Business

Business
Why making websites mobile-friendly is important
January 15, 2018
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People are more attached to their smartphones than ever but recent analysis from Alliance Data shows that although 63 percent of millennials shop on them every day, only 39 percent of their total purchases are actually made online.
This trend is alarming news for online stores and vendors that are eager to get this targeted demographic to follow through on their online purchases. This data is also a little puzzling because this same age group is much more likely to use their phones to research products, comparison shop, and look for coupons online before heading into the physical store to buy the merchandise.

According to recent data from Osterman Research, online security could play a significant role in determining whether or not someone actually buys their goods online. They cite the 42.2 percent of millennials in America that have limited their purchases due to security concerns. Any data shared over the internet carries with it some risk of identity theft or fraud. In this case, increased use of security-focused shopping portals, coupled with better transparency of the website itself could help pave the way for peace of mind.

Perhaps more likely, CNET argues that many people turn to physical stores to complete their purchases simply because it can still be quite frustrating to input all the required information on a tiny smartphone keypad. Names, email addresses, passwords, physical addresses, and credit card numbers entered during checkout is a tedious process for all but the savviest users. Even using a desktop makes the process much more comfortable and the pictures are easier to view and navigate to boot.

For online retailers to secure their shoppers’ attention and wallets, the process of adding items to carts and checking out should be as seamless as possible. Integrating many different types of payment options, such as Paypal or Apple Pay, would also help entice people who trust a dedicated payment platform over an online storefront.

Business
Importance of a business credit score
January 8, 2018
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New business owners need to work on building their business credit score, which is similar to a personal score.

According to popular money-centric blog Nerd Wallet, a business credit score is measured by a range of numbers that indicate how creditworthy a business is and the higher the number, the better. The ratings are generated by the three major credit bureaus: Dun and Bradstreet, Experian, and Equifax and typically range from zero to 100 rather than 300 to 850. Just like the personal FICO score, the single most significant influencer of this score is the ability to make on-time payments to lenders who regularly report on that history. The score will typically only be affected by accounts in the business’s name, but it should be noted that many small-business lenders will still take a look at an owner’s personal score as well.

Aside from payment history, these bureaus use other information to determine the overall score of a business. Experian, for example, uses credit information from product suppliers and money lenders, any filings from the courts, public records about the company, and any open or past collections. Taking things a step further, they also check current loan balances, liens, bankruptcies, and judgments against the business as well as how large and how old it is. That’s a lot of things to consider, and for a small business owner, it is important to remember that these agencies are watching every financial move they make and each one can have ramifications long into the future.

Just like a personal credit score, it is essential to check a business credit score frequently to see which direction it is moving as well as to monitor for fraud and inaccuracies that need to be corrected. Unlike the personal score, however, the major bureaus don’t hand out the information for free, and there will be a fee involved ranging from $39.95 to $99.95 each time it’s checked.

Business
Robots will take the dirty, dull, and dangerous jobs from humans
January 2, 2018
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New advances in technology, especially automation, often send a bit of a shiver down the backs of many hard working Americans who fear a machine will replace their jobs in the coming years. While the threat is real for some workers, Inc Magazine highlights the fact that robots don’t always make them obsolete because they are only targeting the most repetitive, boring, or dangerous jobs available in the workplace. Also, at least initially, they often need an experienced worker to help program them to do their job correctly.

Once the robot is programmed, it will need someone to help maintain it with ongoing programming and maintenance. Experts in the robotics industry often promote the fact that the purpose of a robot in the workplace is to make a business more productive and enhance the jobs of existing employees by allowing them to focus on more critical tasks. This productivity can end up creating more jobs for actual humans by enabling a business to grow and expand more easily. One example of this, Scott Fetzer Electrical Group, manufactures appliance motors and saw a twenty percent increase in a plant’s productivity after installing a fleet of robots into their process. This increased business allowed them to bring business back to the factory that they had lost to China and hire more people as a result.

Despite increased productivity leading to jobs in some areas, robots excel at performing many entry-level or low-education positions in the workforce. CNN highlights the fact that roles such as cashiers, toll booth operators, drivers, and fast food, in general, are all at relatively higher risk of being taken over by machines. These jobs are repetitive and not very complicated to perform, and many people are perfectly fine using an automated kiosk, rather than a human, to pay for a new shirt. Rising minimum wages in many places, as well, means that an investment in robotics is starting to make more and more financial sense.

Robots can’t do everything, however, and many jobs such as nurses, sports coaches, hairstylists, songwriters, and social workers all face a low risk of being replaced due to the nature of their duties. These jobs all highlight the emotional connection that humans have with one another that can’t be replicated by an impersonal computer. Talking through a problem with a troubled child or working through a debilitating illness are tasks that require heart, empathy, and even something as simple as a reassuring hug. Unless robots can master the nuances of human speech and emotions, it is unlikely that they will be ruling the workforce anytime soon.

Business
Pros & Cons Of Outsourcing Your Small Business Payroll Processing
December 1, 2017
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Paying employees involves far more than just cutting a check on payday. Managing your small business’s payroll encompasses a variety of responsibilities that need to be met accurately and on time.

As an employer, you must: 
• Withhold employee taxes.
• Pay withholdings to government agencies.
• File quarterly reports.
• Issue W-2 forms at the end of the tax year.
• Issue summary filings to the state.
• Manage your employees’ health plan and retirement contributions.
• Handle state disability, unemployment and family leave assessments.
• Inform the government when you hire new employees and when employees leave your company.

If that sounds overwhelming, you might be wondering if you’d be better off delegating the work to a payroll company. Outsourcing your small business payroll has its advantages and some disadvantages.

Pros Of Outsourcing Payroll:
• It could save you time. You won’t be bogged down with calculating payroll deductions, remitting checks, etc.
• It could give you greater peace of mind. With a service provider specializing in handling your payroll, you might sleep better at night knowing payroll taxes will be calculated accurately and paid on time. A reputable payroll company will have a staff knowledgeable and up-to-date on all payroll tax deduction rules.
• It could save you money and make you more productive. Although you’re paying someone else to manage your payroll, you free up your in-house resources (including yourself) to take care of other important aspects of your business. Rather than spend time trying to figure out payroll and fix errors, you can instead focus on generating sales and innovating new products and services.

Cons Of Outsourcing Payroll:
• You may pay for more than what you really need. Some payroll services bundle offerings together in all-inclusive packages. Be wary of these as they might include services you don’t need and will never use.
• Errors might happen if your business has unique circumstances. If your business deals with situations the payroll service provider isn’t familiar handling (e.g., union employees, tips made by restaurant or salon employees, etc.), the company may make unintentional errors. You need to be sure you choose a service with staff that understands your industry/type of business and your company’s specific needs.
• You relinquish some control but are still ultimately responsible. This can be a bit unnerving; even if a mistake wasn’t your fault, you may be subject to fines for inaccuracies or late payroll tax payments.

Tips For Choosing A Reputable Payroll Service Provider
• Ask around. Talk with other small business owners to find out whom they use and what their experience with those providers has been like. SCORE mentors can also help you evaluate and connect with reputable payroll service providers.
• Talk with your accountant. This can give you insight into the right questions to ask and what expertise to look for.
• Ask for detailed pricing. When getting a quote, ask for an itemized breakdown of fees. That way, you’ll see if their services cover what you need and you can make sure you won’t be paying for anything you won’t need.

Questions To Ask Prospective Providers
• When and how often will I receive reports from you?
• Will your system integrate with my accounting software?
• What is the turnaround time to process payroll after you have my information?
• If a mistake is made, how quickly will you correct it?
• Do you charge additional fees for adding employees or changing employee payroll information?
• If we have to file taxes in multiple states, do you charge an additional fee?
• Will you assign my company a dedicated representative?
• What are your customer service and technical support hours?
• Is your system capable of handling employees’ health and retirement plan contributions?

A Choice Worth Careful Thought
When deciding whether to keep payroll responsibilities in-house or outsource them, you will need to carefully weigh the pros and cons. Consider the level of comfort and expertise your staff has (or lacks) in dealing with payroll tasks and weigh that against the ongoing costs associated with contracting a payroll service provider. Don’t make this important decision in haste, as it will affect your bottom line and how you spend your time.

Since 1964, SCORE “Mentors to America’s Small Business” has helped more than 10 million aspiring entrepreneurs and small business owners through mentoring and business workshops. More than 11,000 volunteer business mentors in over 320 chapters serve their communities through entrepreneur education dedicated to the formation, growth and success of small businesses. For more information about starting or operating a small business, call 1-800-634-0245 for the SCORE chapter nearest you. Visit SCORE at www.score.org.

Business
Considerations When Marketing A Niche Product
November 27, 2017
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While no product or service can be a good fit for everyone, niche products have an even narrower market than most.

If your business is focused on meeting a specialized need in a specialized market (for example, wholesale vegan spa products), the strategies and tactics others use to market their products and services may or may not be as effective for you. Marketing a niche product starts with creating a marketing plan that’s in step with your business plan.

According to SCORE mentor Tom Burgum, “Begin with rigorous market research. Resources like Reference USA and RMA financial profiles can provide valuable information.”

Burgum suggests finding answers to these questions:
• Is the product new to the world, or are others like it already available for sale?
• How can you differentiate your product from those that are similar?
• How large is the niche, is it growing, and at what pace?
• What’s the buying process?

When you’re targeting a niche market, having a detailed profile of the customers to whom you’re selling is also essential.

For starters, ask yourself these questions about the customers in your niche market:
• What are their needs?
• What are their expectations in terms of quality, price, speed of delivery, etc.?
• Where can you find them (virtually and physically)?
• How do they shop for products and services like yours?

Answering these and other questions will help you determine the ways to most effectively attract the attention of potential customers.

Some possibilities might include:
• Networking at events and industry conferences that draw your target market
• Targeted social media advertising (online social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, etc. offer pay-per click and pay-per-impression opportunities to present ads to customers who are in specific geographic areas, who fit certain demographic criteria, who have specific interests, etc.)
• Editorials in industry and trade magazines
• Radio spots during a program that draws listeners from your target market
• Guest posts on well-respected blogs that customers in your target market follow

Niche product marketing can be very cost-effective because you don’t waste time and money on people who have no interest in or need for your product in the process of reaching those that do.

“Test market your product…your unique selling proposition…your customer value to confirm your assumptions and validate your marketing assessment,” advises Burgum. “Although you can never be 100 percent certain about your conclusions, don’t be a victim of paralysis by analysis. Learn what you need to in order to minimize risks…and then go!”

If you need guidance in marketing a niche product, consider reaching out to your local SCORE chapter to speak with a mentor who can provide ideas and feedback.

Since 1964, SCORE “Mentors to America’s Small Business” has helped more than 10 million aspiring entrepreneurs and small business owners through mentoring and business workshops. More than 11,000 volunteer business mentors in over 320 chapters serve their communities through entrepreneur education dedicated to the formation, growth and success of small businesses. For more information about starting or operating a small business, call 1-800-634-0245 for the SCORE chapter nearest you. Visit SCORE at www.score.org.

Business
How Creating Buyer Personas Can Help Small Businesses In Their Marketing Efforts
November 9, 2017
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Compiling demographic information about your buyers will only take you so far in understanding how to reach and what to say to your target customers. By creating a “buyer persona” (a profile of a customer to represent a particular group of buyers) for each group of customers to whom you wish to sell your products and services, you’ll gain greater insight. Buyer personas help you drill down to the specifics of what motivates individual customers to buy and identify what communications channels will give you an opportunity to connect with more of your prospects and customers.

Some of the most powerful benefits of creating buyer personas include:
• Improving your marketing focus because personas bring to light the customers worth your time and marketing dollars.
• Giving you insight to help you more effectively craft your marketing messaging.
• Helping you determine the best marketing channels and advertising venues to reach your ideal customers.
• Enabling you to give your buyers a more personalized experience through the sales process.
• Saving money and improving sales because you’re not developing products and services to try to appeal to too broad an audience. You have the insight you need to focus your development efforts on satisfying the needs of your ideal customers.

How do you create buyer personas for your small business? Here are a few steps to guide you on your way:

Consider what you know right now about your current customer base
a. What characteristics do they have in common?
b. What are their demographics (age, gender, income, marital status, educational level, etc.)?
c. What do they do for a living?

Talk with your present—and past—customers
a. What challenges do they face?
b. What goals and aspirations do they have?
c. How did they find you?
d. What made them want to use your products or services?
e. What do they like about you?
f. Why have they stayed with you rather than moving to the competition?
g. Why did they leave you and go to the competition?

Write your personas
Present them as fictitious individuals who represent the typical traits and motivations belonging to your specific ideal customer groups. Incorporate the information you know about them and create short stories about who they are, the challenges they face, their buying habits and what motivates their buying decisions. You can find many examples and templates online for structuring your buyer personas.

Various factors (including your industry, type of business and others) will affect the number of buyer personas you should have. For additional guidance and input as you begin developing your customer profiles, consider talking with a SCORE mentor. SCORE volunteers have expertise in all aspects of starting and managing a small business, and they are here to offer free insight to help you through all stages of your company’s growth.

Since 1964, SCORE “Mentors to America’s Small Business” has helped more than 10 million aspiring entrepreneurs and small business owners through mentoring and business workshops. More than 11,000 volunteer business mentors in over 320 chapters serve their communities through entrepreneur education dedicated to the formation, growth and success of small businesses. For more information about starting or operating a small business, call 1-800-634-0245 for the SCORE chapter nearest you. Visit SCORE at www.score.org.

Business
Pros and Cons of shorter work weeks
November 8, 2017
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Companies have been experimenting with shorter work days for at least a decade and, despite announcements that the 40-hour week is dead, there have been mixed results from the experiments.

The idea has been to cut hours while keeping pay the same.

On the plus side, employees love it.

Quoted in the New York Times, Swedish employees at hospitals and Toyota factories say they do just as much work in six hours as they did in eight and they are happier.

One audit of the experiment in a nursing home concluded that absenteeism was down while productivity and worker health improved.

On the downside, Swedish the experiment in work hours has costs Swedish taxpayers for what one politician called “paying people not to work.”

In France, the socialist government ordered a 35-hour work week in 2000. Companies bitterly complained that it reduced competitiveness and cost billions in additional hiring.
In Korea, a plan to reduce hours from 44 to 40 resulted in worker stress as employees struggled to get the same amount of work done in fewer hours, according to the Korean Journal of Happiness Studies.

One American company in 2004 experimented with a six-hour week and found employees worked harder but they didn’t interact and worker camaraderies ground to a halt as people struggled to get their work done in fewer hours, according to BBC Capital.

 

Business
How many hours do people actually work?
November 6, 2017
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Since 1938, the official work week has been 40 hours. That was a triumph for workers laboring 12 to 16 hours a day.

The labor motto was: 8 hours work; 8 hours rest; 8 hours for what we will.

How that has worked in practice for both blue collar and white collar employees is different than the motto indicates.

While, work week estimates vary widely depending on the source, most put average work times at greater than 40 hours.

According to the Labor Department, average hours for full-time work broke down this way:
– Management, professionals: 43.3.
– Service: 41.3
– Sales and office: 41.9

Gallup surveys, in which people self-report working hours, show office workers logging an average of 49 hours.

In production settings, according to labor statistics, work hours from 1940 to 2010 have been relatively stable at just over 40 hours, except for war years when hours topped 45 per week, and depression when hours dipped under 37.

In 2015, Fortune, using numbers from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, calculated he average work week at just 34.4 hours. This put the United States at 16th for the highest number of hours worked. Canada at 32.77 hours ranked 22nd; the United Kingdom was 24th at 32.25; and Australia was 25th at 32 hours.

In this analysis, the top six hardest working countries were Mexico at 42.85 hours; Costa Rica at 42.62; Korea, 40.85; Greece, 49.27; Chile, 38.27; and Russia, 38.17

Business
Press Release Basics For Small Business Owners
November 3, 2017
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Press releases remain among the most effective ways to generate awareness of your small business and its products and services. Media outlets may reproduce a press release as is (or with some editing), or follow up about creating a longer story. A press release that gets picked up by reporters, bloggers, and others who share information with potential customers can result in media attention that facilitates interest in your company, builds credibility, and ultimately leads to more revenue.

Keep in mind, however, that the people at media outlets who field press releases are bombarded with them. That means yours needs to have purpose and must stand out from the crowd; otherwise, it may never be read let alone published.

Here are some tips to help ensure your press releases make an impression and make it past media gatekeepers:

Make sure it’s sharing something people will care about. While a press release can be about anything relevant to the people you want to reach, make sure you’re sharing something that’s interesting. Never create a press release that doesn’t offer something of value to your readers.

Examples of press release topics that might resonate with people include: 
• Launch of a new product that will make customers’ lives easier
• Improvement to an existing product that enhances its quality or capabilities
• An open house event
• Introduction of a new staff member who brings additional expertise to your company
• Involvement in an industry association or sponsorship of a well-known program

Keep it to the point
Press releases are typically short, providing just enough information to spark a reporter’s interest in learning more. If your press release extends past two pages, it will likely get passed over. Stick to the basic “who, what, when, where, how, and why” information, and include your contact information so reporters can easily reach you if they have questions.

Put it in the right hands
Research what media outlets reach your target audience. Depending on your type of business, that may be local newspapers, local magazines, and local television and radio stations, or you might benefit from a much broader reach. With local media, find out how they prefer to receive press releases. For media reach beyond your local area, you might consider PRlog.com or pay services such as PRweb.com, PRnewswire.com, or Marketwired.com. (Royal Examiner welcomes your press release – send to [email protected])

Also take advantage of the power of social media by posting your press release on your website and sharing the link on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and the other platforms you have a presence on.

If you need guidance in what to include in your press releases and which media outlets will serve you best, or if have any other questions about ways to generate buzz about your small business, talk with a SCORE mentor at your local chapter.

Since 1964, SCORE “Mentors to America’s Small Business” has helped more than 10 million aspiring entrepreneurs and small business owners through mentoring and business workshops. More than 11,000 volunteer business mentors in over 320 chapters serve their communities through entrepreneur education dedicated to the formation, growth and success of small businesses. For more information about starting or operating a small business, call 1-800-634-0245 for the SCORE chapter nearest you. Visit SCORE at www.score.org. 

Business
How To Boost Business Using Live Video 
October 27, 2017
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Live video streaming has become one of the most powerful ways to forge stronger connections with customers. Apps like Facebook Live, Instagram Stories, Snapchat Stories, YouTube Live Streaming, and Periscope can help small business owners boost sales and strengthen their brands.

Going “live” enables people to see what’s happening with your business in real-time and offers a more personal view of what your company does and who the faces are behind your logo.

If you’re thinking about giving live video streaming a try, here are some ideas to help you go live with content that will engage viewers and shine the spotlight on your small business’s strengths.

Introduce a new product or service
Live video provides a memorable way to communicate features and benefits and get people excited about your new offerings.

Feature product demonstrations and how-tos
Live video offers an effective way to demonstrate how products work and teach customers how to use your products. “Seeing is believing.” If you show people your products or services improving productivity or making life easier for a customer, it adds credibility and builds trust.

Introduce a new team member
Sharing the credentials, capabilities, and personalities of new employees can facilitate a stronger personal connection with customers and enhance customers’ confidence in what your business can accomplish.

Interview a raving fan customer and share their success story
This type of live word-of-mouth testimonial can serve as a powerful endorsement of your products and services.

Show a fun “day in the life” glimpse of your office culture
Streaming video of your team’s camaraderie during work can help humanize your brand and give your customers a sense of what it’s like behind the scenes at your company.

Feature your company participating in a community cause
Capturing real-time moments of your team giving back to the community can build a stronger emotional connection with customers. People feel good about supporting businesses that commit themselves to causes that help those in need.

Show your team members celebrating a milestone
Whether it’s making a toast to your business’s five-year anniversary or announcing a new project partnership, celebrating your milestones through live video can show people you’re a thriving and growing company.

Introduce a new marketing campaign or a branding development
Streaming video to raise buzz about new promotional offers or rebranding efforts (like a new logo) can generate excitement and enthusiasm—and potentially sales!

Show off a team member’s skills on the job
By featuring your employees’ expertise and capabilities, you can reinforce why customers should choose your products and services over those from your competitors.

Gearing Up To Go Live
Before you use live video for the first time, consider watching how other brands that sell products and services similar to yours are using live video streaming tools. That will help you generate more ideas and give you a sense of what resonates with viewers. Also, evaluate which live streaming platforms will benefit you the most. Consider your followers will be the most likely people to tune into your broadcasts. With that in mind, will one platform over the others reach more people in your target audience?

As you explore using live video streaming to market your business, reach out to a SCORE mentor for insight and suggestions. With expertise in marketing and all other aspects of starting and running a small business, our mentors are here to provide guidance and align you with the resources you need to succeed.

Since 1964, SCORE “Mentors to America’s Small Business” has helped more than 10 million aspiring entrepreneurs and small business owners through mentoring and business workshops. More than 11,000 volunteer business mentors in over 320 chapters serve their communities through entrepreneur education dedicated to the formation, growth and success of small businesses. For more information about starting or operating a small business, call 1-800-634-0245 for the SCORE chapter nearest you. Visit SCORE at www.score.org.