Customers May Love McDonald’s Fresh Beef; Franchisees – Not So Much

The Challenge of Making Business Changes

McDonald’s (NYSE:MCD) will soon use all fresh beef at the majority of their restaurants. That’s great news for consumers — but maybe not quite so much for franchisees.

The company just announced plans to roll out the use of fresh beef with no fillers, additives or preservatives, instead of the frozen beef it had been using before. The changes should take place by mid-2018.

For franchisees, the change isn’t necessarily all positive though. Using fresh beef instead of frozen could potentially lead to some food safety issues and more food waste due to slow periods or even contamination.

According to a 2016 survey by Nomura, reported by Business Insider, franchisees shared their concerns about using fresh beef.

One franchisee worried, “I have major concerns over food safety and our lack of ability to serve a large number of customers quickly.”

“If we do not handle the meat perfectly, there is the opportunity for bacterial invasion of our product,” said another.

The Challenge of Making Business Changes

But it’s also important for businesses to consider what consumers want. And sometimes, that means being at odds with your team over some of the details. What’s important, for any business faced with tough decisions, is to keep the lines of communication open and consider all sides carefully when making changes or updating processes.

McDonald’s Photo via Shutterstock

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eBay Announces Expedited Delivery, QuickBooks Releases New Inventory Feature

For online shoppers, the ability to get their orders quickly can be a big factor in their buying decisions. Companies like Amazon have managed to set themselves apart with 2-day shipping. Now, eBay is looking to carve out its own niche with a new guaranteed expedited delivery option.

In addition, QuickBooks introduced a new tool that could help businesses better manage inventory. You can learn about these updates and more below in Small Business Trends’ weekly news and information roundup.

Sales

eBay Set to Launch 3-Day Guaranteed Delivery Program

Your customers want what you’re selling right away. And eBay (NASDAQ:EBAY) is the latest ecommerce site to offer its shoppers an expedited delivery option. The site recently announced that it’s rolling out the Guaranteed Delivery Program this summer. The goal is to offer millions of products that will be delivered to buyers in 3 days or less.

QuickBooks Introduces New Reorder Points that Tell When Inventory is Running Low

QuickBooks (NASDAQ: INTU) recently introduced a new inventory “Reorder Point” feature that lets businesses set a minimum quantity of a product for sale to keep on hand. If you are a small business that handles inventory, the new QuickBooks Reorder Points feature is designed to help you know when your inventory is running low and remind you to reorder items.

Economy

After Failure to Repeal Obamacare, Pence and McMahon Reassure Small Businesses

After failure by the U.S. House of Representatives to pass a bill that could repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act Friday, Vice President Mike Pence and SBA Administrator Linda McMahon made a stop in West Virginia to reassure small business owners and listen to their concerns.

Small Business Owners and Buyers Ready for Trump Tax Reforms

Healthcare reform is an important issue for small business. That seems unlikely right now, but just as important, according to recent data from BizBuySell, is tax reform. In a recent poll of 700 small business owners and prospective buyers, healthcare and tax reform were the top two issues mentioned for President Donald Trump to address.

Employment

Hiring Rules Set Back Small Businesses $11,700 Annually, Report Finds

America’s small business community has long lamented the heavy burden of government regulations on their operations. One specific area government regulations come down hard on small businesses is in the hiring of new employees.

Franchise

Good News for Franchises? Joint Employment Regs Appear Doomed

Labor Secretary designee Alexander Acosta’s views on a controversial Obama-era joint employer regulation that business leaders have accused of stunting job creation came to light during his confirmation hearing recently.

Small Biz Spotlight

Spotlight: Rush Bowls Puts a New Twist on Healthy Eating

Consumers are becoming increasingly interested in healthy and natural food options. And that interest in health food has opened up new opportunities for businesses like the Rush Bowls franchise. Rush Bowls offers unique menu items that consist of blended fruit and other healthy ingredients.

Small Business Operations

Business Travelers Beware, No Using Laptops on Flights from These 10 Airports

International business air travelers will be forced to comply with yet another travel ban that now prohibits the use of laptops and tablets on commercial flights to the United States.

Nearly 9 Percent of Small Businesses Suffered a Burglary or Theft Last Year

If you haven’t taken adequate steps to protect your business from burglary or theft, now is the right time to rethink your strategy. According to new data by Chicago-based insurance agency Insureon, 8.8 percent of small businesses suffered a burglary of theft in 2016.

Social Media

Pinterest Propel Introduces Special Services for Small Businesses

Pinterest wants to recruit small business advertisers. The social media platform and visual search engine just launched Pinterest Propel, a program that provides special services to new advertisers that don’t quite understand how the site works. It includes free one-on-one support for 30 days to advertisers that meet its criteria.

United Airlines Leggings Controversy Shows Need to Change with the Times

If you haven’t changed any of your company’s policies in a while, it might be time to revisit them. United Airlines (NYSE:UAL) just learned this lesson the hard way. The airline denied entry on a flight to two girls wearing leggings who were flying using its employee friends and family pass program.

Millennials and College Students Prefer Snapchat to Facebook, Survey Says

According to a survey carried out by online marketplace for student loan refinancing LendEDU, 58 percent of college students are checking Snapchat (NYSE:SNAP) before Instagram, LinkedIn and Facebook combined.

Facebook Now Allows Live Video Broadcasts from Your Laptop or Desktop

Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) is taking live streaming to another level as it recently announced that users can now, in addition to smartphones and mobile devices, broadcast live video directly from their laptop or desktop computers.

Color Us Surprised! Crayola Finds New Way to Create Buzz

If you think there’s not a whole lot a beloved old brand that’s been around for decades can do to create buzz online, Crayola just proved you wrong. The company recently announced that it will retire one of its iconic crayon colors, creating a storm of tweets and other social media posts from customers sharing thoughts on what color might be getting the boot.

Technology Trends

Animaker Introduces First Animated Vertical Video Platform

While you may have been accustomed to watching videos horizontally thanks to the TV and movies, the next video marketing wave is vertical videos. Vertical videos were historically shunned by creative agencies, marketers and video creators because they did not fit the aspect ratio of established moving image forms.

It May Be a Good Idea to Change Your iCloud Password Right Now

For the many small business owners that are using iCloud, the newest hacker threat to Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) is a serious issue. The Turkish Crime Family, a syndicate of hackers, is demanding a ransom from Apple, according to reports. The ransom would supposedly buy the safety of thousands of iCloud and Apple email accounts to which hackers have already gained access.

eBay Photo via Shutterstock

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5 Tips to Choose a Customer Loyalty Program for Small Businesses

Have you ever thought of deploying a customer loyalty program to drive more repeat business?  And what about offering gift cards for your customers to purchase?

Customers love these kinds of programs.  What’s more, done right they achieve real financial benefits.  For example, a University of Chicago study found that loyalty programs increase purchases by 20%.

A few months ago, our Small Business Trends team made a visit to the Innovation Lab at First Data headquarters in Atlanta. Our interviewer, Brent Leary, sat down with Jim Allen, First Data’s Senior Vice President Product Delivery, small business products.

The video above is a portion of our exclusive interview. (See part 1 of the interview here.)

First Data is known, of course, for its line of Clover point of sale (POS) systems.  But as Jim Allen points out in the interview, Clover is actually a platform with associated mobile apps and it is much more than a POS. Its offerings include a loyalty program for small merchants, as well as a gift card program.

Tips for How to Choose a Loyalty Program

Based on the interview and other ideas, we’ve come up with five tips for what to look for when you choose a customer loyalty program. Some of the tips apply as well to choosing a gift card program.  Look for these attributes when choosing a loyalty program and/or a gift card program:

1. Easy to Use

Time is money. So if a loyalty program takes a lot of manual time to set up and maintain, it’ll either eat up all your profits or soon be abandoned or replaced.

Look for programs that are out-of-the-box simple to get started with. Does the vendor provide materials to help display and market your programs in store or digitally, or or is that something extra you have to create?

Also, look for technology that automates and saves you time. For example, does the loyalty program integrate with your point of sale system, or will you have to hire a consultant to integrate specially?

And what if customers want to manage a gift balance or have questions — does the program have technology to help?

2. Customizable for YOUR Business

Consider what kind of loyalty program you want to offer:

  • Are you most comfortable with a punch card program, where customers earn for each cup of coffee, dry cleaning order or other purchase they make?  This type of loyalty program is simple, but doesn’t have a marketing feedback loop. So you can’t use it to collect data to shape your future marketing, like you can with a tech-oriented solution.
  • Or perhaps your customers would prefer a loyalty program that accrues points.  If your customers are tech savvy, they may appreciate a points system with a mobile app.

Similarly with a gift card program, consider how your customers may want to purchase and send them.  Plastic gift cards are well known. But more and more customers want the ability to purchase digital cards online or on a mobile device, and send them electronically to recipients.

3. Marketing Feedback Loop

Today’s best breed of loyalty programs and gift card programs give you something in return.  Look for a program that is technology based, so it can help pull out “big data” to inform you how to market better.

Also check to see how hard or easy it is to analyze and use that data.  Look for programs with built-in analytics to easily discover buying habits you may not have noticed. That way you can identify special perks and when to offer them to your most loyal customers, to encourage cross-sale opportunities or accelerate repeat sales.

4. Best Practice Ideas

One of the biggest challenges in a small business is that we often don’t have a marketing department.  A good vendor can help make up for that lack.

Look for a solution that helps you learn as well as do.  Does the vendor’s solution automatically guide you to develop best practices? Does it trigger ideas for how to make the most of a loyalty program, such as how and when to stay in touch with customers?

And when it comes to gift cards, you want materials to entice customers to buy them, such as in store signage.

5. Modest Cost to Implement

Last but certainly not least, look at the cost.

Look for programs oriented toward small business merchants.  An offering suitable for Walmart won’t necessarily be right for your business — and could be too expensive. See if the vendor’s website has a section called “small business solutions” or uses the words “small business” frequently.

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How Has Obamacare Affected Your Small Business? (POLL)

 How Has Obamacare Affected Your Small Business To Date?

It looks like, intentions aside, small businesses will be stuck with Obamacare for a while yet.

After failure to get enough votes in the U.S. House to repeal and replace the legislation, the Trump administration worked to reassure business leaders last week.

But for now, Obamacare stays. So what we’d like to ask the small business community is this …

How Has Obamacare Affected Your Small Business To Date?

To be sure there have been winners and losers, and different sized companies have probably felt the impact to varying degrees. So if you had to give your personal story and that of your business, what would you say?

You could say it has affected your small business:

Very positively: I have been able to provide benefits for myself and my employees that I was not able to provide before.

Somewhat positively: I have been able to save somewhat on benefits for myself and my employees compared to before Obamacare.

Not Much: My business hasn’t been affected at all since I already had a package in place that has remained unchanged or the number of employees in my business falls below the number requiring mandatory coverage.

Somewhat negatively: I either had insurance coverage in place for my employees and am now paying more, have been forced to supply insurance that is now cutting into my profits or am paying penalties for not providing.

Very negatively: The cost of the insurance mandate has severely cut into my business revenue to the point that I am now looking at closing my doors.

Note: There is a poll embedded within this post, please visit the site to participate in this post’s poll.

Obama Photo via Shutterstock

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What Are Second Screen Stats and What Do They Mean to Your Business?

Second Screen Stats Show That Use Keeps Rising -- How Your Small Business Can Take Advantage

More than 70 percent of adults surf the web on their phones while they watch TV.

They’re looking at sites they see in commercials. And they’re definitely reading and commenting on social media. You can assume they’re also doing other things like looking up actors’ previous roles, sports stats, etc.

This happens so often a term has evolved to describe the people who exhibit this behavior: second screen audiences.

Second Screen Stats

New data from eMarketer indicates that this phenomenon is growing rapidly. Exactly 74.1 percent of adults this year will surf the web on their phone while they watch TV. Data suggests this figure will increase to 79 percent next year.  Just three years ago, just over half of all adults would go on the web on their phones while they watched television.

This increase in second screen use is not limited to smartphones, either. The eMarketer data shows that desktop and laptop use by adults watching TV at the same time continues to go up. The same can be said for tablet use.

What Are People Searching For While Watching TV?

A long time ago there was a push to connect the web and TV directly. Now, however, thanks to the emergence of second screen audiences, they are. Though that connection is more indirect than what might have been originally envisioned.

More people are searching for and talking about the things they see on TV than ever before.

The eMarketer data shows that 31 percent of second screen audiences are browsing the web for content related to what they’re watching. Only back in 2014, that number was just 23 percent.

Nineteen percent of people are using their second screen to have social conversations related to what they’re watching. That’s up 2 percent from 2014.

For brands and companies that take advantage of this phenomenon, it’s really a form of social media newsjacking. That’s where businesses get involved in conversations revolving around current events.

What Your Small Business Can Do to Reach Second Screen Audiences

Twitter’s content manager Marissa Window writes on the Business for Twitter blog that people conversing about their TV viewing like to see brands interact.

She writes:

“Fans on Twitter like seeing brands join the conversation with relevant content or deals, and the same can be said about ads — 42 percent more time is spent looking at Twitter Ads relevant to surrounding content.”

So, align your social media strategy to talk to this crowd. Think about the shows and events on TV that tend to get people talking.

In entertainment, you know the Twitter and Facebook feeds light up when it’s Oscars night. And in sports, big games like the Super Bowl, March Madness and other championships bring out sports fans and their opinions.

One area where you might want to shy away from is politics, however. There, you risk alienating half your audience with just one post.

Think about the audience that’s most attracted to your business and brand. Find their social media conversations and join in. Reality shows are great examples. They’re often business-based and have loyal followers who like to chat online while they’re watching.

For example, a small restaurant might want to join in the conversation on #TopChef while a boutique clothing store would seek to talk to audiences tweeting about #ProjectRunway.

Guys on Phones Photo via Shutterstock

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3 Trends That Will Help You Boost Mobile User Experience

3 Trends That Will Help You Boost Mobile User Experience

Successful online marketers are always on their toes. They constantly adapt to new trends and technology to have an edge over their competition.

Do you think you have what it takes to join their ranks? Then you should always think and act fast.

For example, remember when Google announced that more searches now occur on mobile devices than on computers? That was two years ago. And yet, a lot of website owners and bloggers still don’t have a mobile marketing strategy in place.

By now, it’s clear that mobile is the future of digital marketing. With technologies like VR and live video streaming, users are growing more concerned over mobile experience. In fact, 57 percent of them will refuse to recommend a business if it has a subpar mobile site.

Boosting Your Site’s Mobile User Experience

Don’t worry — you can still catch up by taking advantage of the latest trends in the mobile space. You can start with the following:

Creating Mobile-Friendly Emails

Email marketing has been one of the cornerstones of digital marketing ever since the beginning. This time, evidence suggests that you should start optimizing emails for mobile users.

According to statistics, people now read emails longer on smartphones. It’s also predicted that, by 2018, 80 percent of users will use email services exclusively through a mobile device.

For starters, implementing a responsive email design is a great way to boost the mobile experience of your subscribers. Considering that platforms like Pagemodo, iContact or MailChimp already offer a number of responsive templates for emails. Then it should be easy to check this off your list.

Just remember to optimize every single detail for mobile screens. Buttons, for example, must be large and easy to tap. The content must also be presented in a long-scrolling format, which allows mobile users to simply swipe up to read the entire email.

Below are some additional tips on how to create mobile-friendly emails:

  • Compress images to reduce loading time. Remember that some mobile users still use 3G or slower connections, so try to avoid using high-resolution images.
  • Make fonts larger. To compensate for the smaller display of mobile devices, try to set your font size to 13 or 14 pixels.
  • Make sure CTAs are text-based. If you use an image as your CTA (Call to Action), there’s a chance that users won’t even see it.
  • Shorten your subject lines. To ensure good readability, avoid using long subject lines that needlessly take a lot of space.

Engaging Mobile Users via Video

Video content is long considered as the most effective in terms of engagement. Users love videos so much that email subject lines with the word “video” get 65 percent more click-throughs.

Incidentally, 51 percent of all video plays happen on mobile devices. So if you want to improve your site’s mobile experience, you need to diversify your content strategy and start thinking about video content.

Apart from using tools like Animatron to create professional-looking explainer videos, you should also consider launching live streams with platforms like Facebook Live, and Periscope.

Not only are live videos easier to make, they are also great for winning more views on social media. Studies show that users spend triple the time watching live videos compared to regular videos.

Here are some ideas for your first live video:

  • Interview a social media influencer
  • Have a live Q&A or webinar session and interact with your audience via comments
  • Invite your social media followers to a corporate event
  • Show a random video of your neighbor’s pet (social media users love animals)

Turn Your Site into a Progressive Web App

Lastly, another trend you should watch out for is the emergence of progressive web apps or PWAs. These are websites that can deliver app-like experiences to mobile users. They are fast, have offline capabilities, and are specifically optimized for touch-based interactions.

Some of the common features of PWAs include:

  • Push notifications,
  • Home screen shortcut,
  • Quick load times even through 3G connections,
  • 100 percent mobile responsive.

Since Google is all about user experience, they cover several case studies on brands that utilize PWAs.

Unfortunately, developing a PWA is not a DIY project you can do overnight. It is a significant investment that can prepare your brand for the future of mobile marketing.

To help point you in the right direction, Here is an infographic by Zeolearn that explains how PWAs work:

3 Trends That Will Help You Boost Mobile User Experience

Ultimately, it all boils down to user experience and how your brand can make a lasting impact in your audience’s lives. The strategies highlighted above helped you plan your mobile marketing campaign this 2017. What you need now is diligence, patience and relentlessness when it comes to executing these strategies.

Phone User Photo via Shutterstock

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Nearly 9 Percent of Small Businesses Suffered a Burglary or Theft Last Year

Nearly 9 Percent of Small Businesses Suffered Commercial Burglaries or Thefts Last Year

If you haven’t taken adequate steps to protect your business from burglary or theft, now is the right time to rethink your strategy. According to new data by Chicago-based insurance agency Insureon, 8.8 percent of small businesses suffered a burglary of theft in 2016.

The survey further reveals a business owner might have to pay approximately $8,000 out of pocket for a burglary or theft incident. That’s a significant price to pay for any small business.

Businesses Reluctant to File for Insurance Claims

Other than burglary or theft, many small businesses also experienced client complaints or contract disputes (22.2 percent) and employee injury (10.6 percent), all incidents potentially resulting in costs that might have been covered by insurance.

It’s worth noting that 35.2 percent of businesses were hit by an incident that insurance might have covered. Surprisingly however, many small business owners like Dylan Gallagher, owner of tour company Orange Sky Adventures, aren’t filing claims.

“We had our van broken into by a robber the other day and I had two choices: pay the $300 bill myself or go through my insurance company,” says Gallagher. “I chose to pay the bill myself to avoid bureaucracy. Besides, I’d rather keep my insurance premiums low and just get on with business.”

Tip to Prevent Thefts

For businesses, it pays to boost security to prevent thefts or burglaries. Luckily, there are several budget-friendly options to choose from.

Take the dropcam for example. Considered one of the easiest entry-level solutions, dropcams are do-it-yourself devices that address small business needs.

Another tip is to train employees to keep an eye on customers.

For the study, Insureon surveyed 1,002 small business owners online.

Security Camera Photo via Shutterstock

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How to Grab Attention in Your Next Email Marketing Campaign

Font Business Cartoon

I’m a collector. I have a nice library of cartoon books, I have shelves full of superhero statues and literally two walls of my office are covered in hundreds of LEGO minifigs. I accumulate stuff.

But as fun as it is, it’s also sort of a requirement of the job. In addition to toys and such, I also collect words and phrases and idioms.

I hear something on the radio and I tuck it away in my brain. I read something in the newspaper and it gets filed. Something comes up in conversation and, well, you get the idea.

Often I can tell you where and how something pops for me but, in this case, the term “writ large” just fell out of a drawer in my gray matter or something. I happened across it, picked it up, and this cartoon presented itself.

And the best part about this particular collection? I don’t have to justify it to my wife.

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12 Super Simple Money Management Tips for Your Personal Finances

12 Super Simple Personal Money Management Tips

The best financial advice tends to apply to pretty much everyone. You don’t need a spreadsheet of pros and cons and complex scenarios. What you need is a rule of thumb.

There’s no shame in using one-size-fits-all advice. A study of West Point cadets, for example, found teaching rules of thumb was at least as effective as standard personal finance training in increasing students’ knowledge and confidence as well as their willingness to take financial risks. Researchers found money rules of thumb were more effective than teaching accounting principles to small business owners in the Dominican Republic.

Here are a dozen shamelessly simple money rules of thumb I’ve collected over the years. (These address how you borrow and save. If you just want to know how you’re doing with money, we’ve got a quick way to score your financial health, too.)

Personal Money Management Tips

1. Build Up Emergency Savings

You need to be able to get your hands on cash or credit equal to three months’ worth of expenses. The classic emergency fund advice — that you need three to six months of expenses saved — is great, but it can take years to save that much and you have other more important priorities (see “retirement,” below). While you build up your cash stash, make sure you have a Plan B for a true emergency. That could be money in a Roth IRA (you can pull out your contributions at any time without paying taxes or penalties), space on your credit cards or an unused home equity line of credit.

2. Save 15 Percent for Retirement

If you got a late start or want to retire early, you may need to save more. Run the numbers on your retirement plan. For most people, 15 percent including any company match is a good place to start. Even if you can’t save as much as you should, start somewhere and kick up your savings rate regularly. Retirement should be your top financial priority. You can’t get back lost company matches, lost tax breaks and the lost years when your money isn’t earning tax-deferred returns.

3. And Don’t Touch that Money

Leave retirement money for retirement. When your retirement fund is small, you may feel like spending it doesn’t really matter. It does. Taxes and penalties will cost you at least 25 percent and likely more of what you withdraw. Plus, every $1 you take out costs you $10 to $20 in lost future retirement income. Once your retirement fund is larger, it may be easy to convince yourself there are good reasons to borrow or withdraw the money. There really aren’t. Leave the money alone so it’s there when you need it.

4. Save for College

Get in the habit of putting at least $25 a month aside for college as soon as your child is born. Even small contributions to a 529 college savings plan can add up over time — perhaps the difference between choosing the best school and choosing a school based on its financial aid package. (But if you have to choose, retirement saving is more important. Your kids can always get student loans, but as you’ve probably heard, no one will lend you money for retirement.)

5. Plan and Manage Your Student Loans

Your total borrowing shouldn’t exceed what you expect to make your first year out of school. At today’s interest rates, this will ensure that you can pay off what you owe within 10 years while keeping payments below 10 percent of your income, which is considered an affordable repayment rate. What if you didn’t limit your borrowing and are now struggling? You have options.

6. Cars: Buy Used and Drive It for 10 Years

New cars are lovely, but they’re expensive and lose an astonishing amount of value in their first two years. Let someone else pay for that depreciation and take advantage of the fact that today’s better-built cars can run well for at least a decade if properly maintained. You can save hundreds of thousands of dollars over your driving lifetime this way.

7. Car Loans: Use the 20/4/10 Rule

Ideally, you wouldn’t borrow money to buy an asset that loses value, but you may not always be able to pay cash for a car. If you can’t, protect yourself from overspending by putting 20 percent down, limit the loan to four years and cap your monthly payment at no more than 10 percent of your gross income. A big down payment keeps you from being “underwater,” or owing more on the car than it’s worth, as soon as you drive off the lot. Limiting the length of the loan helps you build equity faster and reduces the overall interest you pay. Finally, capping the size of the payments prevents your car from eating your budget.

8. Make Credit Cards Work for You

If you carry a balance, look for a low-rate card so you can pay off your debt faster and don’t mess with rewards cards right now. If you pay in full each month (as you should), find a rewards card that returns at least 1.5 percent of what you spend. You should regularly review your rewards programs to make sure you’re getting enough value from them. The programs can change, as can your spending and the way you use rewards. (For a “lazy optimizer” approach, check out “Sean Talks Credit: How I Maximize My Rewards with Only a Few Credit Cards.”)

9. Square Away Your Insurance

Cover yourself for catastrophic expenses, not the stuff you can pay out of pocket. Insurance should protect you against the big things — unexpected expenses that could wipe you out financially, such as your home burning down or a car accident that triggers a lawsuit. You want high limits on your policies — and high deductibles, too. Small claims don’t make financial sense in the long run. You may gain some small insurance payments, but you risk a rate increase that could more than cancel out your gains.

10. Choose a Reasonable Mortgage Amount

If you can’t afford the payment on a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage, you can’t afford the house. You may be able to save money by using another kind of mortgage, such as a hybrid loan that offers a lower initial rate. But if you’re using an alternative loan because that’s the only way you can buy the home you want, you may have set your sights too high. A budget-busting mortgage puts you at risk of spiraling into ever-deeper debt, especially when you add in all the other costs of home ownership.

11. Choose the Right Mortgage Rate

Fix the rate for at least as long as you plan to be in the home. Plans can change, obviously, but you don’t want a big payment jump to force you out of a home you hoped to live in for years to come. If you’re pretty sure you’ll be moving in five years, a five-year hybrid could be a good option. If you think you may stay for 10 years or more, though, consider opting for the certainty of a 30-year fixed rate. (Compare rates on different types of mortgages.)

12. Back-burner Those Mortgage Prepayments

You have better things to do with your money than prepay a low-rate, potentially tax-deductible mortgage. Shaving years off your mortgage and saving money on interest sounds great. But before you consider making extra payments to reduce your mortgage principal, make sure more important priorities are covered. You should be saving enough for retirement. You should have paid off all other debt, since most other loans have higher rates and the interest isn’t deductible. It would be smart to have that emergency fund built up as well and to be adequately insured. If you’ve covered all of those bases and still want to pay down your mortgage, have at it.

Financial Burden Illustration via Shutterstock

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PPC Pitfalls to Avoid as a Small Business Owner

PPC Pitfalls to Avoid as a Small Business Owner

Online advertising has given businesses of all sizes a chance to compete in the market. Before this tech time, only businesses with big budgets were able to advertise. Small businesses can now promote their products or services with just a small budget, and they are able to increase it as they grow and see results.

In addition, online advertising has provided a clearer attribution platform. We can know if our PPC or display ads are working based on conversion data. We can also know how many people see our ads with impressions and even know how many of those people clicked (click-through rate or CTR).

Unfortunately, all these advancements have also brought their pitfalls. Many businesses, especially small ones, have not been able to catch up with the change. They often lack the resources to do it in-house, they don’t have the budget to hire a PPC management company, or, most concerning, they are disappointed with the results. Frustrated owners may think PPC is not ideal for their business because they tried a couple of techniques and failed.

If you identify with this frustration and don’t know where to start, you’re in luck, today! Learn from the mistakes below to improve your PPC campaigns.

PPC Pitfalls to Avoid

Poor Keyword Selection

A keyword is a word or a phrase used by people searching online for information. Search engines like Google or Bing have smart algorithms that are constantly learning from these searches to improve their results and deliver the most relevant information to the user — this includes organic and paid results. So, if I use a key phrase like “black dress,” I get the following results:

PPC Pitfalls to Avoid as a Small Business Owner

The Shopping and Search ads are PPC ads that were retrieved by the keyword used. The organic listings are content Google found relevant for my search. In either case, it is important to note that Google considered my intent to retrieve relevant results.

Considering keyword intent and selecting the right keywords are vital to having successful campaigns; however, it is also one of the biggest pitfalls for small owners. You want to select keywords that are relevant to your business and adjust your bids according to levels of intent.

For example, if you sell black dresses, you may want to bid higher for “buy black dresses,” rather than simply “black dresses” since someone who uses the word “buy” would have a higher intent to make a purchase.

Besides intent, you also want to pre-qualify your keywords by evaluating search volume and competition. Select keywords that have high search volume and low competition by using tools such as the Google Keyword Planner. It will help you see what keywords people are using for related searches, volume of searches per month, suggested bids and competition.

PPC Pitfalls to Avoid as a Small Business Owner

In addition to the tactics above, you should also use long-tail keywords to get a higher probability of conversions and lower cost/lower risk. These types of keywords are more descriptive than short-tail keywords.

For example, I would use the following long-tail keyword “short black cocktail dresses” instead of “black dresses.” Take a look at your keyword planner and see what keywords have potential to include as long-tail keywords.

Flawed Ad Copy

Your ads have the ultimate power to drive conversions. If your keywords and targeting are set up correctly, but your ads are flawed, searchers won’t click on your ads. Take advantage of the now expanded text ads to increase your conversion rate.

One of the main mistakes a business makes while creating ad copy is being too generic or unattractive. Take what searchers are looking for and tie it to your unique value proposition. For example, if you’re creating an ad for “black dresses,” you may want to create an ad that highlights your low prices or your inventory diversity.

PPC Pitfalls to Avoid as a Small Business Owner

Look at what competitors are offering and try to offer something better. Also, use numbers as much as possible since ads that include them have higher click-through rates.

Another must: Add keyword extensions to your ads — they are pointed to above, with yellow arrows. They increase your ad’s real estate and allow you to add more benefits to your offering. There are different types of extensions, such as site extensions (links to specific parts of your site), callout extensions, or call extensions (usually used for mobile devices).

Finally, your ads should have as many variations as possible. Test different headlines and descriptions to discover which one yields the best results.

Lack of Organization

Having an organized campaign structure will allow you to have more control over your campaigns and yield better results. To start, your campaigns should be organized by geographical location. Having this segmentation will allow you to target different countries using different bids. You’ll also be able to see which countries yield the best results and be able to increase budgets as you see fit.

In addition, you should have different campaigns for different product types. For example, there can be a campaign for dresses, another campaign for shirts and another one for pants. Then, within each campaign, you create ad groups made up of similar keywords.

For example, within the “dresses” campaign, you may have a different ad group for different types of dresses in your inventory: cocktail dresses, evening dresses, etc. If your campaigns and ad groups are not organized, you will risk your ad showing for keywords that are not relevant and waste money for no reason.

Sending People to the Wrong Page

It’s all about expectations. If your ad is promoting dresses, searchers will expect to land on a page where they can buy dresses. Otherwise, they will be disappointed and probably go to another website. This leaves you with fewer conversions and a lower quality score.

Quality score is a variable used by Google and Bing to determine the relevance and quality of your advertisements. Bad quality scores can increase your cost per click and decrease your visibility. Ad copy and landing page relevance can dramatically affect your quality score, so make sure you spend time planning your landing pages wisely.

No Optimization

PPC campaigns are always a work in progress. Search engines constantly launch new updates that can affect visibility and cost. Make sure you stay on top of the latest marketing news and make optimizations as necessary.

One of the most useful ways to optimize campaigns is by building negative keyword lists. These types of keywords work like filters for your campaigns so your ads won’t be able to show for such keywords. This practice can save you a lot of money in irrelevant clicks that cause bad-quality traffic.

Another useful optimization practice is to create new ads with new copy. Make sure to create new ads and not edit old ones; otherwise, your performance history will be deleted from your campaigns. In addition, it is always a good idea to take a look at your keyword match types and look at the keyword planner to add more keywords to your campaigns.

Wrapping It Up

PPC advertising has allowed small business owners to compete against bigger ones; however, smart owners should be strategic with their accounts to avoid wasting money in bad clicks. There are several tactics that can be used to optimize campaigns, such as a structured organization, compelling ad copy and ad extensions. As with other marketing efforts, it is always important to measure, track and optimize the progress. With diligence, best practices and persistence, you’ll be able to use PPC ads as your salesforce online.

PPC Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “PPC Pitfalls to Avoid as a Small Business Owner” was first published on Small Business Trends

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