How Amy Schumer and Other Celebs Could Be a Threat to Your Business (Watch)

Don’t Google Amy Schumer. If you do, there’s a good chance you could find a site that would expose your computer to malware.

That’s right, online thieves use popular celebrities like Schumer to target online users and lure them onto malicious websites. Schumer is just one of many celebrities named in a recent report by McAfee whose search results garner a high percentage of malicious websites. Others include Justin Bieber, Will Smith, Miley Cyrus, Selena Gomez and more.

Beware Malicious Websites That Wear Celebrity Masks

And while you might not find yourself doing a lot of research on Amy Schumer or Justin Bieber for business purposes, it’s still important that you understand the threats that are out there targeting businesses and consumers online. Malware and other online threats are everywhere. And sometimes they’re disguised as seemingly normal websites that are just targeted at people’s popular interests.

Cybersecurity is so important for businesses that want to protect important data and documents. So you need to constantly monitor the threats to your business and take measures to protect your company. After all, the last thing you want is to have your system infected with malware because you were looking up Amy Schumer or Justin Bieber on a work computer.

Amy Schumer Photo via Shutterstock

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Small Business Headlines from Xero, Paypal, Shopify and More

quickbooks-roundup-featured

When it comes to your business’s finances, there are so many different tools for you to consider. So it can be a big help when the tools you already use integrate with one another to make the whole process easier.

Recently, Xero announced improved integration with PayPal. And Shopify also added a partnership that could help merchants with their finances.

In other news, QuickBooks finally allowed its users to create bundled products of items that are often sold together.

Read about these updates and more in this week’s Small Business Trends news and information roundup.

Finance

Xero Announces Improved Integration with PayPal

Xero (NZE:XRO), the cloud-based accounting software for small and medium-sized businesses, has been on a roll this year having already offered its customers a way to support credit card payments through Stripe and to access a variety of payment options when preparing an invoice.

Shopify  Partners with Export Development Canada to Insure Merchant Cash Advances

Shopify (NYSE:SHOP), a cloud-based, multi-channel commerce platform, announced September 20 that it has partnered with trade finance and insurance solutions agency Export Development Canada (EDC) to insure the merchant cash advances offered by Shopify Capital.

Avalara Tools Provide Tax Automation and Resources for Small Businesses

Manually managing tax compliance requirements can be extremely difficult and time consuming as well. It can also be costly as your business can face penalties and fines if you get it wrong. This is why it is absolutely critical for you to get yourself an automated system that will help you reduce risks and complexities, allowing you to focus on your primary expertise.

QuickBooks Introduces Bundles Feature for Tracking Groups of Merchandise

The accounting software package QuickBooks from Intuit (NASDAQ:INTU) recently released “Bundle,” a feature that lets you track a group of items you are selling on the software. The new bundle feature is one of a number of recent improvements to the QuickBoks platform.

Employment

Mandatory Retirement Savings Program Coming to a State Near You?

Washington state has created a Small Business Retirement Savings Marketplace where small businesses can go to get affordable retirement plans to offer their employees. The marketplace is expected to open in January, ahead of an expected mandate in the state. There are already some states where a mandate is in place, and even some cities are exploring the possibility.

This  Small Business in Canada Has a Very Unique Job Offer and Recruitment Approach

Small business owners are trying just about everything to try to recruit new talent these days from flexible hours to 401 Ks. But what about offering something just a little less conventional.

Marketing Tips

Snapchat Introduces Sunglasses to Record Video in Effort to Differentiate (Watch)

If you’re in the market for a new pair of sunglasses, there’s a new brand to consider. Snapchat — yes, that’s right, Snapchat — just revealed a new product: sunglasses that record video. Like the popular smartphone app, the glasses record video in ten second increments. But since they’re wearable, it gives the user more freedom to record their daily lives. The glasses cost $130.

Small Biz Spotlight

Spotlight: Pyze Levels the Playing Field for App Publishers

As mobile apps become more and more popular, the resources available to those app publishers also continue to expand. But the tools available to smaller app publishers are much more scarce than those aimed at larger companies and app developers. That’s where Pyze, a mobile app marketing solution provider, comes in.

Small Business Operations

What Can Small Businesses Learn From World’s Largest Beer Merger? (Watch)

Anheuser-Busch is in the midst of the largest beer merger in history. The company has been attempting to take over SABMiller, the maker of Miller Lite, for about a year now. And shareholders finally approved an offer this week. It hasn’t been an easy process, largely due to outside factors. Of course, with a takeover this big there are going to be some anti-trust issues.

One  Quarter of All Small Businesses Have Less Than 2 Weeks of Cash in Reserve

In the last year, small businesses en masse have been pushed to the brink. Natural disasters like the deadly flooding in West Virginia or civil unrest that’s spilled into the streets often force small businesses to close their doors or, at the very least, severely hamper their ability to do business as usual.

What Small Businesses Can Learn From the Plan to Colonize Mars (Watch)

Elon Musk wants to colonize Mars. And while that isn’t likely to actually happen for many years, the billionaire CEO is getting closer. This week, Musk tweeted the first photos of the Raptor interplanetary transport engine shooting fire from its jets. The engine, which has been in development for years, reportedly has enough power to make the journey.

FedEx Follows UPS in Announcing Shipping Rate Increases

FedEx Corp. (NYSE: FDX), which operates FedEx Express, the popular express delivery and parcel shipping service, announced Monday it will increase shipping rates by an average of 3.9 percent for U.S. domestic, U.S. export and U.S. import deliveries. FedEx Ground and FedEx Home Delivery will also increase by an average of 4.9 percent.

UPS Successfully Tests Urgent Commercial Drone Delivery to Remote Locations

Coming shortly after the Federal Aviation Administration introduced its first regulations for commercial drone use, United Parcel Service, Inc., (NYSE:UPS) announced last week it has begun testing an unmanned aerial delivery vehicle built by drone-maker.

Technology Trends

New Google Trips App Could Simplify Travel for Business — and Pleasure

Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL) recently launched a new smartphone app that can help you plan and organize your trip. The app, better known as Google Trips, automatically pulls details about your trip from your Gmail account and goes ahead to recommend “local gems,” attractions and restaurants based on data collected from other travelers.

Outlook  Getting High Marks for Playing Well With Others, Adds Google Drive, Facebook Integrations

Over the next few weeks, the tech giant Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) will be adding support for Facebook photos and Google Drive to Outlook.com. These new additional features will also be accompanied by a fresh “attachments view” feature that makes it easier to find those old attachments, the company says.

GoPro  HERO 5 Black and HERO 5 Session Provide Action Video for Outdoor, Other Businesses

The internet, mobile technology, video and social media have merged together to give businesses and consumers a platform to share, connect and market with rich media. What GoPro (NASDAQ:GPRO) has tried to do with the new HERO 5 Black and HERO 5 Session cameras is simplify the process of capturing, sharing, storing and editing video so much, it becomes effortless.

3D Printer Returns: Will MakerBot’s Replicator+ Suit Small Businesses?

MakerBot started shipping 3D printer kits in 2009, and since then the company has been having its ups and downs as the market continues to define itself. With the DIY market for 3D printing so crowded, MakerBot has decided to change directions by going after the professional and educational segment with the new Replicator+ 3D printers.

Small Business Apple Users, MacOS Sierra Is Here

While Apple might not admit it, the company seems to have a clear preference for iOS, leaving macOS and its users a bit under appreciated. But the company is slowly adding new capabilities to its desktop operating system, making its latest major release, macOS Sierra, the closest it has come so far to an iPhone or iPad.

Microsoft  Doubles Down on Cybersecurity with Improvements to Windows Defender

Microsoft’s Windows Defender is getting a major retooling to improve its ability to combat malware. This week, 23,000 IT professionals are gathered at the Microsoft Ignite conference in Atlanta to learn about some of the latest technology advancements in security, intelligence and the cloud.

Microsoft Announces Cloud Partnership With Adobe

At the Microsoft Ignite Conference in Atlanta today, Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) announced a new partnership with Adobe (NASDAQ:ADBE). Under the partnership, Microsoft Azure will become the preferred cloud platform for the Adobe Marketing Cloud, Creative Cloud and Document Cloud. Customers of Adobe will have the benefit of Microsoft’s powerhouse Azure cloud infrastructure behind them.

Image: Intuit

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Amy Downs of Lifesize: Subscription Businesses Need Customer Service at its Core to Drive Success

When Lifesize, an HD video collaboration platform, was spun-out from computer peripheral maker Logitech, it had to make a massive shift of its product offering to a subscription-based cloud service.  Which also meant they needed to make a massive shift to becoming a company highly aligned with rapidly changing customer needs and expectations, or else risk losing them almost as fast as they’re able to bring them on.

Amy Downs, Chief Customer Success and Happiness Officer Lifesize, shares with us how the key to the company’s transformation to a subscription business model was changing the corporate culture to be customer-first.  And how that change raised their net promoter score (NPS) from negative four to over seventy, increased customer retention rates, and created a customer support team that finally understood their value to the business.

* * * * *

Amy Downs of Lifesize: How Great Customer Service for a Subscription Based Business will Drive SuccessSmall Business Trends: Before we jump in there maybe you can give us a little of your personal background.

Amy Downs: Absolutely. I’ve been in the tech space for many years. I started as a coding software as a software engineer early in my career and realized very quickly that I missed working with people and customers and so over time I’ve just really enjoyed creating experiences and working with them with employees happy employees — happy customers and so on. So really have spent the last few years of my career focused in on both. Both growing startups and also this SAP what we’ve done here at Lifesize which is really a bit of a turnaround. And so — really helping companies to understand the importance that customer obsession has to add to the overall bottom line.

Small Business Trends: So tell us about what you guys do over at Lifesize?

Amy Downs: We were the very first creators of HD video conferencing many moons ago. We started as a hardware company and we were acquired. Craig Malloy’s our CEO and started a company manufacturing amazing video conferencing end points and we were acquired by Logitech in 2009 for about four or five million dollars. Then in 2012 the market really started to shift. The on-premises infrastructure videoconferencing market was really declining and at the same time with consumer apps like Facebook and Skype people started to get used to this concept of talking with each other on video. So we noticed a shift in the market where B2B video conferencing was just taking off like crazy and we had to make a decision. Either we rode that trend line down by staying with our on premises solution or we made the shift and take our on premises solution and put that in the cloud and that’s what we did. So we did a complete overhaul of our product offering to a cloud based service.

We completely changed the entire structure of the organization and we knew as a cloud service provider that it’s so easy for customers in a cloud based world to just switch and Lifesize didn’t have a huge focus on customers.

Small Business Trends: Why did they bring you in as Chief Customer Success and Happiness Officer?

Amy Downs: We were a manufacturer of hardware devices in a three tier distribution model so we were very far separated from customers and so we really needed to bring in — what I call slow customer service DNA into the company. And Craig Malloy knew that. So I joined Lifesize back in May of 2014 because like you said there was a little bit of a challenge when it came to customer service.

Small Business Trends: What exactly was the main challenge?

Amy Downs: When we rolled out our on premises infrastructure solution I remember interviewing with Craig and he said we had a few product problems but nothing you can’t solve. And we’re also making this shift to a cloud based solution. And he says we really need a full focus on customer obsession.

I’m a huge believer that customer services does not just sit with customer support. It is a company based initiative. And so — we needed a culture of customer obsession in order to win in this market. And the reason I joined was because he understood the link between a very strong culture and being able to create customers for life.

One of the first things I asked was do we get feedback from our customers, do we have any voice of the customer program here at Lifesize. They said we actually sent out the support surveys. I said what do we do with them, and they were like oh really nothing.

So I remember looking through all the surveys and I was like oh boy. What it really told me was that there were three pillars I think to really fixing any problem you know. It all starts with the people and usually those folks just need to know a direction; what’s important. They need to know how the work they do connects with the customer, and how important that is to our business. And then they really need processes and systems to be successful.

And so really there were just a couple of what I would say simple things that we did. I needed everyone at Lifesize to know that Craig was like behind us right. That this was what we were building and the changing of our culture was a CEO driven initiative. And I had his full sponsorship and so we educated the entire company.

We brought in net promoter and we educated everybody on the importance of our customers. During our first town hall I asked who pays our paychecks. We got all these different answers from our employees, and no one said our customers. And I said no that’s who pays our paychecks that is who is putting food on our table and that’s who allows us to drive you know good cars and have you know have homes in and go do fun things and so you know I said it’s our jobs and our commitment back to that community and back to our customers.

To do the right thing by them and every single person at Lifesize plays a role in that. And so we started to put our net promoter program in place and gather that feedback. One of the challenge areas as I mentioned was our customer support department. So we made some really minor adjustments.

We put a couple of tools in place that helped that team to see when help tickets were coming in and how they were aging. We basically educated them on the philosophy and vision for what we wanted customer obsession to look like and ultimately really just built that team up. I would say they were shoved off in a corner and really very disconnected from the business. So my job was really to help them to understand how important they were and what a critical role they played in the success of our company and give them a couple of tools that they needed to be really successful.

And so we actually were recognized by winning a gold Stevie award for customer service team of the year for making the transformation. When we started as I mentioned our net promoter score was a negative four and today it is over 70.

If you set that vision and give the systems and processes they need to be successful – and just believe in them and let them know that they’re making a difference – that’s all it takes. That’s really it. That was the biggest piece of what we did.

Small Business Trends: What kind of impact has the rise in NPS had on retention rates or even revenue?

Amy Downs: We launched our cloud service as I mentioned really in late May of 2014. We are approaching 4,000 new customers. Our retention rates are fantastic. We actually measure customers on all sorts of factors and industry benchmarks on churn and ultimately what we call net positive ARR (Annual Recurring Revenue). And a lot of that again is just changing the culture of our company, not just with the customer support team but with the entire company. And bringing that voice of the customer program so that we continually drive change over time.

That change has helped us with reference customers. We see that 50 percent of the customers we ask to be references on are net promoter surveys say they are absolutely willing to be a reference and do case studies. So lots of lots of advocates and promoters out there and we actually are approaching 350 percent growth in all of our individual registered users making calls on the system, and 204 percent growth in our minutes call volumes year over year.

Small Business Trends: It sounds like as the business model has changed to being a cloud based subscription, the service model has become central to the overall business model.

Amy Downs: It’s such an important point because it is critical that it’s done in advance. I’ve been in this space for almost 10 years now and what I’ve noticed is I don’t think companies realize that until they’re in year two or three and they start to have a churn problem; and they’re like oh my gosh we have to go address the three things to build a great customer service team or we need to add a customer success function and we need to build out the journey.

And so it’s a super point because if you start with the end in mind you have to build a great experience that should be part of the product offering. And I think if companies think that way and really put a focus on how do we deliver great value and great service. And how do we promote that to our customers.

And ultimately from a customer standpoint if they’re making an investment in a product they want to know that not you know not only does that product serve their needs but how are you going to ensure that they are getting the value for the money that they spent and that you’re going to take care of them. And continually are providing information on new updates, new features, new things that we think will help our customers reach the goals they had when they first bought, or may provide them with additional value down the road that they weren’t even thinking of.


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I’m Ready to Make Cloud Part of My Offerings To Customers, What Do I Do Next?

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You've designed the business model. You’ve considered the ways in which the cloud can make you money. But is your company cloud ready?

So you’ve decided you’re ready to make the cloud part of your offerings to your customers.

But what’s your next step to make sure you ready for this new phase of your IT business?

Once you’ve come to that all-important decision, it’s time to really do a self-assessment, says Chaitra Vedullapalli, cloud architect and CMO of Meylah.

“I usually tell people, ‘Start with the self-assessment to know where you are to help you decide where you want to be in the cloud business,” says Vedullapalli.  “It’s very important to know where you are in terms of cloud readiness before you decide what needs to be done so you can go out and get the help you need.”  

Among the things you should determine are how you’re going to integrate cloud services into your other offerings? The business model has already been discussed. You’ve already taken into consideration the ways  in which the new business can make you money. Now what are the steps you need to take to offer these services?

Here are some further things to consider:

6 Areas that Distinguish Cloud Readiness

According to Vedullapalli, six distinct areas encompass the various aspects of cloud readiness:

  • Business Model. The cloud-ready business model is the foundation and a vital key to building a cloud practice. Therefore, establishing a clear business direction and strategic game plan is necessary to achieve the revenue growth.
  • Cloud Technology. Choosing a reliable and profitable cloud technology stack will help IT companies successfully transitions customer solutions to the cloud.
  • Talent Readiness. Identifying the right people to lead the cloud transformation initiative is critical. The cloud requires a different skill set than traditional IT, Vedullapalli said.
  • Product Management and Delivery. Cloud solutions call for constant care and feeding. If you are building a cloud product then establishing a cloud product management team and delivery team will ease the transformation. If you are stitching cloud products from multiple vendors to create a solution, then you need to have establish vendor relationships and product competency to support the customer needs on a regular basis.
  • Sales and Marketing. Acquiring customers demands that companies think differently about sales and marketing and focus on marketplaces, partnerships, proof of concept as an irresistible offer and use of digital media campaigns.
  • Customer Support. Cloud solutions require a new way of supporting customers. They focus on onboarding, addressing billing and provisioning questions, and working proactively with the product development team to address the customer challenges.

Differences Between Traditional IT and the Cloud

The shift from traditional, on-premise infrastructure to cloud-based solutions is seismic, bringing dramatic changes that touch each of the core areas mentioned above.

Cloud Ready - Differences Between Traditional IT and the Cloud

For example, licensing is no longer based on annual renewals but on pay-as-you-go subscriptions that provide recurring revenue. Software releases used to only take place bi-annually. Now, they occur quarterly or even monthly. In the old days, the time to adoption could take six months to a year. Now, it requires just hours or even minutes. With all the changes, it’s no wonder that IT providers have difficulty keeping up!

7 Steps to Becoming a Cloud Ready Business

Without a doubt, the invention of the cloud has disrupted the traditional IT business model and practice. And while IT companies know why they need to become cloud ready, what they don’t know is how.

That’s where Vedullapalli’s company, Meylah, can help. Meylah offers providers a 7-step roadmap to becoming a cloud-ready business. Companies that have adopted these steps have seen success in helping existing customers and attracting new ones.

According to Stana Steen, Founder of High Standards, a cloud ready company that has implemented the seven step roadmap “Cloud coaching is just what I needed to push my Microsoft Cloud business forward. I have been selling some Office 365 but the cloud coaching has enabled me to truly define the Microsoft offerings to be able to present them in a way to clients where they are not overwhelmed and they can really see the value in the products. You added accountability, which has forced me to focus on what I needed to do to move forward instead of letting my other responsibility push this planning to the back burner. My clients and future clients will benefit from my coaching as when I am well informed and understand our business model they receive better information, faster adoption, and better service.”

Cloud Ready - 7 Steps to Becoming a Cloud Ready Business

The steps are as follows:

  1. Determine Your Profitability. Conduct profitability planning to identify business models for building or scaling a cloud practice.
  2.  Assess Your Readiness. Next, assess your readiness to understand the areas where you should invest resources and budget. Microsoft and Meylah has partnered to provide a readiness assessment tool, to make the process easier and quicker for IT companies.
  3. Decide on Your Business Model and Strategy. Develop a business strategy and change plan for building or scaling your cloud practice. Vedullapalli recommends that you work with a company who can help you focus on building a cloud business model and identify the first 100 day action plan.
  4. Identify and Select Your Cloud Solutions. Establish product management functions for developing a cloud practice. Vedullapalli recommends that you sell a cloud stack from companies such as Microsoft, Google or VMWare plus a partner solution, which could include migration, business intelligence, ongoing maintenance, integration or customer training and support. “You are selling a comprehensive business solution that stitches a variety of products and services together, not just the cloud stack,” she said. “The more services you offer, the ‘stickier’ you become to your customers. Stitching software is the new game.”
  5. Build Cloud Solution Configurations. Identify, package and build cloud-based product integrations, applications and managed services.
  6. Create a Go to Market Plan. Develop go to market channels for promoting and distributing cloud applications and services. These could include marketplaces and via partners.
  7. Develop a Customer Support Plan. Establish a 24X7/365 customer support function to manage provisioning, billing, invoicing and activations.

“Going through the process of profitability planning, determining your readiness, building a business model, identifying the customer segment you want to reach and the products you will sell, will give you clear picture of how to make yours a cloud-ready business,” Vedullapalli said. “Follow through with building out a go-to-market strategy and customer service plan and your chances of success will improve greatly.”

To learn more about how to becoming a cloud-ready business, take the FREE Microsoft cloud readiness assessment at iamreadycloud. Those who take the assessment will also receive a free report detailing the cloud-ready journey.

Cloud Photo via Shutterstock

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Gee Whiz! G Suite is a Smarter Version of Google Apps for Work

Gee Whiz! Google G Suite is a Smarter Version of Apps for Work

The name Google Apps for Work was a mouthful. So was Google Apps for Your Domain.

With an energized marketing campaign, the company is trying a third time …

Meet G Suite.

No, it’s not a 90s corporate rap group.

It’s the same package of apps and cloud space small businesses can get for as low as $5 per month per user: Gmail, Drive, Docs, Hangouts, Slides, Sheets and Calendar. A premium version of G Suite is $10 per month per user.

Well, they’re the same apps, just a little smarter and more intuitive.

Kelly Campbell, senior director of G Suite marketing and Google Cloud, hints on the Google Cloud Official Blog that more is on the way for business users.

Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL) is implementing more machine learning into G Suite. This machine learning will analyze your actions within all the connected suite apps and begin to work in the background.

The company’s vice president of apps and Google Cloud, Prabhakar Raghavan, says in the post that the aim of this endeavor is to make G Suite more a part of your team, helping manage the repetitive machine-like tasks that eat up a lot of your team’s time.

Google has already been implementing learning technology into its apps with tools like auto translation — recognizing a foreign language and already having the text translated for you — and Smart Reply — ready-made short email replies to messages that need only that.

Machine Learning in Google G Suite

Here are some of the latest machine learning tasks that Google will be implementing across the newly-branded G Suite:

Quick Access

Start the timer when you go to look for a file in Drive. You just had it open but closed it and need it again. Tick, tick, tick.

Google G Suite - Quick Access

Applying machine learning to Drive, Android devices will know which files you’re looking for and have them front-and-center.

A Smart Calendar

Google has already been implementing learning into the Calendar app. You might notice directions to a usual haunt appearing on your Android phone at a particular time each week.

Smarter calendars working with your small business team will let you know when everyone’s available to meet or even where a meeting can be held based on your previous activity.

Data from Your Spreadsheets

In order to spot trends and get analysis via charts made from all your data, you’d ordinarily have to be able to write a code to build that chart.

Well, Google Sheets with machine learning understands the files you’ve created and makes charts based on them on its own.

Google Docs with a Virtual Team Member

Machine learning applied to the Google Docs platform provides suggested search topics and sites that may add substance to the documents you’re creating. Hitting ‘Explore’ will open this function in Google Docs.

Google G Suite - Google Docs with a Virtual Team Member

Formatted Presentations

Usually a great slide presentation is only great after about a day of formatting all the slides so they play perfectly.

Google is applying machine learning to Slides to help format slides automatically. The ‘Explore’ feature in Slides provides the same function it does in Docs and Sheets, too.

Images: Google

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50 Small Business Ideas for the Faith Based Economy

50 Faith Based Business Ideas for Entrepreneurs

Religion is big business. In fact, a recent report suggests that the faith based economy brings in about $1.2 trillion a year. An industry this large, of course, has plenty of room for growth. Here are some business ideas for entrepreneurs seeking to get into the faith based economy.

Faith Based Business Ideas for Entrepreneurs

Religious Gift Shop Operator

You can open a store with little trinkets or gifts that are religious in nature, including decorative items, personalized Bibles or other written works.

Kosher or Halal Caterer

For those religions that have certain restrictions or guidelines in terms of food, you could start a specialty catering company that offers dishes with those specific guidelines in mind.

Kosher or Halal Food Stand Operator

Or if you are more interested in a smaller food operation, you could start a small food stand or truck that offers Kosher or Halal options.

Wedding Officiant

Weddings are often observed as religious events. So getting ordained or registered as a wedding officiant can afford you the opportunity to start a business performing wedding services.

Religious Dating Website Operator

Faith Based Business Ideas - Religious Dating Website

If you’re looking to start a business that’s mostly based online, you can start a dating website aimed at helping people of a certain faith group find matches that share their values.

Author

There are plenty of opportunities out there for authors and writers to build businesses around their words. You can even build a business as an author that writes about religious topics.

Religious Blogger

Or you can blog about faith to share your writings with the world online.

Christian Bookstore Owner

Christian bookstores sell Bibles and other religious texts aimed at Christian consumers.

Meditation Coach

Buddhism, Hinduism and other religions practice meditation as a way of connecting with their spirituality. So you can help others of your faith practice meditation as a coach.

Seller of Meditation Items

There are also beads, incense and other supplies that you can use as part of a meditation practice. So if you make any of these items, you can build a business selling them to others who practice religious meditation.

Kosher or Halal Daycare Operator

For those who have Kosher or Halal diets, finding childcare that caters to them can be a challenge. So if you offer day care services that include food options aligning with these diets, you could attract a significant religious client base.

Religious Tutor

For those students who attend religious schools, you can offer tutoring services to help them learn about religious topics.

Bible Verse Sign Maker

There are plenty of different ways you can use art to showcase religion or spirituality. You can get creative with lettering and draw or paint Bible verses or other religious sayings onto canvas, wood or other surfaces and then sell them online or at craft shows.

Greeting Card Publisher

You can also showcase your design skills by creating greeting cards for things like holidays, weddings, baptisms and other faith based occasions.

Gospel Musician

If you’re more musically inclined, you can start a band or work as a solo artist playing gospel or religious inspired music.

Wedding Band Leader

You can also offer your services to couples getting married, either working at the ceremonies or receptions.

Holiday Décor Shop Owner

Faith Based Business Ideas - Holiday Décor Shop

There are plenty of religious holidays throughout the year. So you can sell décor and other celebratory items related to those different holidays.

Holiday Food Shop Operator

You can also start a business intended to sell food items for holiday dinners or other special occasions.

Religious Publisher

If you want to spread the word about your faith or tell stories related to your religion, you could start a publication like a magazine or physical newsletter and sell or offer ad space.

Marriage Counselor

For people who want to work on their marriages in a faith based setting, you could offer relationship counseling services.

Online Newsletter Publisher

You could also start an online newsletter with information about your faith to circulate to a community online.

Religious Clothing Store Owner

You can set up a shop, either in your local community or online, where you sell clothing items with religious sayings or images on them.

Custom Embroiderer

Or you could offer to embroider personalized messages, including those with faith based messages on them, onto customers’ clothing or other personal items.

Wedding Dress Seller

Another wedding focused business you could start would be creating and selling wedding dresses, either traditional white gowns or those aimed at other types of religious ceremonies.

Wedding Dress Alterations Provider

Faith Based Business Ideas - Wedding Dress Alterations

You could also offer your services altering gowns for weddings.

Tuxedo Rental Service Operator

Tuxedos are also a big part of many people’s wedding day. So you could start a tuxedo rental service for grooms and groomsmen.

Specialty Florist

In addition, you can start a florist business to help people design beautiful floral arrangements for weddings, funerals and other occasions.

Wedding Planner

You can also offer your services as a wedding planner to help people plan their religious services and other important details of their wedding days.

Religious Jewelry Store Owner

Jewelers and handmade artisans, you can start a jewelry business centered around pieces that have special religious meaning, ranging from cross necklaces to Buddhist beaded jewelry.

Family Friendly Video Game Creator

There are a lot of video games out there, but not many that offer family friendly themes and faith based messages.

Family Friendly Movie Creator

Likewise, you can build a business by producing family friendly movies or videos that offer faith based messages or lessons for kids and families.

Children’s Book Author

There are also plenty of opportunities for you to create children’s books with religious themes and lessons.

Religious Illustrator

You could also offer services as an illustrator to depict images in children’s books or in other religious materials.

Handmade Seller

There are plenty of other opportunities for you to get creative and make handmade items with religious themes to sell online or at craft fairs.

Religious Influencer

You can also build an online business based around new media. Become an online influencer by posting about religious topics on social media or elsewhere. And then you can potentially work with other religious businesses or organizations to spread the word about various programs.

Religious Podcaster

Or you can get a little more specific and start a podcast aimed at talking about topics related to faith and religion.

Travel Agency Operator for Religious Groups

There are plenty of missions, youth groups and other religious groups that travel to other parts of the world together. So you can build a business as a travel agent that specializes in planning those trips.

Spiritual Artist

If you’re an artistically inclined entrepreneur, you can sell paintings inspired by religious stories or even teach art classes with a spiritual twist.

Religious Life Coach

For those who want to help others manage various aspects of life, you can offer life coaching services and emphasize faith as a strong part of your coaching program.

Cooking Class Instructor

If you enjoy cooking and want to teach others about it, you can offer cooking classes in your local area that focus on Kosher or Halal options.

Kosher or Halal Recipe Blogger

Or you can start a blog to create and post some Kosher or Halal recipes with an online audience.

Family Therapist

For those trained in counseling and therapy, you can offer counseling services to families or couples with a strong emphasis on faith and spirituality.

Religious Candle Maker

Candles are a big part of many religious services and traditions. So you can make and sell prayer candles or those meant to go in menorahs or other religious items.

Faith Based Thrift Store Operator

Thrift stores have become popular business models for faith based organizations. You can open a thrift store and accept donations from people in the community and then donate some of your profits or any unused items to religious charities.

Gift Basket Arranger

Gift baskets are popular for a lot of holidays and religious celebrations. So you can make and sell specialty gift baskets to customers looking to honor those special occasions.

Yoga Instructor

You might know yoga as a popular type of exercise. But it’s actually an important spiritual practice in Hinduism, Buddhism and a few other religious groups.

Christmas Tree Farmer

Christmas is a busy time for many businesses. But Christmas tree farmers do pretty much all of their business around the holiday season.

Ethical Business Coach

There are tons of business coaches out there. But you can create a unique niche for yourself by offering your services as an ethical business coach that works primarily with other religious or spiritual business owners.

Non-Profit Fundraiser

Fundraising is an important skill for many entrepreneurs. And if you are able to help non-profits and other faith based organizations raise money, you can build a successful business doing that.

Socially Conscious Business Owner

Even if you have a business idea that’s totally different than what’s on the list, you can add a charitable component to any business where you donate money or products to religious groups or faith based causes.

Church CandlesDating WebsiteHoliday ShopDress Alterations Photos via Shutterstock

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5 Advanced Local PPC Techniques

5 Advanced Local PPC Techniques

Unless you run a huge corporation with locations in multiple countries, and your products and services are available globally, it’s more likely that you want to reach a certain area with your advertising. If you run a bakery in Chicago, then you want to reach people who are actually in the Chicago area that can come to your bakery. You have no need to advertise to people in France, who will most likely never buy your cookies or cupcakes.

This is where local PPC comes in. Local PPC, also known as geo-targeting, gives you the ability in AdWords to target your ads to people who are only in the area that you specify. Like we said earlier, you don’t want to be wasting your ad budget on those who are not in your target area. This is essential for location-based companies to make the most of their budget. Not only does it make more sense, but you should also see an increase in your ROAS due to an increased chance of the audience being able to use your services or products.

Local PPC Tips

Mobile Preference

Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL) has stated that “more Google searches take place on mobile devices than on computers in 10 countries.” This momentum toward mobile has a ton of implications for retailers, especially those who want to run local PPC to get people into their store front. Like we said earlier, people search when they are on the go. If they are out and about, and decide they want to do a little shopping, they are going to search something like “retail stores around me.”

In order to reach people like this, you need to make sure that your website and ads are ready for mobile use. It is critical that your website be mobile responsive. Mobile phones aren’t going anywhere. You need to be able to serve those audience members. You also want to make sure that your campaigns target all devices. You want to make sure that your ads are being served to mobile devices. You can also have a mobile preferred ad. Make sure, with a mobile preferred ad, that your ad copy has a shorter headline in order to cater to how ads are displayed on mobile phones.

Location Extensions

5 Advanced Local PPC Techniques - Location Extensions 

The first thing that you want to do when you are working on a local PPC campaign is to make sure that you utilize location extensions in your ads. Location extensions are a feature that allow you to show your address, phone number, hours and other information on your ad. For mobile ads, you also have the option to include a button that gives customers the ability to call you directly or get directions to your location.

This extension is important because it encourages searchers to visit your business in person, instead of just scrolling past your ad. One thing to keep in mind: Location extensions are based off of your Google My Business profile, and you have to link at least one business location to your AdWords account for these extensions to work. Therefore, you want to make sure that your Google My Business account is up to date and accurate for all of your locations.

Call Extensions

5 Advanced Local PPC Techniques - Call Extensions 

In addition to location extensions, you also want to make sure that you are utilizing call extensions, which shows your phone number on your ad. This displays a clickable call button on the ad, which encourages searchers to call your business, especially people who are on the go.

Call extensions have a lot of different features that you can play around with. You can set them up to show only when your business can take calls. You can give preference to mobile phones, which makes it less likely that it will show up on a laptop or desktop. You also have the ability to use either your phone number or a Google Forwarding number. By using a Google Forwarding number, you get more insights into the performance of the call extensions, which allows you to count phone calls as conversions. And, for all of this, clicks for your phone number also cost the same as headline clicks.

Geo-Targeting

5 Advanced Local PPC Techniques - Geo Targeting

Geo-targeting can be another great technique to help out with local PPC. Google gives you a lot of room to play with, as to where you want to target your PPC ads geographically. If you only serve the Chicago area, then you can set your ad up to only serve people in that geographical area. If you serve the entire state of Illinois, then you can target that state individually. If you serve multiple locations or states, then you can set your ads up to only target the locations that you serve.

In addition to being able to target people in certain geographical locations, you can also exclude areas. If you set up your ads, and then notice that you are getting impressions and clicks from areas that you don’t serve — for instance, France — then you can add them to your excluded area.

Keywords with Geo-Locations

While geo-targeting can be a great tool for local businesses, it doesn’t always work. It is dependent on how people are searching for your business. For some local businesses, it would be more appropriate to limit targeting not by the location, but by keyword only.

For example, let’s say you are a cable company in Charleston. In this situation, you might want to create separate campaigns to target people searching for “cable companies Charleston,” rather than only using geo-targeting. Most people know that cable services are limited to an area, so they might be more likely to include a geo-modifier in their query. The cable company can then pick up more traffic and even use this as a competitive strategy.

Pay Per Click Photo via Shutterstock

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Here’s the Downside of Taking Ownership

Awkward Introductions Business Cartoon

Sometimes the hardest part of writing a caption is writing a sufficiently blasé name. Names in cartoons need to be unique but generic at the same time. It can take a while.

Here’s some names I rejected for this cartoon and why:

John Johnson (Vague, but repetitive)
John Thompson (Too rhyme-y)
Tom Wilson (Name of Ziggy cartoonist)
Will Jones (Sounds like a question)
William Jones (Generic but formal)
Don Jones (Remembered I knew someone by that name in college)
Tom Jones (Seriously?)
Joan Thompson (Good, but would have to redraw as female)
Bruce Kent (Combination of Batman’s and Superman’s secret identity)
Ignor of the Treelands, the Wise & Terrible (Note to self: repurpose in future cartoon)

See how hard it is? Thank goodness for Phil Goodwin.

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Take These 5 Steps Toward Refining Your Writing Process

Refine Your Content Creation Task with These 5 Writing Process Steps

Many of us writers are pretty particular when it comes to how we piece together our writing samples, especially when it comes to digital rhetoric. Content creation is something that becomes routinized, but getting too stuck in the same groove can lead to writer’s block, low motivation, and an inability to produce the quantity of content needed.

In my experience, one of the best ways to avoid such issues is by trying out new content creation processes that make you more aware of each step. Every few months when I burn myself out on writing things the same way over and over, I try and change the writing process to hit the refresh button. Check out my current streamlined writing process and give it a try if you’re in a writing rut.

Writing Process Steps

Discover It

Step one is to find something to write about, and Reddit is one of my favorite resources to use for this. Users ask questions, share ideas, and comment on trends for all industries in a very organic way. This facilitates actual discovery of topics at a base level really easily and gives a range of angles on various topics you can cover.

Regardless of where you do your discovering, make sure you carve out time for it. Having the freedom to poke around and lose yourself in topic exploration is an important part of lighting that writer’s fire.

Research It

Once I settle on a topic, I research it to see how many times it’s been covered. This is an important part of the process, because you should really focus on creating content that is unique and entirely your own. If a topic is over-saturated on the internet, the chances that it’ll pick up much traffic are starting pretty low.

Research is also important because it gives your writing some substance. Referencing studies, surveys and other information in your own writing piece can reinforce the point you’re trying to get across while also making you an authority on the matter.

Format It

Before I write a single word on a content piece, I decide what the format is going to be: lists, bullet points, infographics, surveys, checklists, whatever. This helps me firstly because it gives me some direction on how to approach the topic while I’m writing it. I wouldn’t write a think piece the same way I’d put together a tutorial. It also keeps me focused on utility, because I’m actively transforming what I’m focused on into a usable piece of content that others will actually be able to use.

Outline It

For me, the single most important step in my writing process is creating an outline. I always do it. It always ends up being snippets of writing organized in the order they’ll be in when the piece is complete. Getting those key arguments, ideas and steps out saves me a lot of time because later on all I have to do is connect the ideas together.

To create an outline, put your main points on paper and try and organize them in a way that makes sense to you. Break each chunk of text down, see what you have and figure out what you need to fill in the blanks.

Put It All Together

Finally, go back to that outline and fill in the blanks with writing that’s been reinforced by your research. Connecting your ideas and bringing them to life is the fun part, because your content piece will shift from blocks of writing to a comprehensive content piece. After you put it all together, go back over it to make sure it’s polished and communicating exactly what it is you want to say.

Writing/a> Photo via Shutterstock

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8 Questions to Ask Before Redesigning Your Website

Should I Redesign My Website? 8 Questions to Ask Before Redesigning Your Website

If your website isn’t gaining traffic, actively engaging customers, or targeting the right personas, it might be time for a redesign. This is particularly true if your site’s been online for more than a year and isn’t updated frequently. It’s important to stay relevant — nothing screams “behind the times” like an outdated front-end website — but redesigns can be time-intensive and costly, even if you know exactly what you’re doing.

Should I Redesign My Website?

Here are eight questions to ask yourself before you launch into a website redesign.

When Was the Last Time I Updated My Website?

This is a huge indicator of the time you’ll need to devote to a redesign. If your website hasn’t been updated in over a year, chances are you’ll be spending some serious time on content alone. The more outdated your website, the less you’ll show up in search results; that means reduced traffic, reduced exposure, reduced revenue. On the other hand, if you’re pretty diligent about content updates, you’re looking at a shorter timeline devoted to design and optimization.

What’s Wrong With My Current Website?

Old layouts, images, content and resources immediately date your website in the eyes of the visitor. A bad hyperlink or a broken image can turn a hot lead sour in seconds, and outdated business info means confusion for customers and trouble for you. Make a list of all the problems with your site, then start drafting up solutions.

How Much Do I Hope to Accomplish?

Are you looking to revamp or rebrand? State what you’d like to achieve and be liberal with your estimates. If you have a clear strategy in mind from the get-go, you’ll gain far more from the work you put in. A simple content revamp may take hours or days, while a full rebrand could take weeks or months.

What Do I Like About Other Websites?

Compare your site to those of your competitors. Do they have a more modern design? A wider array of features? Simpler contact forms? You can even visit the most popular websites of any industry and see what they’re doing differently. What can you take and adapt from these sites to suit your brand?

What is My Overall Business Goal?

Are you looking to convert leads faster? Increase traffic or purchases? Draw visitors to your physical store? It’s unlikely you’ll be able to achieve all of those without seeking out some extra help, so identify your biggest priority and do everything you can to execute on that. There are plenty of free online resources that can help you improve your site’s SEO, which is where any entrepreneur should start.

Have My Offerings Changed?

We’ve covered this a little, but it warrants repeating. If your product or service has changed at all, you must address that on your website. This is an obvious consideration for eCommerce sites, but brick and mortars often underestimate their customers’ expectations. Web visitors want their online experience to translate into their in-store experience — and if products or services are misrepresented online, you’re setting yourself up to lose business.

Can I Analyze My Website’s Success?

Most web builders offer built-in analytics or integrations. This data isn’t just important to online retailers. It can help small businesses pinpoint what content is drawing traffic and where visitors are falling off most. Those insights are pivotal to not just your redesign, but your business as a whole. Visitor demographics paint a real picture of the online community that you can’t see clearly offline. Examine your data and make sure it lends to every decision you make.

Most Importantly … Is My Site Mobile Friendly?

People expect websites to perform just as well on their smartphones as they do on their desktops. Sites that aren’t mobile-optimized are asking for extinction these days. They handle poorly, load slowly, and look awful on most screens. Developing a clean, user-forward, mobile-friendly site should be your chief priority if you’re setting out to redesign anyway.

Web Design Photo via Shutterstock

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