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. So the company had to make some concessions to appease governments from both the U.S. and China. In addition, the recent Brexit vote also had an impact. Since the vote changed the value of the pound, Anheuser-Busch had to go in with a higher offer to make up for it.

Of course, all of this has nothing to do with small business. Or does it? For small businesses, it’s unlikely that you’ll be a part of many deals or acquisitions that have anti-trust implications. But there could be other outside factors that have unexpected consequences or effects on your business dealings.

Business Negotiation Skills are Key

Closing deals beneficial to your business while appeasing partners and clients who are also negotiating for their own best interest is almost never a straightforward process. You have to be able to adapt to a number of different situations, many of which will be outside of your control. But the key is knowing your limits and how far you’re willing to go to get the deal done. You might also have to demonstrate some extreme patience, just as Anheuser-Busch has had to do over the past year.

Anheuser-Busch Photo via Shutterstock

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

One Quarter of All Small Business Cash Reserves Would Last Less Than 2 Weeks

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.

The longer a small business goes without conducting routine business, the closer they get to shutting their doors for good. To be exact, the average small business has just 27 days of cash buffer on hand at any given time.

That’s according to data gathered by JP Morgan Chase as part of its “Cash is King: Flows, Balances, and Buffer Days” study.

The study was possible thanks to data JP Morgan Chase gathered from 470 million anonymized and aggregated transactions conducted by 597,000 small businesses from February to October 2015.

A reserve of just 27 days means most small businesses are operating on a month-to-month leash.

Further, the data reveals that about half of all small businesses have between a month and two months of cash reserve.

Only one-quarter of small businesses hold a cash reserve of more than two months and another quarter are surviving quite perilously. The study shows that 25 percent of businesses have reserves that’ll last less than 2 weeks.

A Look at the Small Business Cash Reserves Crisis

“It is well known that small businesses are a critical driver of economic growth, but the consistency of their growth is in question if they’re living month-to-month. Before today, we had an incomplete view of the health of the small business sector,” said Diana Farrell, President and CEO of the JPMorgan Chase Institute. “Our data provides a new and more complete picture of small businesses and helps advocates develop policies to support their long-term growth.”

Here are some of the key takeaways from the JP Morgan Chase data:

Though the actual amount of cash varies by industry — starkly in some cases — small businesses across the board, on average, have about equal cash outflow and inflows daily. That makes it fairly difficult to build up any sort of reserve.

It seems that the likelihood that your small business will be interrupted for an extended period of time grows more every day. Perhaps that’s cliche or presumptuous but preparing for that proverbial rainy day or rainy month, in this case, seems like a good idea.

Outside of the disaster or tumult, other events could cause your business to stay closed for a longer period of time. The worst part of an unexpected disaster is that it’s — well — unexpected.

Knowing this, it’s imperative for small business owners to prepare for times like this immediately. Since it’s difficult to save cash, any sort of windfall or even just a brisk business day should have small business owners putting some cash aside in case of trouble.

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What Is Medium and How Can It Be Used for Business?

What Is Medium and How Can It Be Used for Business?

Launched in August 2012, Medium has been called a lot of things, including a blogging platform, a blend of publisher and platform, and an online magazine, to name a few.

But what is it, really?

What is Medium, Really?

Imagine an online platform that allows you to write your learnings, thoughts and tips and share them with a built-in audience for potential viral traffic. Imagine an easy to start blog with zero overhead. Imagine an upscale content management platform and a really great writing app. It’s slick and snappy and worth a deeper look for both first-time bloggers, small business owners and digital marketers alike.

How It Works

Medium accounts are free and open to anyone (or any brand) to start writing.

Anything goes on the platform posts ranging from short-form to long-form, teasers to full posts, light to deep and the topics cover just about anything.

Signing up for an account is super easy. You just have to link the platform to your Twitter account (either company, brand or personal) and get to personalize your profile by clicking the “M” on the top left corner of your homepage.

Your profile thumbnail is pulled from Twitter, but you can change/edit the photo that your readers see when they click on your name. You can also edit your display name and your description. It’s always a good idea to use the description to link back to your blog or website.

You will also notice three sub-sections on your Medium homepage. First is the Top 100, which is a list of the 100 most read posts of the month. You will also encounter your reading lists, which are basically a list of content that’s recommended by the service based on the people and collections you follow. Finally, the third sub-section that you will encounter is Bookmarks, which gives you a chance to save stories that you would like to read later.

Ready to Start Writing?

Click on “Write Story” to start creating a new post. You will be taken to a pared-down editor that asks you to enter a header image, article title, and subtitle and then to compose a story.

Place your cursor just below the “Subtitle” area and a plus sign will appear when clicked. A toolbar will appear allowing you to embed online content or insert an image.

One of the platform’s novel features is the ability to create notes at paragraph level so your readers can always comment on specific sections that resonate with them. You can create a note by clicking the plus sign floating inside a speech bubble at the right side of the page.

Medium also gives you a chance to share drafts of your stories with your community before you publish them. This allows you to get feedback that can help you improve your copy before it is published.

To share your draft, click the “Share Draft” button that appears on the upper right-hand corner.

Submit your published story to collections, which are basically themed categories that organize relevant articles in one place. Medium readers always follow collections that interest them like Editor’s Picks, Consumer Technology or IMHO, which makes it easy for the you to deliver to your intended niche audience.

Submitting your story is easy. Find the collections that best fit your story and click the “submit your story” button available in the upper right corner.

Medium Best Practices

  1. Write a headline that best reveals your story.
  2. Use a high-quality photo (minimum 900 pixels, or 900Ă—900) for the top of the story.
  3. Get feedback on your draft before publishing.
  4. Stories of 400 words and up have generally been the most popular. There is however no designated word count.
  5. Submit to relevant Medium collections (now called “publications”). 

Analytics

Medium analytics will tell you the number of people interacting with your stories.

This is available under “Stats” on the left-hand sidebar. You will be able to see the number of people you are following and those following you back. You will also be furnished with the total number of reads, views and recommendations for your stories.

Medium for Business

Medium offers businesses with a lot of potential benefits.

One that is very obvious is that the platform relieves you of the pressure of having to setup and maintain your own blog. You also don’t have to have a budget to start using the site.

More so, Medium puts your content in front of your target audience eyes as it centers on sorting stories into themed publications. This means that many people reading from a specific publication would be interested in what the featured businesses have to offer.

Summary

Medium is a really cool mix of social reading experiences and collaborative software.

It is of course a free and simple place to get going for anyone who is just starting to blog.

The platform also offers some really neat and well thought-out ways for brands and businesses to expand their reach to a built-in audience.

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30 Tips to Keep Yourself Positive as an Entrepreneur

30 Tips On How to Stay Positive at Work as an Entrepreneur

Running a business is hard. So staying positive as an entrepreneur isn’t always easy. But there are some things you can do to improve your mindset and stay positive while running a business. Here are 30 simple tips.

How to Stay Positive at Work as an Entrpreneur

Remember Your Purpose

When you get negative thoughts as an entrepreneur, they tend to distract you from your main purpose. So if you can really focus back on that purpose, it can help you put things in perspective and realize that some of those concerns or issues aren’t as devastating as you previously thought.

Change Your Focus

Or you could take a different approach and simply shift your focus for a short time. If a certain task or direction just isn’t working for you, try a new one and it could improve your outlook.

Look at Your Goals

You can also get some of your focus back and improve your outlook by simply looking back at some of your main goals for your business. So keep them written down somewhere and bring them out when you need an extra boost.

Talk to a Mentor

Having a business mentor who has been through tough times and knows how to get through them can be invaluable during your inevitable business struggles.

Take a Break from Social Media

Social media can be a great tool. But it can also lead some entrepreneurs into the comparison trap. So if you find yourself constantly using social media to compare your progress to that of other businesses, you may need to take a break from it.

See Others as Motivational

Or you could use the opportunity to see the success of other entrepreneurs as a motivating factor instead. Look at their success and see that it is possible and then use that to push your business to the next level.

Look Back at Your Progress

Looking back at your own business on occasion can also be a motivating factor. If you’re able to see how far you’ve come, it can change your mindset going forward.

Move On from Failure

However, it’s not always a great idea to dwell on the past. When you experience failure, which is inevitable, you need to find a way to move onto the next task quickly instead of letting the failure ruin your mindset.

Write Down What You Learned

One easy way you can put failure in perspective is to write down some lessons you learned from the experience. This can show you that even though you failed, you did gain something. And it can also help you continue moving forward.

Spend Time with Loved Ones

Starting a business can take up a lot of time and energy. But it’s a good idea to regularly step back and remember the reasons you started in the first place. So spend time with your family and other loved ones regularly to improve your mindset and stay positive.

Talk to Your Team

Your team members can also help you potentially break out of a negative funk. Talk to them about ideas for the business along with their personal and professional goals.

Talk to Your Customers

You can also reach out to your customers from time to time to see how they’ve been affected by your business and remind yourself why you do what you do.

Do the Hardest Work First

If your negative outlook can be attributed to overwhelm, then sometimes the best thing you can do is just get the work done. Focus on the most difficult tasks first so that you can get them out of the way and reduce your overwhelm quickly.

Appreciate Your Freedom

Being an entrepreneur means that you’re the boss. That doesn’t mean you can necessarily do whatever you want all the time. But you do get some freedom. So realizing that can really help you stay positive during difficult times.

Make a Plan

Negativity and overwhelm can sometimes also be attributed to a lack of direction. If this is the case for you, then you need to sit down and actually map out a plan for the next few months or years of your business. Having even a general idea where you’re going can really be a benefit.

Take a Break

Or you might just need to step back for a little bit to refocus. Take a short vacation or just simply unplug for a long weekend.

Reward Yourself

When you do get things accomplished in your business, it’s important to celebrate that in some way. Map out a small rewards system for yourself to stay motivated and positive during the daily grind.

Reward Your Team

You can also apply a similar awards system to your team. Keeping them motivated and happy can improve the overall mood around your office and keep everyone at your business more positive.

Make a Game of It

You can even appy some gaming theory to getting things done. Create a points system for larger tasks or spur some friendly competition between coworkers to keep everyone motivated and engaged.

Get Some Exercise

Regular exercise gives you endorphins, which can help you stay positive on a daily basis. So even short bursts of exercise a few times a week can make a big difference.

Connect with Other Entrepreneurs

Sharing the struggles of entrepreneurship can be a good way to clear your mind and move forward. But talking to your family and friends about those struggles might not have the same effect as talking to someone who can really relate. So find some other entrepreneurs to connect with, either in your local community or online.

Write Down What You’re Thankful For

Along with the struggles, there are plenty of great things to be thankful for when it comes to running a business. So instead of just forgetting those positives and dwelling on what needs to be done, take a moment out of your day and write down some things you have to be thankful for.

Thank Others

You can also show that gratitude to others by simply saying “thank you” or writing short thank you notes.

Try Out Meditation

Meditation can be another way to sort of clear your mind and stay focused on the positives throughout your day.

Use Daily Affirmations

Or you can try a more vocal approach like daily affirmations. State positive things about yourself, and the positive attitude could follow.

Seek Out Inspiration

If you’re feeling uninspired in your business, just waiting around for inspiration to strike can seem like a lifetime. So seek out some inspiration through reading, going outdoors or even browsing sites like Pinterest.

Get Some Hobbies

Having some hobbies outside of work can also help you stay positive and inspired on a regular basis.

Educate Yourself

You can also choose to expand your mind through regular training or education programs, which can lead to new ideas and motivation.

Remind Yourself What Make You Happy

No matter how many great habits you build around your business, there are going to be times when you feel a little down. So it can be a good idea to have a folder on your computer or even a physical list or scrapbook that you can pull out during those tough times to remind yourself of what makes you happy.

Visualize Your Goals

You can also regularly remind yourself of your main goals by keeping them visible in your workspace. Create a list or post them on a board in your office so you’re constantly reminded why you’re doing what you do.

Woman on Phone Photo via Shutterstock

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Xero Announces Improved Integration with PayPal

Xero and Paypal Integration Announced along with Other Improvements

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.

Xero and Paypal Integration, More

The company also announced support for Braintree payment services and made online invoice pages responsive to the size of the viewer’s screen.  But if you thought the company was done for the year, think again! Xero just announced a host of improvements, including a new checkout experience for your customers with PayPal (NASDAQ:PYPL) Express Checkout, automatic matching of payments and fees against an invoice and real-time update on the status of an invoice in Xero.

Other changes to expect include:

Immediate Acknowledgment of Customers’ Payments

Xero’s integration with PayPal has simplified your customer’s invoice payment process. It only takes a couple of clicks. Once your customer pays, your online invoice automatically updates showing the payment, the company says.

Payment is Reflected in Xero

All payments are also automatically reflected in Xero so you do not have to keep wondering about the status of your invoice. Receipt of payment will show up in two places: in the “receive money” transaction field and in the history and notes of the invoice.

Automatic Management of PayPal and Stripe Fees

The cloud-based accounting software also automatically manages Stripe and PayPal fees and you can now see this in the history and notes section of the invoice. There is a link that leads to the transaction under “spend money” and you will also be able to see the corresponding payment ID from Stripe or PayPal.

Xero also automatically matches PayPal fees and payments, ready for fast reconciliation.

The beauty of all this is that the Xero upgrade is free. You only need to update your settings in payment services.

The free upgrade offers you with a powerful and integrated solution so you can focus more on delighting your customers, making sales and getting paid quickly.

Image: PayPal

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Here’s How to Find the Right Mix and Fine-Tune Your Offer

lauren-pawell

Have you ever wondered if your strange collection of skills and interests could be woven together to build a profitable business?

If you have, you’ll love today’s Hero’s Journey article.

Lauren Pawell is a rare breed: she has a background in development and marketing. That’s a combination you don’t see every day!

Some people might have encouraged Lauren to choose one field or the other. But she persisted and has built a business that artfully combines her many passions.

Lauren’s story is this month’s Hero’s Journey feature. We’re tapping the collective wisdom of our community members to bring you reports from the front lines of the content marketing world. See all the Hero’s Journey posts here.

Read on as Lauren shares what she’s learned over the years and how you can use her hard-earned wisdom in your own business.

Building a one-stop revenue-building shop

Lauren Pawell: What sets Bixa Media apart is my background in both development and marketing. This allows me to sit at the intersection of business, technology and design.

We help entrepreneurs turn their WordPress and Shopify websites into revenue-generating powerhouses. We do that through a mixture of website design and development, content marketing, search engine optimization, paid advertising, and online reputation management.

Not only can we write killer copy, but we can also evaluate your technology options, decide which is best for your needs, and build everything for you, while keeping your business objectives at the forefront of the process.

I find our clients really value having a partner who can help them from A to Z.

Perhaps more importantly, we’re able to tell our clients where not to waste their dollars and effort, and where to focus their resources.

Even if this doesn’t always match what a client had in mind, our honest feedback resonates with business owners.

We offer two types of services:

  • 1:1 online marketing services: For medium-sized businesses who are looking to outsource their online marketing, we offer a variety of services designed to amplify their online exposure and generate more customers.
  • DIY programs: For small businesses or solopreneurs who don’t yet have the resources to outsource their marketing, we offer educational marketing programs through Websites That Generate.

My business is primarily online, although I do plenty of networking offline — I find they go hand-in-hand. The offline contact tends to tip the scale in our favor, especially when it comes to securing large contracts.

Putting the brakes on spinning wheels

Lauren Pawell: I started my business for two reasons.

First and foremost, after working in marketing overseas for a few years, I saw so many small-to-medium-sized businesses with a wealth of online opportunity at their fingertips. But they just didn’t have the right guidance.

As a result, they were spinning their wheels in so many different directions with little-to-no impact.

I wanted to help them pick that low-hanging digital fruit, so that they could continue to grow their businesses and entrepreneurial dreams.

So, in 2011, I moved back to the United States, booked my first client at a friend’s birthday party (notice that offline touchpoint!), and haven’t looked back since.

The best part of that story? Our first client still works with us today and has gone from a one-man business to a 20+ person company. Now that is why I started Bixa!

I don’t share the second reason with many people, but I feel it will resonate with the Copyblogger audience.

In 2011, I had been through one-too-many bad bosses and was tired of not being in charge of my own destiny, from both a personal and career standpoint. That freedom I craved drove me to start my own company.

My driving motivation is to help other entrepreneurial spirits achieve the same freedom I have.

Conversion experiments that paid off

Lauren Pawell: Converting cold traffic into qualified leads is a finicky beast, especially when it comes to selling online education.

It’s not hard to understand why — cold traffic doesn’t immediately pull out their wallets. It took quite a bit of trial and error to dial in our lead-nurturing process, but we did it.

A few highlights:

We use Facebook ads as our hook

A new email subscriber generated from a Facebook ad was not likely to immediately jump up and buy our program. However, when we started to establish trust and demonstrate our authority through a few different mediums, we were far more successful.

Here’s what we do:

First, we run the new subscriber through a long welcome series over email. We send them 7 emails over 20 days, all of which include a lot of copy. It helps us weed out unqualified leads.

While in many approaches we did not want a lot of unsubscribes, in this case, we welcome them. It allows us to filter out anyone who doesn’t immediately love us.

After this, we direct the subscriber to our private Facebook community

There we share weekly educational content over video and give 1:1 feedback, similar to what they would experience in our course. This also helps establish us as a trusted and authoritative figure.

Then, we deliver free educational webinars on specific topics

This helps the subscriber better understand their problem and the solution they need to transform their situation.

Finally, we open our doors periodically

Last, but not least, we sell our program through email during specific times of the year, and are available on live chat to answer any questions the prospects have. (This, again, is similar to our course experience).

Some may say we give away too much for free, but I find this really helps us find great students. Plus, it allows our Facebook ad spend to generate far more ROI.

When we didn’t follow this solution and jumped straight from Facebook ads to a webinar to a sales email, our conversion rates weren’t great. Now, they are stellar.

So, if you feel like you are wasting dollars on Facebook ad spend, consider the rest of your funnel. Now that we know what works, it’s far easier to justify scaling up our marketing spend.

Venturing into online education (one validated step at a time)

Lauren Pawell: In Q2 of this year, I decided to test the idea of online education programs.

I wanted to be less reliant on 1:1 client work, which can be unpredictable. And I wanted to help all the entrepreneurs we were turning away due to a full calendar on our end, and limited resources on their end.

To validate the idea, we began being incredibly transparent about our marketing tactics.

We educated our audience through a number of mediums, notably: email, online webinars, and a private Facebook community.

I believed that through great educational content, we could:

  • Empower solopreneurs, allowing them to achieve quick wins in their businesses
  • Determine whether there was a demand for our DIY programs

This effort has been quite successful. We recently presold an educational course (before it was created) that our audience was begging for.

By validating an idea through free content first, we were then able to dedicate the resources to creating paid educational programs. A course takes a lot of front-loaded work, especially content creation. The last thing I wanted to do was create a program no one wanted.

As an added benefit of this education-first approach, when 1:1 prospects come through the door, they are already sold on working with us. Because they already understand the “why” behind our recommendations, the selling is 90 percent done by the time we write a proposal.

The Rainmaker Digital products Lauren uses

Lauren Pawell: We use quite a few Rainmaker Digital products, including:

I also happen to be a new Copyblogger Certified Content Marketer. And I’m attending the upcoming Digital Commerce Summit in Denver.

So, needless to say, I’m a Rainmaker Digital diehard!

Refining and scaling up for the future

Lauren Pawell: In the final quarter of 2016, we’ll focus on refining our sales funnels and scaling up our DIY programs.

Our educational courses at Websites That Generate haven’t been marketed on our website, or really even promoted outside of email. That’s because I wanted to run a few groups of people through our programs to ensure we really dialed them in.

Now that we’ve gotten the process down, we’re ready to scale up. The first step in that process requires some adjustments to our sales funnel. Then, we can scale up our lead generation through Facebook ads.

An unsolicited piece of advice

Lauren Pawell: If, like me, you’re considering creating an educational program to complement your 1:1 services, I highly recommend the Rainmaker Platform.

All of the technology was so easy to set up, allowing us to focus most of our effort on the course creation and marketing.

When it comes to selling a course and serving your students, the less you have to worry about the technology, the better.

Find Lauren Pawell online …

Thanks to Lauren for appearing in our Hero’s Journey series.

Do you have questions for her? Ask them in the comments.

We’ll be back next month with another story to teach, inspire, and encourage you along your journey.

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7 Statistics That Prove Mobile Apps Are Crucial For Customer Loyalty

These 7 statistics show why you should be using apps to build customer loyalty

As a small business owner, it is imperative to retain the customers you have as attracting new customers costs nearly seven times the amount it does to retain an existing one. In addition, your existing customers are fourteen times more likely to buy from you than a new customer.

Here are the facts:

  1. 86 percent of consumers say loyalty is primarily driven by likability and 83 percent of consumers say trust. (Rare)
  2. 47 percent of customers would take their business to a competitor within a day of experiencing poor customer service. (24/7)
  3. The estimated cost of customers switching due to poor service is $1.6 trillion. (Accenture)
  4. 60 percent of mobile coupon users say they will “gladly switch brands to use a coupon” (GfK)
  5. 27 percent of small business owners estimate that 11-20 percent of first time customers don’t return to their business (Belly)
  6. 32 percent of executives say retaining existing customers is a priority (Forbes)
  7. 66 percent of companies that saw a decrease in customer loyalty over the past year do not have a mobile app (Apptentive)

Business is a numbers game. So how do you get and keep more customers at lower costs? The trick is to focus less on advertising and more on customer retention, leveraging your existing customers to bring in new ones. Mobile apps can be one of the best investments you can make when it comes to customer loyalty and retention.

Surveys show that 73 percent of satisfied customers will recommend your service to others, and positive testimonials from existing customers are far more likely to influence people than a brand’s own marketing messaging. In other words, your existing customers are a goldmine. They require less investment, they buy more, and they bring new customers with them. With a mobile app, you can even ask for reviews from customers and what is so great about this strategy is that customers who download your app will generally write a positive review since they are loyal customers.

Why You Should Be Using Apps to Build Customer Loyalty

Here are a few more mobile app tips for customer retention:

Use a Mobile App Retention Tool

Apps help you keep a pulse on your customers through advanced analytics. Track in-app activity to see the type of content that’s drawing users most. View demographic info that helps you refine your sales and marketing efforts. And most of all, use features like geofenced push notifications, mobile newsletters and loyalty programs to keep your customer base thriving.

Adapt or Die

Don’t sit on your data — adapt and evolve according to the trends you uncover. Do you know why Richard Branson, the billionaire owner of Virgin Atlantic Inc., lost to the venture capitalists in the Silicon Valley when he tried to go head-to-head with Uber? One simple reason: Uber was backed by an algorithm, by data. Analytics turned Google from good to great and Uber from an audacious venture to the peer-driven giant in transportation. The companies introduced their service, gathered the data, then used it to refine based on customers’ needs.

Long story short, don’t fall behind your competitors when it comes to your investments in new technology such as building a mobile app for your small business. Data shows that customers want to download and use mobile apps from their favorite small businesses. Don’t ignore the data that is right in front of you!

Focus on Customer Service

Ninety-seven percent of customers see customer service as the most important factor when choosing a brand. And after signing up, customer service weighs most heavily on customer satisfaction and net promoter score — or the likelihood that they’ll recommend your brand to someone else. On average, a user contacts customer service about 65 times per year, and 62 percent would leave their provider because of poor customer service. Companies can avoid that fate by making their customer service experience overly simple. Apps with quick contact buttons and sites with digestible help centers reduce customer effort, reflecting positively on your brand as a whole.

A mobile app is a great way for customers to be in touch with your business 24/7. Whether that’s for general business information or to ask you a question about your business. In addition, great customer service can come as a surprise. For example, mobile apps give you the ability to offer in-app only sales and updates on events which customers really appreciate.

Does Retaining Customers Matter in the App Industry?

Absolutely. If you create a mobile app, you may wonder how beneficial user retention really is to your bottom line. After all, deleting an app is easier than installing one — it requires little to no effort to part ways. But as it turns out, app users are far more likely to return back to your business if the right features and incentives are in place. In some ways, it’s a winner-takes-all market, and you need to stay ahead of the curve with your competition. With a mobile app you give your customers an outlet to share their experiences across Facebook, Twitter, and with their friends. Also, you just can’t ignore the facts anymore regarding how mobile apps can help grow a small business.

The more you up your retention, the wider your potential user base grows.

Smartphone Photo via Shutterstock

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

New Google Trips App Could Simplify Trip 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. Stefan Frank, Google Trips Product Manager writes in a post on Google’s Official Blog that you can use the app to download itineraries and reservations so you no longer have to worry about internet or cellular coverage on arrival to your destination.

Google is combining what it knows (which is a lot) about what attractions and activities are generally popular in your travel destination with what it knows about you. This results in a ton of information that the company says will help you maximize opportunities on your business — or personal — trip.

A Look at the New Google Trips App

“Each trip contains key categories of information, including day plans, reservations, things to do, food and drink, and more, so you have everything you need at your fingertips,” writes Frank. “The entire app is available offline — simply tap the Download button under each trip to save it to your phone.”

 New Google Trips App Could Simplify Trip for Business -- and Pleasure 

Besides suggesting to you other people’s itineraries, Google Trips also helps you to build your own unique itinerary around places of sights that you want to visit.

If you, for instance, already know the spot you want to visit but you want to check out other sights around the same area, press the “+” button on your day plans tile and the app will lead you to a map that contains all the top attractions near your destination. You can also choose the amount of time you have (morning or afternoon vs. a full day) for more specific options. For more nearby sights, click the “magic wand” button.

New Google Trips App Could Simplify Trip for Business -- and Pleasure

Trips will also automatically gather all your hotel, flight, car and restaurant information from Gmail, so you no longer have to search for those on email. All this info is available to you on the reservations tile, even without internet connection.

Summary

Business travelers seeking to cut on cost, save time and fully utilize the potentials of business travel may want to give Google Trips a look. The fact that you can access your itinerary even without internet connection may make the app even more attractive to some.

Image: Google

This article, “New Google Trips App Could Simplify Travel for Business — and Pleasure” was first published on Small Business Trends

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How to Turn Your Social Following into Leads

Social Media Lead Generation - How to Turn Your Social Following into Leads

So you have been hearing about social media for years. You spent money and time getting more likes, followers, etc.

But, likes don’t equal cash, and Mark Zuckerberg owns those likes. Not you.

Social media was the craze 3-4 years ago, but now people have millions of likes, followers etc. and nothing to show for it. Having lots of fans and followers does not mean that all of them can be termed as leads.

Don’t focus on those numbers that are not really helping you. You need to focus on getting leads, and not a social following. Remember that social networks keep coming and going, and for your business to be sustainable, the focus should be on lead generation.

How exactly do you generate leads?

Social Media Lead Generation Tips

Integrate Email Marketing Into Your Lead Generation Strategy

Studies show that email marketing conversion rates are 300 percent higher than social media. Therefore, it is imperative to have this as your main lead conversion strategy.

Instead of giving away all your valuable content, simply ask them to fill out a simple form to get access to your best information.

You can then use an email marketing software such as GetResponse to convert your leads. This will enable you to send them both informative and marketing emails. When done well, email marketing will help you make repeat sales to specific leads who have warmed up to your content.

To get people to sign up, you need to have a strong lead magnet. This is a piece of content that convinces your leads to enter their name, email address, and more details. This enables them to access that content. Studies show that courses perform better as lead magnets than eBooks. However, be it a course, a journey, an eBook, an event, a webinar, a video, etc., get a lead magnet that can work great with your audience.

Once your leads sign up, you can slowly nurture them so that you can eventually convert them into sales. This can be done through a series of automated emails (known as an autoresponder series) or well-prepared broadcast emails.

Use a Lead Generation Tool

As stated before, email marketing is currently one of the most powerful forms of marketing known to man. However, how do you get people to sign up faster? That’s where a lead generation tool, such as OptinMonster comes in.

This will help you design beautiful forms that you can place on different parts of your site where they can deliver the highest conversion rates. You can also measure the effectiveness of each form and perfect it further. Most marketers advocate for the use of multiple forms on a site to boost conversions.

Apart from just creating the beautiful forms, you can have different types of pop-ups on your site. These include:

Page takeover: These are forms that fill the whole web page. Once your social media leads click on a link to your site, the whole page is blocked, and they get a form where they can give an email in exchange for your lead magnet. Some people will simply close the takeover form. However, many will sign up to your mailing list where you can then warm them up for conversion.

Exit pop-up: Averagely, 70-96 percent of visitors who leave a website never come back. You can use an exit popup to get them to subscribe before leaving. This is a pop-up that only shows up when a visitor is going to click on the “close tab” button. It, therefore, does not interfere with the content such as the page takeover. It can get you lots of conversions from people who would never have returned to your website again.

Sidebar form: This is a form that rests on your website’s sidebar. A lead generation tool will help you design one that is so catchy that leads would just want to sign up and see what’s in store for them.

Header form: The header form is usually placed on a website’s header.

These are some of the forms that you can place on your site with the help of a professional lead generation tool.

Expand Your Reach

Numbers don’t lie. Therefore, you need to always measure the impact of your campaigns. Each audience reacts differently to the content it receives. You need to take note of what your audience loves, improve your strategy and ultimately increase your reach.

You can use a tool such as Start a Fire to expand your reach. This tool adds a branded badge to whatever content you recommend. For example, if you share a wonderful news post with your audience, as they read that news piece, they’ll see a branded badge showing other posts that you recommend from your blog. Therefore, with every share, you’ll increase chances of people clicking back to your blog. When people re-share those links, they’ll enable you to reach new audiences.

Remember that at the end of the day, you don’t want to just get a lot of likes, loves, shares, follows etc, you want to expand the reach of your brand. This way, even if your favorite social platform dies out, your brand remains.

Beyond the Leads

A total of 94 percent of B2B buyers say they conduct some form of online research before they buy a business product. Therefore, if you are a B2B business, you want to go beyond the leads. You want to know your leads.

Leadfeeder is one of those tools that can help you know your leads. It shows you what exactly your users are reading on your website. It shows you which businesses are reading from you and gives more detailed information about those businesses. You can then segment your leads according to their behavior.

Conclusion

Social media used to be awesome and sensational. It’s still where many people nowadays go to relax and connect with their close family, friends and the brands they love. However, you should never depend on it for your business. Trends change every day. Focus on lead generation and your business will experience great success for the longest time.

Social Media Photo via Shutterstock

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Here are 5 Great Reasons You Should Strive for Ridiculously High CTRs

Here are 5 Great Benefits of Good Click Through Rates

All of my regular readers know that I have a completely normal and healthy obsession with unicorns. I am the Original Unicornaholic.

You should be obsessed with unicorns, too! Too many marketers settle for boring donkeys when there are magical unicorns just waiting to be discovered. Unicorns that will save you money and make you money!

But unicorns aren’t my only obsession. I have another: increasing click-through rates.

Obviously, CTR is important in PPC marketing. A higher CTR means a higher Quality Score, which reduces your CPC and improves your ad rank.

But it goes much further than that.

A remarkable CTR is not only the most important thing in AdWords, but it is also extremely important for other marketing channels. These include organic search, CRO, social media, and email marketing.

Here are five surprising benefits of having a remarkable, unicorn-worthy CTR across all your marketing channels.

5 Great Benefits of Good Click Through Rates

The Benefits of Good Click Through Rates

1. Much Higher Ad Impression Share

You get big discounts from having a high CTR. Namely, a lower cost per click, which really adds up as clicks accumulate.

This is true not just of vanilla search ads, but all Google properties, whether we’re talking about the Google Display Network or Gmail Ads.

But a remarkable CTR doesn’t just impact CPC. It also impacts your impression share — how often your ads show up in the first place.

On the Google Search Network, every increase (or decrease) of one point in Quality Score can make a huge positive impact on your impression share:

5 Great Benefits of Good Click Through Rates - Much Higher Ad Impression Share

 

If you can increase your Quality Score by one point, your impression share on average will increase by about 6 percent on desktop.

This is an even bigger deal on mobile, where impression share is twice as competitive.

5 Great Benefits of Good Click Through Rates - Much Higher Ad Impression Share

 

Increasing your Quality Score by one point would increase your impression share by an average of 12 percent!

Data sources: Impression share data is based on an analysis of approximately 10,000 small and medium-size accounts (spending between $10,000 and $15,000 per month), based worldwide, advertising on the Search network in Q1 and Q2 of 2015.

2. Your Organic Search Positions Will Get A Boost

 

5 Great Benefits of Good Click Through Rates - Your Organic Search Positions Will Get A Boost

We recently conducted research to test whether achieving above-expected user engagement metrics results in better organic rankings. We observed an unmistakable pattern:

5 Great Benefits of Good Click Through Rates - Your Organic Search Positions Will Get A Boost

 

  • The more your pages beat the expected organic CTR for a given position, the more likely you are to appear in prominent organic positions. So if you want to move up by one spot (e.g., Position 5 to Position 4) in Google’s SERP, you need to increase your CTR by 3 percent. If you want to move up again (e.g., Position 4 to Position 3), you’ll need to increase your CTR by another 3 percent.
  • If your pages fall below the expected organic search CTR, then your pages will appear in lower organic SERP positions. Basically, if your page fails to beat the expected click-through rate for a given position, it’s unlikely your page will appear in positions 1–5.

You want your pages to get as many organic search clicks as possible, right? Attracting more clicks means more traffic to your site, which also tells Google that your page is the best answer for users — it is relevant and awesome.

Another thing we discovered was that the weighting of click-through rate in Google’s organic search ranking algorithms is becoming more important every month this year.

5 Great Benefits of Good Click Through Rates - Your Organic Search Positions Will Get A Boost

Here I was tracking a group of 1,000 keywords and URLs for the past five months. What I found was that the Google algorithm is shifting to increasingly higher CTRs for top four organic ranking status.

This is what you would expect to see if Google Search were employing a machine learning-based algorithm that reordered listings based on CTR — people would see more of what they were hoping to see at the top, reducing the need to scroll lower down into the SERPs.

3. Your Conversion Rates Increase

Increasing your click-through rate will also increase your conversion rates. If you can increase your CTR by 2x then your conversion rate should increase by 50 percent.

That’s why click-through rate is the most important conversion metric (in my opinion).

For example, look at this data from one large client’s account:

5 Great Benefits of Good Click Through Rates - Your Conversion Rates Increase

This is just one example. We see this same conversion curve in many accounts. (It’s just difficult to combine multiple accounts into one graph because conversion rates vary depending on factors like the industry and offer.)

What’s happening here is that if you can get someone excited to click on your website (via email, ads, organic search listings, or whatever), the excitement carries through to sign-up and purchase.

5 Great Benefits of Good Click Through Rates - Your Conversion Rates Increase

4. Free Clicks From Social Ads

Facebook and Twitter don’t have a Quality Score. Well, they do, Facebook just calls it Relevance Score and Twitter calls it Quality Adjusted Bid.

Whatever they call their version of Quality Score, having a higher score results in a higher ad impression share for the same budget at a lower cost per engagement. A high engagement rate means your ads will be more visible and more cost effective, as shown here:

5 Great Benefits of Good Click Through Rates - Free Clicks from Social Ads

Notice how the cost per engagement on Twitter Ads falls dramatically as the engagement rate of the post you’re promoting rises.

One of the surprising benefits of having high engagement on Facebook and Twitter is that you’ll benefit from free clicks. How?

On Facebook, if someone shares one of your boosted posts, that will show up in another person’s news feed and you won’t get charged for any of the additional engagements that happen there.

On Twitter, if you do a Promoted Tweet, when one of your followers retweets or shares it, you’ll get more totally free organic impressions.

5 Great Benefits of Good Click Through Rates - Free Clicks from Social Ads

5. People Will Actually See Your Emails

Now let’s talk about email marketing. How many emails do you get each day? Dozens? Hundreds?

If you engage with the emails that brands and businesses regularly send to you, you’ll continue to see them. If not, it might get filed away in Outlook’s Clutter folder or it may be relegated to Gmail’s Promotions tab — or even worse, the Spam folder.

5 Great Benefits of Good Click Through Rates - People Will Actually See Your Emails

Case in point:

5 Great Benefits of Good Click Through Rates - People Will Actually See Your Emails

Microsoft Outlook’s clutter filter regularly filters emails I’ve opted into receiving — including internal emails from my own company! These emails are being filtered out based on machine learning.

What does this mean for your company?

If your emails have a higher CTR (though for emails the better equivalent is actually higher open rate), then it’s more likely that your emails will actually get seen, opened, and clicked on. If your click-through rates are terrible, your emails will be rounded up and thrown in the dark “clutter dungeon.”

One thing we did was to delete people from our email lists who were unresponsive. If you’re just accumulating emails over many years, why? Do you think someone who has been dormant and never engaged with your emails is going to magically turn into a sale five years later?

Deleting half your database is one way to instantly more than double your CTR. Email providers will notice that more people are engaging, making it less likely your emails will end up in the dungeon.

Why I’m Obsessed with CTR

5 Great Benefits of Good Click Through Rates - Why I’m Obsessed with CTR

There’s a reason why click-through rate is one metric I pay the most attention to. Increasing your CTR will result in:

  • More ad impressions
  • Better organic search rankings
  • Higher conversion rates
  • Free clicks from social media ads
  • More people seeing, opening. and engaging with your emails

If you want to enjoy all these great benefits, you need to start optimizing your CTR. Make yours remarkable!

Images: WordStream

This article, “Here are 5 Great Reasons You Should Strive for Ridiculously High CTRs” was first published on Small Business Trends

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