over doing to bring in new customers? How are they using their blog to reach would-be diners? What can you learn from their failures? Know your colleagues and work together to build both of your businesses.

The Take-Aways

No matter what the scale of your business, I hope you never lose your small town values. Here’s what I hope you take away from this post:

  • Don’t be afraid to talk to people online the same way you would in a face-to-face situation. Get to know your customers, especially your biggest and most devoted fans.
  • Train your employees and then let them represent you online the same way they would at your brick-and-mortar store. Don’t be a logo online. Be real people.
  • Get to know other business owners and learn from one another instead of ignoring your competitors or creating a bad relationship.

No matter how big your business grows, these things are possible. At NMX 2013, Dana White, who is president of UFC and now has millions of fans and followers was saying the same thing: this is all scalable if you really want it to be! Connecting with people individually takes more time the bigger you are, but bringing the small town values to a world-wide audience will set you apart and ultimately help your business grow.

4 Essential Apps for Increasing Profits in a Small Business

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When it comes to running a business, it’s important to take advantage of every tool you can find to make things run more efficiently. This is especially true of small businesses where you don’t have as many employees to take care of organization, payment and other tasks. Fortunately, the following apps are examples of tools  that can help your small business become more profitable by helping you save time and keep organized.

paypal PayPal – Stay Connected to Your Transactions

PayPal is easily one of the most used services for payment on the Internet. It’s become practically a staple for bother buyers and sellers. Additionally, both casual users and business users will find plenty to like about the app. Some features that are especially useful for streamlining the payment process for small business owners include the following.

  • Automated Shopping Carts

This allows you to setup an easy way for customers to buy items through stores like eBay. You can get “add to cart” buttons, add shipping costs automatically, and even receive automatic records about all of the funds that you have going in and out through that part of your business.

  • Accept Credit Cards in Person

As part of the Virtual Terminal program, you can sign up for a PayPal card reader that will connect to the top of your phone or other compatible consumer tech. PayPal will actually send you the reader device for free in the mail.

There are multiple options for taking payments in person. CardFellow has a great comparison of PayPal and Square, and this is another great comparison can be found on Digital Trends.

Image via Google Play


expensify Expensify – Keep Track of All Expenses

Managing expenses for a business can be a colossal time sync. The amount of time and paperwork required to keep track of everything your business and employees are spending can be staggering. This app lets you and your employees take pictures of receipts with your phone and upload them to an account.

The app can also keep track of additional business details including the following:

  • Time

By adding a rate per hour and an amount of time, the app can calculate any expense incurred based on time. An example could include any additional temporary personnel hired.

  • Mileage

The app can either let you add mileage directly, or use the “GPS” feature to  automatically add mileage based on your phone’s changing GPS location.

Image via iTunes


google drive app Google Drive – Store Information in a Limitless Cloud

One serious concern for small business owners is how you get employees who aren’t in the same area to work on the same projects.

Google Drive is a free solution for organizing all of your company’s documents in a single place. You can create a single document spreadsheet that all employees can add to no matter where they are. You can also give yourself, employees, outside collaborators or clients access to documents in a fast and efficient way, straight from your mobile phone, tablet, or other device.

In addition to Google Drive, the Dropbox app is a great way to share documents and resources among employees, even if you aren’t in the same office.

Image via Google Play


timebox Timebox – Efficiently Distribute Your Time

Timebox lets you keep track of the time you spend on various different tasks using the Pomodoro technique, which breaks down you work into cycles called pomodori.

Each cycle lasts for 25 minutes, with a 5 minute break given right after to help you refocus. Once you do four of the cycles in a row, the app will give you a longer break of 15-20 minutes. You can easily look down at the app on your phone at any given point to get a sense of how much time you have left in each cycle or task.

Looking for more time-saving tips? Check out this edition of Brilliant Bloggers.

Image via Google Play


Overall, management apps will do much more than save you time. They’ll save you energy and sanity as well, which small business owners often need to keep their stress low and their profits up. 

Stan Slap’s Business Case for Humanity [Video]

Author:

At NMX 2013, Dan Keldsen got the chance to sit down with Stap Slap, author and CEO of Slap Company, to talk about the intersection of business and human nature. Stan says that he’s “in the business of making a business case for humanity,” because without understanding the culture of your management, employees, and customers, your business cannot succeed.

Check out the full interview with Stan:

Does your business care about management, employee, and customer culture?

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