Skip navigation
1 2 3 Previous Next

General Business

860 posts

By now, more than a few businesses have realized that they need – or needed – an emergency fund. steve emergency fund.jpg

 

The coronavirus pandemic quickly caught  businesses off guard. A fortunate few had the type of business that was not affected by shelter-in-place orders, but many, many others were hit hard by the double-whammy of lost business and a lack of a rainy-day fund.

 

Time to rectify that second issue.

 

According to the SurePayroll Small Business Worry Index, “Due to the nature of small businesses, it can be hard to ensure there is enough cash on hand for business expenses and payroll. One finding from the study showed that 1 in 4 small business owners worry about being able to cover payroll at some point in the year.”

 

All of which begs the question: How do you create a rainy-day fund and how much do you need? It’s really just a simple 4-step process.

 

Step 1: Analyze your core expenses: Make a list of the expenses that you have to cover every month, things like:

 

  • Payroll
  • Rent
  • Taxes
  • Insurance
  • Utilities

 

Other items, the ones that are more wants than needs, should not be on this list. That would include items such as marketing and entertainment.

 

Now, multiply that core number by three. That is the number of months of overhead you ideally will (eventually) set aside.

 

If your core expenses are $5,000, you need to begin to save $15,000.

 

Step 2: Chunk it down: If you look at $15,000 by itself, it will likely look like an insurmountable mountain. But guess what? No one climbs a mountain in one step. Mountain climbers chunk it down.

 

According to the outdoor adventure retailer REI.com, there are several steps to take when planning to climb a mountain. Three of the four are relevant for our analogous purposes:

 

  • Get a guide. See Step 3, below.

 

  • Start training. This is essential in mountain climbing as it is in saving. For many people, saving does not come naturally. Neither does mountain climbing. The only way to climb that mountain is to begin small, practice, and get in shape. Start saving small, but get in the habit.

 

  • Choose a route: There are several routes to get to the top of a mountain. Some are easier than others. It begins by planning the trip, picking out a base camp, and plotting rest areas and important markers along the way. Again, this is the same process for creating a rainy-day emergency fund. Pick a reasonable path and start climbing.

 

So that’s the idea. Come up with a savings plan, start small, get in shape, and then begin to execute on your plan step by step. Yes, it will take practice and hard work. Climbing a mountain is not easy. But others have done it and you can too.

 

Step 3. Get help: Making and hitting financial goals can be challenging, and that is why bringing in an accountant or financial advisor makes sense. Meeting with a financial advisor can help you understand how best to begin, where you can safely cut back, how to save, and will help ensure that you are saving the right amounts.

 

And, having an advisor who understand the finances of your business can also help if and when you do have an emergency down the road. An expert teammate can give you expert advice.

 

Step 4. Commit. The key here is to save a bit each month. That takes good old-fashioned commitment. So consider and remember the wise words of W.H. Murray in his book, The Scottish Himalayan Expedition (1951):

 

Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. The moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision which no man could have dreamt would have come his way.

 

In the end, by committing to this plan, not only will you have learned a new skill (how to save) but you will not be caught off-guard the next time your small business faces an emergency situation.

 

Note: If you’re interested in seeking Small Business banking help through Bank of America, please feel free to reach out to a small business specialist on their team.

 

 

About Steve Strauss

 

Steve Strauss Headshot New.pngSteven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can also listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business SuccessSteven D. Strauss

 

Web: www.theselfemployed.com or Twitter: @SteveStrauss

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Steve Strauss to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Steve Strauss is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Steve Strauss. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice. Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.  ©2019 Bank of America Corporation

The right social media influencer can bring much-needed attention to your small business. By introducing your business, product, or service to an influencer’s audience of raving mari influencers.jpgfans, it can boost your visibility while helping generate engagement, leads and sales.

 

The key, however, is finding the right social media influencer. You want someone who is authentic, who has an engaged audience that aligns with your demographic, and whose values align with your product or service.

 

Let me break the considerations down for you.

 

Getting Started

 

The first step is finding social media influencers. There are several influencer research tools, where you can search for people by niche, area, or industry. More on tools below. You may also look to competing and complementary brands to see who they use, and how they use them, to give you an idea of what’s possible.

 

For instance, if you work in the wellness industry and see that your top competitor has a known fitness instructor representing their brand, search for someone comparable or even better to give you a leg up.

 

Once you have a list of a half-dozen ideal influencers, the research starts.

 

More than the Numbers

 

Start by reviewing their fans and followers on the major social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and possibly YouTube, Pinterest and LinkedIn. While public-facing metrics are an excellent starting point, beware. Someone could very well have bought their fans or followers. They might even be a bot or use bots for engagement.

 

To check authenticity of the influencers, look at several things:

 

Audience: Don’t just look at the numbers, see who is actually following the influencer. Is it other influencers? Brands? People with large followings? If you answered ‘yes’ to all of the above, the influencer is likely legit.

 

However, there are plenty of red flags where influencers are concerned. Beware of any supposed influencer whose followers:

- Have little to no followers themselves

- Have no profile pictures

- Have spammy sounding usernames

 

One more thing: If an influencer’s social platform has a sudden spike in engagement, it may be a legitimate campaign, or it could mean something happening that is ‘gaming’ the algorithms/systems. Do a deeper dive into this influencer… or just move on!

 

Engagers and Engagement Rate: Review who engages with the influencer regularly. Look into who shares their content, retweets, likes and comments. These could be micro-influencers with their own niche community or just regular people who enjoy the influencers’ content. You will also want to read the comments and tweets. Intelligent, thoughtful replies say a lot about the influencers’ community. Users who say things like, “Hey, nice post!’ could be a bot or bought follower.

 

Often more important than the number of followers an influencer has is the engagement rate. To calculate an influencer’s engagement rate, look back over the past 20 to 30 posts, divide the total engagement per post by the number of followers, and multiply that to by 100 to get their engagement rate. You can compare that against these average engagement rate benchmarks by industry to see if they’re doing well.

 

Tone, Style and Communication

 

When considering using an influencer, you want to make sure they will be representative of your small business. That means looking into what they share on their social profiles and how they engage with their community.

 

Content: Read the influencer’s posts and/or watch their videos. Are they transparent in what they share? Do they share some personal elements in their messaging? Is the tone and style of their content messaging consistently on brand for them? Is their brand aligned with your company’s style, tone, and mission?

 

Sponsored Content: Are they crystal clear about paid relationships? Your business plays by the rules, and you want your influencers to do the same. Typically, this means including the tags #ad, #spon, and/or #ambassador, as well as using Facebook and Instagram’s Branded Content tagging tool.

 

Engagement: The best influencers are the ones who not only share your message, but also engage with their community. Review their posts to see how involved they are with their people. Does the influencer reply to at least some of their audience’s comments? Do they appear to have genuine conversations? Do they seem natural, honest, and friendly? Is the tone and style of their communication consistent?

 

While these are public personas, you want influencers with strong interpersonal skills and genuine interest in their community, since those elements count for so much.

 

Tools

 

Once you’ve vetted your potential influencers’ social channels, their content, and their engagement, you can do a deeper dive into their reach and relationships using a variety of online resources.

 

Google Search: Sometimes the most basic ways of research are the best. Look for the influencer’s name/brand, along with potential key phrases associated with their expertise/authority, to see what more you can find out online. This information will help you assess their level of authenticity.

 

Followerwonk: Followerwonk enables you to identify influencers by keyword; you can also search by name. In addition, the free version of FollowerWonk allows you to compare the followers of up to three Twitter accounts, analyze an influencer’s followers, or analyze who the influencer follows.

 

BuzzSumo: Use Buzzsumo to search for influencers by type and see their number of followers, domain authority, and more. There’s also a BuzzSumo browser extension, which enables you to quickly check social engagement data for the page you're viewing, or for any other website.

 

Facebook’s CrowdTangle Link Checker: This browser extension provides a one-click way to see how often a link has been shared, who shared it, and what they said. This works for articles and blog posts, as well as links to social media content.

 

HypeAuditor: If you want to invest in using a complete Influencer platform, check out HypeAuditor. Purpose-built for fraud detection, HypeAuditor measures overall audience quality.

 

When choosing an influencer to represent your business, it’s essential to gauge their authenticity. Start with the legwork on basic metrics, filter out the frauds, and then do extensive research on your top tier possibilities.

 

The goal: Discover the best mutually beneficial arrangement for both you and the influencer. When it’s win-win, you’ll find a long-term match and endless possibilities!

 

About Mari Smith

 

Often referred to as “the Queen of Facebook,” Mari Smith is considered one of the world’s foremost experts on Facebook marketing and social media. She is a Forbes’ Top mari headshot.pngSocial Media Power Influencer, author of The New Relationship Marketing and coauthor of Facebook Marketing: An Hour A Day. Forbes recently described Mari as, “… the preeminent Facebook expert. Even Facebook asks for her help.” She is a recognized Facebook Partner; Facebook headhunted and hired Mari to lead the Boost Your Business series of live events across the US. Mari is an in-demand speaker, and travels the world to keynote and train at major events.

 

Her digital marketing agency provides professional speaking, training and consulting services on Facebook and Instagram marketing best practices for Fortune 500 companies, brands, SMBs and direct sales organizations. Mari is also an expert webinar and live video broadcast host, and she serves as Brand Ambassador for numerous leading global companies.

 

Web: Mari Smith or Twitter: @MariSmith

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Mari Smith to provide materials for informational purposes only, and is not responsible for, and does not guarantee or endorse any of the third-party products or services mentioned.  All third-party logos and company names mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners and are used under license from Mari Smith. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2020 Bank of America Corporation

If you own a small business, one of the best ways to honor veterans this National Hire a Veteran Day (July 25) is to hire one. Indeed, while veterans returning to civilian life often steve veterans day.jpghave difficulties finding good jobs, the fact is, veterans have specialized skills and other attributes that make them excellent employees.

 

Hiring veterans is a smart business decision and here are the top 5 reasons why:

 

1. Veterans have a great work ethic: It is called military discipline for a reason. When it comes to working hard, veterans are often well-equipped to stay on task. When you’re a service member, your job requires focus, determination, and precision. Anything less could mean lives are at risk, could mean your safety, of the safety of others, is at risk. Being a service member instills a drive within people to stay disciplined and focused, keeping at the task at hand until it is completed.

 

These skills easily transfer to working in business; veterans understand the meaning of hard work and getting the job done, which, as you well know, are desirable qualities in employees.

 

2. Veterans are trainable: Although veterans may not know the ins and outs of your small business, they nevertheless possess one quality that makes them very good employees: trainability.

 

Service members are used to listening to superiors, getting feedback, learning, adapting, and taking on new challenges. All of these qualities make them very trainable employees. Veterans take direction well and when given a new task, can learn and execute it.

 

3. Veterans know how to work in a team – and  how to lead: Working in teams is fundamental to being in the service; that’s how things get done and missions accomplished. Service members must be able to work with a variety of people, collaborate, and be a valuable member of a team.

 

That said, what is also driven home in the service? Being a leader. There are many opportunities to rise in the ranks of leadership when in the military, which allows veterans to already have the knowledge for how to run a team.

So yes, veterans can definitely be a great addition to your team, but also, when given the right guidance, lead it.

 

4. Veterans are excellent problem solvers: Veterans know firsthand what it means to find solutions to tricky challenges. They have experienced thinking on their feet and working under pressure in demanding situations.

 

That adaptability and inventiveness is another reason why they make great employees.

 

In any business, problem solving is a valuable skill - when tough situations arise, it is important to have employees who can diffuse problems and find innovative solutions when none might be seemingly available. Veterans, with this skill already, make good employees for this very reason.

 

5. Bonus: There are government incentives for you to hire a veteran! Hiring a veteran is smart because of their plethora of skills, and you also may be able to qualify for government incentives for doing so.

 

 

  • Additionally, Wounded Warrior tax credits can be claimed if you hire veterans with disabilities. If you want to learn more about tax credits and incentives for hiring veterans, find more on the VA website

 

On this Veterans Day, the smart move is to look to hire a vet.

 

 

 

Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an steve strauss headshot.pngExpert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can also listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business SuccessSteven D. Strauss

 

Web: www.theselfemployed.com or Twitter: @SteveStrauss

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Steve Strauss to provide materials for informational purposes only, and is not responsible for, and does not guarantee or endorse any of the third-party products or services mentioned.  All third-party logos and company names mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners and are used under license from Steve Strauss.Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2020 Bank of America Corporation

Let’s say you want to ask your customers and/or fan base to do something – buy a product, donate to a cause, click a link, whatever. Which of the below do you think would besteve video sale.jpg more effective in getting them to act:

 

  • A well-written email sent to your carefully curated opt-in list with a strong call-to-action, or
  • Asking in person or via a video chat?

 

Check out the answer, from the Harvard Business Review:

 

Despite the reach of email, asking in person is the significantly more effective approach; you need to ask six people in person to equal the power of a 200-recipient email blast.

 

That, as we say, ain’t chopped liver.

 

But asking in person is challenging right now, so what about asking “in-person” via Zoom, Skype, or Facetime?

 

Maybe you are thinking that, under these circumstances, email is still probably better, right?

Wrong. Not even close. Video is clearly the way.

 

According to the Harvard Business Review, citing research, “we found that people tend to overestimate the power of their persuasiveness via text-based communication, and underestimate the power of their persuasiveness via face-to-face communication.”

 

That said, communicating and selling via Zoom is a different animal than doing so live in-person.

 

You Can Sell on Zoom

 

Here then are the things that the experts tell us you must keep in mind as you look to sell (or persuade) via video:

 

Create rapport: Sales 101 is that it is best to begin by making a connection with the person to whom you are speaking. This is as true online as it is off. And the way you do it is the same – look them in the eye, make a joke, find something you have in common, engage in chit-chat.

 

(Remember: do not look at the screen to make eye contact. Look at the camera, and if you can, make sure your camera is at eye level.)

 

Don’t forget the role of non-verbal cues: “We found the nonverbal cues conveyed during a face-to-face interaction made all the difference in how people viewed the legitimacy of their requests,” according to the Harvard Business Review.

 

Non-verbal cues in a video chat or sales call include: Looking at a cellphone, looking away, lack of engagement or questions. Non-verbal cues are just that – cues!

 

Consider your Zoom background: According to the Zoom Blog, “What you have surrounding you in the frame is as important as making sure you are front and center. Remove the clutter and either have a blank background (like in a conf room) or a professional background if in an office. A bonus will be making a custom virtual background with the logo of the company you are selling to.”

 

And don’t forget the possibility of using a virtual background. Here’s how.

 

Be a pro/Have the right equipment: What you don’t want is to look or sound glitchy; that comes from having mediocre equipment. If you need to invest in a professional microphone or web camera, do so. And what about hard wiring your computer into your router during the call and saving the wireless for your regular web work?

 

Also, consider your lighting carefully. You want your lights in front of you, lighting up your face, not behind you.

 

In the end, while selling via video is still not as preferable as selling live, in-person, it remains the best bet right now, and better than selling via email. Given that, it is important to do it right.

 

Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask

steve strauss headshot.png

Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can also listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business SuccessSteven D. Strauss

 

Web: www.theselfemployed.com or Twitter: @SteveStrauss

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Steve Strauss to provide materials for informational purposes only, and is not responsible for, and does not guarantee or endorse any of the third-party products or services mentioned.  All third-party logos and company names mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners and are used under license from Steve Strauss. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2020 Bank of America Corporation

One industry showing no signs of slowing down during Coronavirus is hardly unexpected: Cyber scamming. Scammers have continued to thrive – flourish even – during and as we work to recover from the pandemic. scams pic.jpg

 

The Better Business Bureau has identified six of the most reported financial scams during this time:

 

    1. Stimulus check scams: As you know, $1,200 was issued to a considerable number of Americans by the  U.S. government, but because the payments rolled out slowly, scammers took advantage quickly. The BBB reports that fake economic impact checks were mailed, promising people that they could get their money faster if they paid a small fee. Little do the unfortunate know, but these checks are not coming from the government, and aren’t even real for that matter. The bad guys use this scam to:

 

  • Cheat you out of money
  • Gain access to your bank account
  • Potentially steal your identity

 

      2. Phishing scams: Although phishing scams have always been popular among con artists, they have gained even more popularity in this work-from-home era.

 

For example, I recently received an email from ‘Uber’ telling me to claim my offer of a free ride. But the email looked suspicious, and when I checked who the email was from, it wasn’t the official Uber website. I didn’t click any links and I’m glad I didn’t. This is a classic phishing scam, and the type the BBB warns against. The bad guys email you, enticing you with some great offer so as to get you to click a bad link which will then infect your computer with a virus.

 

Phishing scams usually entail emails that look (almost) exactly like ones from companies you trust - whether it be your employer, or an organization, or maybe a retailer that you know and like. The point is to get you to let your guard down (because it looks legit) and have you click on links that ultimately compromise your computer, and eventually, your personal information.

 

      3. Government impersonation: A common scam that has been cropping up more and more during the COVID-19 are government impersonator emails, texts and phone calls. Con artists will contact you, claiming to be some government official; they may say they are from the FBI, or the IRS, or even your local police. The point is to scare you into letting your guard down.

 

One common angle is that they mention that that they have an “online coronavirus test” that you need to take. The BBB reports that no test like this exists (of course.) The goal is to get you to go to an infected website, click a bad link, thereby downloading malware onto your computer which allows them to hijack your personal information.

 

       4. Employment scams: This emerging trick is one of the crueler, yet more sophisticated, financial scams that has cropped up during this time. Employment scams seek to get the recently unemployed to cough up money and bank account information through clever - and costly - tricks.

 

It works like this: Scammers will target the unemployed with phony work-from-home job offers. The jobs seem legit, are “easy to do,” and “pay good money,” and the hiring process is “quick and painless.” Too painless to be true.

 

Alert! When you start training for the job, the crooks will ask you to pay fees for the cost of training you. Red flag! Or, you will be asked to wire back “overpayments” or buy expensive equipment. These scams ultimately cost you not only your money, but your time, hope and reputation.

 

        5. The Fake-Cure Scam: During this time of high anxiety, people are of course seeking answers and relief. Scammers have been attempting to provide that by offering “coronavirus cures.” Via phone, text, or email, they will offer special masks, or “medical cures that the government is hiding.”

 

But you know the drill by now: They will also ask you for your credit card information. Of course, the products never arrive and the link you clicked or the information you provided allows for identity theft.

 

Ultimately, there are many scams that have become more popular because of coronavirus fears. But if you keep your eyes peeled and stay alert, you won’t get hurt.

 

 

Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his steve strauss headshot.pngAsk/servlet/JiveServlet/downloadImage/38-3373-418524/steve+strauss+headshot.png an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can also listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business SuccessSteven D. Strauss

 

Web: www.theselfemployed.com or Twitter: @SteveStrauss

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Steve Strauss to provide materials for informational purposes only, and is not responsible for, and does not guarantee or endorse any of the third-party products or services mentioned.  All third-party logos and company names mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners and are used under license from Steve Strauss.Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2020 Bank of America Corporation

It may be surprising to learn that of the 30 million businesses in the U.S., at least 80% are one-person operations. And, just like those businesses that have employees, solopreneurs also need help in the era of coronavirus. steve self employed pic.jpg

 

The good news: There is a lot of assistance available.

 

Here is a round-up of the best assistance programs for solopreneurs:

 

The Small Business Administration: The bulk of the news about the SBA recently has to do with its handling of the enormous Payroll Protection Program, but the SBA does and offers much more than that. For example, if you already have a loan through the SBA 7(a), Community Advantage, 504, or microloan programs, you can qualify for payment relief for up to six months. You can find its coronavirus resources and financial assistance page here.

 

  • Additionally, the SBA has created a streamlined application process for its Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program. Applicants are eligible for a $10,000 advance ($1,000 per employee) that does not have to be paid back even if you are declined for the EIDL loan. You can apply here.

 

Unemployment: Yes, state unemployment offices are overwhelmed with applications, but that doesn’t mean you should not apply. Due to Covid-19, 1099 contractors now qualify for government assistance. Learn more here.

 

Industry specific grants and programs: Many different industries that employ or represent contract workers have created a plethora of programs:

 

 

As small businesses look to the future it’s important to remember that there are a number of resources available. It’s making sure to stay informed and leverage the ones that are relevant to each business that will help small business owners move forward.

 

 

Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his steve strauss headshot.pngAsk an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can also listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business SuccessSteven D. Strauss

 

Web: www.theselfemployed.com or Twitter: @SteveStrauss

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Steve Strauss to provide materials for informational purposes only, and is not responsible for, and does not guarantee or endorse any of the third-party products or services mentioned.  All third-party logos and company names mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners and are used under license from Steve Strauss.Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2020 Bank of America Corporation

Defined as marketing “that involves the creation and sharing of online material” to generate interest in a product, content marketing has been around longer than you may recall.steve marketing pic.jpg

 

Back in 2004, Merriam-Webster named “blog” the word of the year and marketers across the globe were scurrying to create blogs, e-books and soon podcasts, webinars and video all with the goal of capturing an online audience and driving them to websites or brick- and-mortar stores. If you think over more than a decade, we’d have perfected content marketing, you’d be wrong.

 

In a time like this, when the traditional sales funnel has likely slowed, investing in content that provides value to your customers and clients beyond the product they buy from you can help to keep them warm until things pick up again.

 

Here are five things you should know about content marketing today:

 

1. Surprising news about attention spans

 

A recent study by Prezi reveals six in 10 respondents believe their abilities to retain focus has actually improved and they can now better give content undivided attention—with millennials more likely than Gen Xers and boomers saying the right content can hold their attention for a long time. Of course, it has to be the right content. Respondents report being more selective about what they give their attention to. 9 in 10 respondents say a strong narrative (85 percent) or telling the story behind what’s being presented is critical in maintaining engagement (81 percent). Right now, with people home, everyone is spending even more time online. Taking advantage of this moment can help increase your business’ perception for when your customers are ready to return to business as usual.

 

2. Getting personal

 

It’s all about the customer experience today and what customers want - actually, what they demand - is personalization. Trying to reach a mass audience does nothing for consumers looking for specific information important to their lives. Using big data, studying consumer trends and keeping detailed customer records can help you focus on what your customers want from your business. Research shows businesses still need work in this area: Only 66 percent of content marketing programs prioritize their audience’s informational needs over their organization’s sales/promotional message, while 88 percent of top performers do.

 

3. Start a conversation

 

Experts at the Content Marketing Institute recommend moving away from “brand speak” and delivering information in the language your customers understand—in words they would use. Afterall, talking to customers in a natural, more conversational way not only shows you “get” them, it also helps you build engagement and, consequently, trust.

 

4. User-created content

 

User-generated content is exactly what it sounds like: content (text, videos, images, etc.) created by your audience, rather than by your business. You can then share user-generated content across your marketing platforms such as your social media pages and website. Why do you want to do this? The biggest reason is credibility. Consumers are 2.4 times more likely to perceive user-generated content as authentic compared to content created by brands. The other reason is people influence other people’s purchasing decisions. Amassing user-generated content involves starting conversations on social media and asking followers for opinions, stories, videos and images. Be sure to ask permission and credit the creator.

 

5. Immersive content

 

Immersive content is a fairly new tactic for marketers and gaining momentum. This includes formats like augmented reality and virtual reality. For augmented reality think live streaming on Instagram, which involves a real-world environment enhanced by computer-generated graphics or objects. Virtual reality involves complete immersion in a computer world, like Facebook Horizon. Both might be too far forward to initiate immediately, but as the technology gets more user-friendly it could be a great tool to create just the kind of engagement your marketing can benefit from.

 

Once you have an idea about what content you want to produce, you need to deploy it strategically. And remember: the content marketing game is consistently evolving. Don’t be shy to try something new.

 

The Content Marketing Institute recommends you create an editorial calendar, but, “Instead of thinking of your calendar as a schedule of content, consider it the implementation plan for your documented content marketing strategy. Plan content in quarterly sprints so you can adapt topics to real-time changes in the industry and content based on real-time performance.”

 

About Rieva Lesonsky

 

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and Co-founder of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship, and the blog SmallBizDaily.com. A nationally known speaker and authority on entrepreneurship, Rieva has been covering America’s entrepreneurs for more than 30 years. Before co-founding GrowBiz Media, Lesonsky was the long-time Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine. Lesonsky has appeared on hundreds of radio shows and numerous local and national television programs, including the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN, The Martha Stewart Show and Oprah.

Rieva headshot.png

Lesonsky regularly writes about small business for numerous websites and for corporations targeting entrepreneurs. Many organizations have recognized Lesonsky for her tireless devotion to helping entrepreneurs. She served on the Small Business Administration’s National Advisory Council for six years, was honored by the SBA as a Small Business Media Advocate and a Woman in Business Advocate, and received the prestigious Lou Campanelli award from SCORE. She is a long-time member of the Business Journalists Hall of Fame.

 

Web: www.growbizmedia.com or Twitter: @Rieva

You can read more articles from Rieva Lesonsky by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Rieva Lesonsky to provide materials for informational purposes only, and is not responsible for, and does not guarantee or endorse any of the third-party products or services mentioned.  All third-party logos and company names mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners and are used under license from Rieva Lesonsky. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, it's affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2020 Bank of America Corporation

As different areas begin to relax stay-at-home orders, there is a lot to consider before fully re-opening your business, both in terms of the customer experience and with regard to employee and customer safety. pexels-photo-3345876.jpg

 

In addition to the thoughts below, always make sure to check on your local guidance for opening back up to the public as well as regularly checking the CSC’s Guidance for Businesses and Workplaces.

 

Here’s what you should consider:

 

1. Remote work policy: If you are like most small businesses, you did not have a telecommuting/remote work policy in place when shelter-at-home orders were enacted. But that needs to change.

 

If you plan to allow some or all of your workforce to continue to work remotely, consider:

 

  • Which jobs will be remote, and which will require an employee’s physical presence? This needs to be spelled out, either in an employment manual or in an employment contract.
  • Can the right to work remotely be altered or revoked?
  • What sort of communication, productivity and reporting will you require?
  • Will the business reimburse employees for work-at-home expenses?
  • Document which positions will not be suited for remote work.

 

If you found telecommuting did not serve your business well, you should document why remote work is not feasible for certain positions. A paper trail is important to show should an employee request the right to work remotely and you have to deny the request.

 

2. Safety and sanitation: For both the safety of your employees and customers, as well as the legal protection of your business, you need procedures and policies with regard to how you will be sanitizing your place of business. What will be cleaned and how often? Who will be responsible? How often will communal spaces (lunchrooms) and shared equipment (computers) be cleaned? What products will be used? How will your cleanliness procedures be documented?

 

Similarly, consider creating hand-washing stations and protocols, as well as having hand sanitizer out for public use.

 

3. Social distancing: This will be with us for a while; how will your company do it? What will your employees need to know in order to create and enforce six-foot distancing? Many businesses, markets for example, are painting six-foot markers for where customers need to stand in the checkout line. Should you institute some visible markers for your employees as well?

 

Also, does your locale require the wearing of masks? Even if not, will you want to require that rule for your staff, for the safety of both themselves and customers?

 

4. Health screening: While you may be tempted to implement a procedure to require regular health checks and temperature screenings for employees, this needs to be done very carefully. There are HIPAA health privacy laws that must be adhered to and as such, any such screening must be done in conjunction with federal and state laws, and your lawyer.

 

For more information, see Updated EEOC COVID-19 Guidance, and note “Employers should remember that guidance from public health authorities is likely to change as the COVID-19 pandemic evolves. Therefore, employers should continue to follow the most current information on maintaining workplace safety.”

 

5. Sickness and sick days: Your policies with regard to illness and calling in sick need to be clear and airtight so your staff knows when to call in sick, especially with regard to COVID-19. Obviously, you do not want anyone coming into the office who could even possibly be experiencing coronavirus or have had exposure to someone who has, so this needs to be made clear.

 

Moreover, what process will you use to determine if someone showing possible symptoms needs to be sent home? You may want to consider implementing a mandatory 14-day work from home policy for employees who may have been exposed.

 

In fact, you may want to consider creating a specific stand-alone health policy for coronavirus-related illnesses, time-off, and family leave (even if you are not subject to the Family and Medical Leave Act).

 

6. Documentation: It is especially important to implement processes for documenting everything related to your safety, health, sanitation, and employee efforts. This means you should update employee handbooks and contracts. Post rules and policies publicly and create a physical paper trail. We are in uncharted waters and being extra cautious, and documenting that caution, is the smart move.

 

 

Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask/servlet/JiveServlet/downloadImage/38-3373-418524/steve+strauss+headshot.png an steve strauss headshot.pngExpert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can also listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business SuccessSteven D. Strauss

 

Web: www.theselfemployed.com or Twitter: @SteveStrauss

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Steve Strauss to provide materials for informational purposes only, and is not responsible for, and does not guarantee or endorse any of the third-party products or services mentioned.  All third-party logos and company names mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners and are used under license from Steve Strauss.Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2020 Bank of America Corporation

Shhh. I’m listening in. My graduating senior, Vince, is having one of his last digital quarantine classes. And there’s a big business lesson for you in this. But you have to indulge a chris school.business connecting pic.jpgdad for a minute.

 

You see, Vince was a very shy, non-participatory student for most of his life. He was bullied in 6th grade for being different (his sin was not caring about fashion and current pop culture) and it left a rough mark on his future education.

 

Right now, Vince is showing off one of his cats to the class and talking about the graduation baskets (full of decorations) they all received. And just like that, they’re debating whether the U.S. will adopt more fashionable masks the way China has for over a decade now. And now, this is suddenly their “social studies” class.

 

Schools (And Businesses) Must Have Connection

 

Have you thanked a grocery store employee for their help over the last few months? Did you do that before the pandemic? Not with the same sentiment, for sure. Why? Because you’re recognizing the contribution of their service to your day’s success.

 

Do we do that at work? No. We speak to the screw ups. The rest of the time, we placate and repeat empty phrases.

 

Have you ever realized just how much of office work is repeating the same stupid chatter over and over? Probably you didn’t until you were forced to stay home and participate in endless Zoom meetings.

 

At home, Vince was asked about his cat. We all do this. We take in the little video rectangle behind the student or employee and we do mental inventory. We look for weird things, interesting things, and most importantly, we seek to find items to which we relate.

 

We seek connection as an important part of our business interactions. Not like we have to be best friends while I buy this extended warranty kind of connection. But more like, “I see you.”

 

Sawubona

 

In the age before it got tricky to understand what appropriation was versus what was sheer appreciation (practically the same word), I started every speech for two years by saying this:

 

“‘Sawubona!’ This is the Zulu greeting. It means literally ‘I see you.’ I love it so much more than hello or hi or waving my hand. Waving your hand, by the way, was a historical way of telling the person you were approaching that you were unarmed and meant them no harm. It meant ‘I have no intention of hurting you today.’ By  contrast, Sawubona means, ‘I see you.’ I recognize that you are here and a person.”

 

In the post-pandemic world, I suspect we’ll be required to wear masks for some time. Everything will have a slightly “removed” feeling. But people seek/want/need to feel some level of connection. It’s why you might find yourself talking to strangers a bit more often right now.

 

And companies must embrace it, nurture it, and find ways to add it to the value of working somewhere, and of what it means to work with your organization.

 

My son Vince is one of the most active and contributing kids in his senior class. All it took was people recognizing him as a human and someone with interests as well as a student filling up space. Your customers and employees and even the bosses of all this want that. They want to be seen.

 

Sawubona - I see you.

Ngikhona - I am here.

 

 

 

About Chris Brogan

 

Chris Brogan is an author, keynote speaker and business advisor who helps companies update organizational interfaces to better support modern humans. The age of factory-sized interactions is over. We all come one to a pack. And it’s time to accept that we are all a little bit dented. Chris advises leadership teams to empower team members bychris Brogan headshot.png sharing actionable insights on talent development. He also works with marketing and communications teams to more effectively reach people who want to be seen and understood before they buy what a company sells.

 

Web: https://chrisbrogan.com Twitter: @ChrisBrogan

Read more from Chris Brogan

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Chris Brogan to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. The third parties within articles are used under license from Chris Brogan. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2019 Bank of America Corporation

 

Have you taken an online course over the last few months? How about over the last several years?mari digital course pic.jpg

 

There are numerous digital courses available, covering every imaginable subject and skill, from cooking and crafts to continuing education. Online learning is incredibly convenient. And now, due to the coronavirus, digital learning has become a necessity.

 

Creating a course is an excellent way to leverage your knowledge, skills, talents and thought leadership, while bringing attention to your business. In fact, online courses can generate a nice source of additional income.

 

According to the latest market research report by Technavio, the academic e-learning market is expected to grow by $72.41 billion from 2020 to 2024.

 

If you have ever considered leaping into this massive growing market, now is the time. Here’s how.

 

Your Course Content

 

To get the most out of creating online courses, think big picture. What end result do you want your students to achieve as a result of taking your course? And what does that journey look like for you…and for them?

 

I’ve been creating courses online since the early 2000’s. It’s one of my favorite aspects of my business. Rather than a digital class that is “‘one and done,” conceptualize a series of courses that progress your students through a curriculum.

 

To get to the heart of what to create, ask yourself:

 

  • What is the problem you’re solving? For what audience?
  • What transformation do you wish to create? How will you educate your participants and guide them from their current state to the desired outcome?
  • What is the value? How will your teachings enable your students to improve their life, health, business/career, finances, relationships, etc.?

 

The clearer you are on the problem you’re helping to solve and how your audience will benefit, the easier it will be to craft your course outline and materials.

 

If you’re not clear on what to teach, do a little research. Start by assessing the most frequently asked questions you get from your customers. You can also think about what things your colleagues say you innately do. Also consider this: What is a real passion of yours that you’ve always wanted to share with others? For example:

 

 

  • · A tech expert for boomers, Steve Dotto has a series of courses. He covers productivity topics, such as how to optimize tools like Evernote and Slack, and also touches on subjects, such as how to manage your online legacy.

 

By taking the time to hone in on what will best help your potential students - and your business - you will be more likely to set yourself up for success.

 

Your Course Platform

 

Although you can self-host your e-learning classes on your own website, it’s easier to use a ready-made learning management system (LMS). You upload your materials -- videos, audios, PDFs, checklists, cheat sheets, etc. -- and that is where you offer your content, interact with your students, etc.

 

Some of the more popular platforms include:

 

Thinkific. I’ve been using this one for years. Check out one of their many helpful articles here: Create and Sell Online Courses: A Step-By-Step Guide (Updated for 2020)

Teachable

Coursera

Kajabi

Udemy

LinkedIn Learning (formerly Lynda.com, acquired by LinkedIn). LinkedIn Expert Viveka von Rosen, Cofounder and Chief Visibility Officer at Vengreso, creates LinkedIn courses on topics, such as B2B Marketing and Branding, and hosts them on LinkedIn Learning.

 

The Details

 

How to Record: Record your course using your favorite tools. I use Screenflow for Mac, which records my screen and camera. Also worth checking out are Loom (a free solution) and Camtasia (free trial, then different levels of premium pricing); both of these are for PC and Mac. Make sure to have a good microphone, complementary lighting, and a simple background. You want your course videos to look as professional as possible. I put together this list of video gear.

 

How Much to Charge: E-learning has a vast range. Classes can go from $10 up to $1,000 or even more. When figuring out what to charge, consider all the factors. How long is your course? Is it a prerequisite for other training? Is it a one-off course, or a series? Are you offering a discount for packages? Are you creating classes as a side hustle, or do you have dreams of being a full-time course creator and leader?

 

How to Promote: Market your course - as you would any other promotion - using a variety of social channels, content types, and strategies. Test Facebook ads, use your email list, and create media (podcast and video interviews). Ultimately you want to drive traffic to your course sign up page.

 

Note: if you use a platform like Udemy, they will help you market. Do your research to find the solutions that work best for your technical skill, budget, and needs.

 

Additional Resources:

 

How to Create Irresistible Offers for Facebook Ads

How to use Compelling Video On Social Media for your Small Business

Instagram and IGTV Video: 3 Examples of Great Business Content

Bringing Your Small Businesses to Life with Facebook and Instagram Stories

How to Succeed on Facebook in a New Era of Privacy

 

“Whether your SMB is a storefront, online business, or consultancy, if you have something important to share that can help to change people’s businesses or lives, to have the most impact, you must share it at scale,” adds Viveka von Rosen. “Creating a course is one of the best ways to share your thought leadership - and showcase your business - at scale!”

 

Whatever your business, you are an expert in your niche. And if you have ever thought about putting your own knowledge into a course, now is the time.

 

 

About Mari Smith

 

Often referred to as “the Queen of Facebook,” Mari Smith is considered one of the world’s foremost experts on Facebook marketing and social media. She is a Forbes’ Top mari headshot.pngSocial Media Power Influencer, author of The New Relationship Marketing and coauthor of Facebook Marketing: An Hour A Day. Forbes recently described Mari as, “… the preeminent Facebook expert. Even Facebook asks for her help.” She is a recognized Facebook Partner; Facebook headhunted and hired Mari to lead the Boost Your Business series of live events across the US. Mari is an in-demand speaker, and travels the world to keynote and train at major events. /servlet/JiveServlet/downloadImage/38-3411-448454/mari+headshot.png

 

Her digital marketing agency provides professional speaking, training and consulting services on Facebook and Instagram marketing best practices for Fortune 500 companies, brands, SMBs and direct sales organizations. Mari is also an expert webinar and live video broadcast host, and she serves as Brand Ambassador for numerous leading global companies.

 

Web: Mari Smith or Twitter: @MariSmith

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Mari Smith to provide materials for informational purposes only, and is not responsible for, and does not guarantee or endorse any of the third-party products or services mentioned.  All third-party logos and company names mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners and are used under license from Mari Smith. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2020 Bank of America Corporation

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow,” Mahatma Gandhi said. “Learn as if you were to live forever.” rieva virtual life pic.jpg

I view these words as a challenge of sorts—and try to learn as much as I can every day.

There are plenty of ways to always learn: reading, listening to podcasts and attending conferences among them.

 

To maintain your entrepreneurial edge during coronavirus, check out this list of books, podcasts and conferences to help you maintain your entrepreneurial edge.

 

Listen Up: Podcasts

 

Since I’m relatively new to the world of podcasts—and just launched my own, I asked JJ Ramberg, serial entrepreneur, journalist, former host of the Your Business television show and cofounder of Goodpods, a new social network dedicated to podcasts—where you can follow your friends, influencers and favorite podcasters to see what they’re listening to, for advice. Here are JJ’s recommendations of podcasts for small business owners.

 

  • HBR Ideacast: A weekly podcast hosted by Alison Beard and Curt Nickisch, both senior editors from the Harvard Business Review. Topics: Interviews with the leading thinkers in business and management.

 

  • How I Built This with Guy Raz: The podcast from NPR examines the stories behind some of the world’s best-known brands. Topics: Interviews with “innovators, entrepreneurs and idealists.” And a special shorter segment, “How I Built Resilience” featuring conversations with founders and entrepreneurs about “navigating these turbulent times.”

 

  • Masters of Scale: The podcast, hosted by LinkedIn cofounder Reid Hoffman, focuses on business growth strategies. Topics: Hoffman describes it as showing “how companies grow from zero to a gazillion.” Guests include business luminaries like Bill Gates, Arianna Huffington, Marissa Mayer, and the founders/cofounders of Etsy, Shopify, Rent the Runway and Airbnb.

 

  • RISE Podcast: This weekly podcast, hosted by leadership expert Rachel Hollis, offers “tangible and tactical tools for your life.” Hollis wrote the New York Times best-selling book Girl, Wash Your Face and runs The Hollis Company with her husband. Topics: leadership, interviews with authors, business and personal development leaders and snippets from her continuing entrepreneurial journey.

 

  • School of Greatness: Hosted by Lewis Howes, who started his business career (he formerly played Arena Football) by training sports professionals to use LinkedIn, among other tips. . Howes’ book, The School of Greatness was a New York Times bestseller. Topics: Interviews with leaders in the fields of entrepreneurship, health, athletics and more.

 

  • The GaryVee Audio Experience: Hosted by Gary Vaynerchuk, chairman of VaynerX, a media and communications holding company and the CEO of VaynerMedia, an advertising agency. Topics: Episodes of the #AskGaryVee Show, highlights from his DAILYVEE documentary video series, keynote speeches on marketing and business, and interviews and fireside chats.

 

Reading List

 

 

  • Driving Innovation from Within: A Guide for Internal Entrepreneurs. This book, by Dr. Kaihan Krippendorff, an expert on growth strategies and innovation, dispels the notion that visionary startups are the disruptors fueling innovation. Instead, he maintains intrapreneurs, not entrepreneurs are responsible for some of the greatest innovations, such as mobile phones, personal computers and email. The book gives businesses a framework to drive growth by “activating employee-driven innovation and entrepreneurship.

 

  • Fix This Next: Make the Vital Change That Will Level Up Your Business. Do you know what the biggest problem in your business is? Bestselling author Mike Michalowicz contends most business owners don’t know how to properly prioritize their problems, so the real issues never get addressed. Michalowicz, a serial entrepreneur, created a system to help business owners identify what needs to be “fixed next” so you can propel your business forward.

 

 

  • Selling Naked: A Revolutionary Approach to Launching Your Brand Online. Written by Jesse Horwitz, the cofounder and co-CEO of Hubble Contacts, a direct-to-consumer (DTC) eyewear brand, this book explores the DTC trend, explaining how to start and grow an e-commerce brand via social media platforms. When he launched Horwitz got 2,000 signups in four days, enabling him to raise $3.5 million in seed capital. If you want to launch a DTC company, you’ll find this book a useful guide.

 

Virtual Conferences

 

 

 

 

 

  • MozCon: Search Engine Optimization (SEO). July 7-8 (tentative).

 

 

 

 

About Rieva Lesonsky

 

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and Co-founder of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship, and the blog SmallBizDaily.com. A nationally known speaker and authority on entrepreneurship, Rieva has been covering America’s entrepreneurs for more than 30 years. Before co-founding GrowBiz Media, Lesonsky was the long-time Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine. Lesonsky has appeared on hundreds of radio shows and numerous local and national television programs, including the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN, The Martha Stewart Show and Oprah.Rieva headshot.png/servlet/JiveServlet/downloadImage/38-3367-416250/Rieva+headshot.png

 

Lesonsky regularly writes about small business for numerous websites and for corporations targeting entrepreneurs. Many organizations have recognized Lesonsky for her tireless devotion to helping entrepreneurs. She served on the Small Business Administration’s National Advisory Council for six years, was honored by the SBA as a Small Business Media Advocate and a Woman in Business Advocate, and received the prestigious Lou Campanelli award from SCORE. She is a long-time member of the Business Journalists Hall of Fame.

 

Web: www.growbizmedia.com or Twitter: @Rieva

You can read more articles from Rieva Lesonsky by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Rieva Lesonsky to provide materials for informational purposes only, and is not responsible for, and does not guarantee or endorse any of the third-party products or services mentioned.  All third-party logos and company names mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners and are used under license from Rieva Lesonsky. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, it's affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2020 Bank of America Corporation

Networking is an essential part of work and life – and it has never been more important. When you meet new people, it widens your circle. That in turn brings you closer to the resources, opportunities, prospects, and clients you need to enhance your career and/or build your business. mari social networking.jpg

 

The purpose of networking is typically for professional versus personal reasons. Fortunately, even when in-person networking is not an option, there are plenty of opportunities to network online. After all, it is social networking.

 

The Smart Approach

 

It’s easy to get carried away, spending several hours a day chit-chatting with people in a Facebook group or via Twitter – particularly during the coronavirus quarantine we are living through. But does that really benefit you or your business?

 

To make the most of your networking time, you need to understand your why. What is your purpose for networking? What do you hope to gain from it? Who do you hope to meet?

 

  • Perhaps you’re looking to add a few new top-notch consulting clients to your book of business.

 

  • Or, you want to identify key referral partners for your real estate business.

 

  • Or, you’re putting together an online summit and want to connect with the best experts.

 

When you connect your digital networking activities to why you want to expand your network, you can better research and identify the most ideal networking platforms and communities to help you reach those goals.

 

Best Places to Network

 

Start with LinkedIn: LinkedIn has 675 million monthly users. Since it’s one of the most renowned professional communities online, you know you will be networking with other similar professionals.

 

  • To start, look for groups to join and engage in. These can be related to your industry, location, or niche. There are alumni groups, groups for professional organizations, marketing groups, and more.

 

  • Next, identify key contacts to follow. Watch who posts what. Reply, answer questions, and contribute to their conversations in a natural way.

 

  • After you have established some rapport in the group, send a contact request and/or private message when appropriate.

 

People who do ‘bulk adding’ of contacts with the same copy and paste message can usually be spotted a mile off. That approach isn’t effective and could be considered spam. Instead, take a moment to personalize your note and make the intent of your outreach clear.

 

Explore Facebook Groups. Over the last couple years, Facebook has been giving priority to groups

 

  • Facebook’s focus on groups is good news; there’s a group for every imaginable interest. The tricky part is finding the right groups.

 

  • Don’t go crazy joining tons of groups. Instead, take time to properly seek out and vet. Ask your friends and peers which groups they love and why. What works for one person may not work for another, but getting recommendations is an excellent start.

 

Join groups that help you with your professional and client development, as well as those designed for interaction. For example, Debra Eckerling’s Write On Online Group, which focuses on goal-setting and productivity for writers, creatives, and entrepreneurs, has a different conversation-starter thread each day. She starts  Monday with a “share your networking goals” post and rounds out the week with “Toot Your Horn” Thursday and “Foto” Friday. 

 

  • Consider starting your own Facebook group. You can establish your leadership while highlighting your business. Come up with a catchy title that explains what the group is, as well as who it’s for. What is the value? How does it help others?

 

Be sure to connect the group to your Facebook page. For example, my Social Scoop Group is run through my Mari Smith Facebook Business Page. It’s aimed toward leaders of all types. I regularly share social media trends, news, tips, special offers, and more. It’s also a forum to encourage questions and peer support.

 

Find Other Niche Communities. When looking for online networking opportunities, look beyond the traditional social networks. Here is a list of virtual communities with more than a million users.

 

There are online networks that serve as a hub or platform for mini networks. A few standouts:

 

  • Slack

 

  • Ning is an online platform for people and organizations who want to create custom social networks. There’s a directory and featured groups on the home page, making it easy to find groups that match your interests.

 

  • If you are looking to host a group, independent of Facebook and LinkedIn, check out Mighty Networks, which offers free and premium plans.

 

 

The No. 1 Rule of Networking

 

Approach your online networking in a similar way to how you network in real life. Basically, mind your manners.

 

It’s amazing how many people online bulldoze into a conversation or new relationship without regard to building rapport. If you were at an in-person networking function, you’d meet someone, make eye contact, smile, shake hands, and ask the other person a little about themselves. You behave with genuine actions and interest. And if you have an agenda - such as to promote or sell something - people can see it and often back away.

 

If you have an agenda, when networking online, it shows immediately. While some “power networkers” might think their intent isn’t that obvious, it’s usually very apparent they’re trying to get something from you. Don’t be that person! It just does not work.

 

Networking Etiquette

 

When networking online, focus on building genuine relationships. Find ways to add value to the conversations you have online.

 

See how you can help others. That genuine intent comes back to you ten-fold. One of my favorite quotes comes from Zig Zigler: “You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want.”

 

The basic concept: Givers Gain. This is illustrated beautifully in my friend Bob Burg’s parable The Go-Giver. Bob is a leader who shares how a subtle shift in focus is not only a more uplifting and fulfilling way of conducting business, but the most financially profitable way, as well.

 

Show empathy when appropriate. In my own book, The New Relationship Marketing (Wiley, 2011), I dedicated a chapter on the new business skills everyone needs. These are predominantly soft skills. Empathy and deep listening are at the top of my list.

 

The ‘new’ part in my title refers to the digital aspect. It’s more important than ever to hone these soft skills when connecting - and communicating - online.

 

Another aspect very much in alignment with empathy and other soft skills is habit No. 5 of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey: “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” In online network terms, this translates to being curious and asking about the other person as you begin to build a dialog. Don’t be all about you, and don’t be pushing your own agenda.

 

Go the extra mile. if you’ve found a really strong contact you want to reach out to - and connect with - first find out more about them. Search a bit on Google and other social channels. Then just ‘tuck’ away some of the tidbits you discover. Don’t use that as a means to show off how much you know to the other person, as they could easily get creeped out that you’ve been basically stalking them online! However, finding points of connection to subtly add to the conversation (perhaps you have a friend in common or have similar hobbies) will help to develop rapport. This will serve you well in the future.

 

Keep your ego in check. Before ever hitting that publish/share/send button, I say to myself, “What is my deepest intent?”. Checking my underlying motivation helps to ensure that any communication comes from a place of generosity and humility.

 

A Final Thought

 

The secret to networking is community. Whether you facilitate your own online hub, take part in someone else’s, or both, approach networking from the standpoint of being genuine and helping others.

 

When you do that, you meet new people, make connections, and develop lasting relationships. And then everybody wins. Your network is truly directly conn

ected to your net worth.

 

 

About Mari Smith

 

Often referred to as “the Queen of Facebook,” Mari Smith is considered one of the world’s foremost experts on Facebook marketing and social media. She is a Forbes’ Top Social Media Power Influencer, author of The New Relationship Marketing and coauthor of Facebook Marketing: An Hour A Day. Forbes recently described Mari as, “… the preeminent Facebook expert. Even Facebook asks for her help.” She is a recognized Facebook Partner; Facebook headhunted and hired Mari to lead the Boost Your Business series of live events across the US. Mari is an in-demand speaker, and travels the world to keynote and train at major events. mari headshot.png

 

Her digital marketing agency provides professional speaking, training and consulting services on Facebook and Instagram marketing best practices for Fortune 500 companies, brands, SMBs and direct sales organizations. Mari is also an expert webinar and live video broadcast host, and she serves as Brand Ambassador for numerous leading global companies.

 

Web: Mari Smith or Twitter: @MariSmith

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Mari Smith to provide materials for informational purposes only, and is not responsible for, and does not guarantee or endorse any of the third-party products or services mentioned.  All third-party logos and company names mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners and are used under license from Mari Smith. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2020 Bank of America Corporation

“Give me a ping, Vasili. One ping only, please.”chris high-tech customer service pic.jpg

 

“The Hunt for Red October” is a worthwhile quarantine watch and I’m going to use it today to give you customer service advice.

 

It was a different time when the film came out in 1990. Heck, the movie came out shortly after the Berlin Wall fell and pretty much at the tail end of the Cold War. Alec Baldwin played CIA analyst Jack Ryan and Sean Connery played Captain Marko Ramius, a Russian nuclear submarine captain, who may or may not be defecting.

 

The Red October has all kinds of stealth technology and is nearly impossible to find. In one important scene, Ramius must  show himself. He does so by commanding his submarine to send out an audible “ping” that U.S. sonar can detect.

 

It’s a very tense scene. It’s a terrible way to run a business, and yet, most of your customer service efforts feel like Captain Ramius running silent under the cold, cold sea.

 

Customer Service During and After Coronavirus

 

Lately, I’ve praised the food delivery service DoorDash as the best in class for delivering lots of pings.

 

Here’s how a transaction goes when you order from them:

 

  • We received your order
  • The restaurant has your order
  • They’re cooking your food
  • Your food is ready for pickup
  • The driver is picking up your food
  • The driver is a few minutes out
  • The driver is here

 

If I order a cheeseburger and fries from Five Guys, I get a far more communicative customer experience than I do when I order a replacement server array for my data center. And if I schedule an appointment with a professional like a lawyer and give them my material to work on, I won’t hear about anything usually until I send a few (never one) messages to ask about how everything is going.

 

The Future of Customer Service is High Touch, High Label

 

High touch - lots of messaging. Lots of interactions. Not an annoying amount (and that’s a very subjective thing to say) but more than most businesses do right now.

 

High label - instruction. If you’ve ever stayed in an amazing Airbnb property, you know what I mean. “Here’s how you get on wifi.” “Here’s the jacuzzi instructions.” “How to use the magic sinking fireplace.”

 

High touch, high label is the way to go with customer service.

 

  • “I’m doing this thing right now.” (Touch)
  • “What comes next is you can expect a response in two days with the finished product.” (Label)
  • “I’ll text you a photo of your exact product on our manufacturing line.” (Touch)
  • “If you have questions or need anything, message me here.” (Label)

 

People who couldn’t get through my drawn-on analogy of The Hunt for Red October will never know the list above this sentence is the GOLD for this article. (Label)

 

Personable Customer Experience

 

I wrote another post about how business has to get back to being more human. The analogy used there was about my son Vince and how online schooling has somehow humanized all the students in ways that face to face didn’t accomplish. This mixes nicely with how customer service must change.

 

It’s vital that we treat customers like important people and that we empower our customer service teams to operate like actual humans with personalities and feelings. Sure, there are rules. There might even be some level of a script. And there must be some guidelines about what not to say and how not to act.

 

But this humanizing effort will change customer service for the better in ways you can barely imagine.

 

I’ll give you a strange personal example. I’m late on a bill. It’s a significant bill and I’m just like everyone else who lost a significant amount of incoming revenue during the pandemic. But my experience with this particular bill collector ensures two things:

 

  1. I appreciate how ridiculously human this collector has been in dealing with what is a basic financial transaction.

 

    2. I like this company more than I did before I owed them money, and they have earned even more business from me in the future.

 

Can you imagine that? I’m happy about my customer service experience with a bill collector.

 

Aim for that with your business and you’ll see what I mean.

 

While “one ping only” was good advice for Captain Ramius, it’s not for your business. Lots of pings. Personable pings. And share your great customer experience gospel with everyone who interacts with your business.

 

About Chris Brogan

 

Chris Brogan is an author, keynote speaker and business advisor who helps companies update organizational interfaces to better support modern humans. The age of factory-chris Brogan headshot.pngsized interactions is over. We all come one to a pack. And it’s time to accept that we are all a little bit dented. Chris advises leadership teams to empower team members by sharing actionable insights on talent development. He also works with marketing and communications teams to more effectively reach people who want to be seen and understood before they buy what a company sells.

 

Web: https://chrisbrogan.com Twitter: @ChrisBrogan

Read more from Chris Brogan

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Chris Brogan to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. The third parties within articles are used under license from Chris Brogan. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2019 Bank of America Corporation

rieva we're open pic.jpgAs the country reopens for business in phases, many small business owners are awash in mixed emotions—torn between the elation of finally getting to open their doors and the fear of what happens next.

 

Will customers show up? Will their trusted employees return?

 

In the May issue of the National Retail Federation’s  Monthly Economic Review, NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz says, “households [are] likely to tiptoe back in rather than making an immediate return to the lives they experienced before.”

 

A Washington Post-University of Maryland poll shows the public is apprehensive about the reopening of retail stores (only 34 percent support it), hair salons (31 percent support) and restaurants (26 percent support). Other polls show even less consumer support for going out to eat. Business owners, on the other hand, are eager to reopen their doors. A poll taken in early May by Alignable, a network of small businesses, shows of the businesses that were forced to close, once allowed to open, 34 percent will reopen immediately, 19 percent will reopen within a month, and 13 percent need more than a month to reopen. But 40 percent worry consumers will be reluctant to return to their businesses.

 

That’s a legitimate concern.

 

“Businesses that think everything will go back to ‘the way things were’ are operating on a going-out-of-business strategy,” said Peter Newell, CEO of BMNT, a consultancy and early-stage tech accelerator.  He believes customer behaviors have changed irrevocably and the businesses that will thrive in this new environment are those that “continue to leverage the tools and processes they adopted during the crisis.” Examining these new practices, he says, offers insight into what will work “in the new normal.”

 

People who need people

 

But Newell says, “From startups to small companies it all revolves around your people. Acquiring and retaining good people are the hardest tasks for many small businesses. For some companies their futures are determined by whether they can bring back the talent they need.”

 

Bob Prosen, the CEO of the Prosen Center for Business Advancement, says you can reopen in phases, if need be.

 

“Bring your essential workers back first,” he advises. And make sure to check the health of your employees before they return. “Those in direct contact with customers must be tested for COVID-19. Employers can require employees to have their temperature taken as well as be COVID-tested. [They] can also ask employees health questions. You just have to keep the records private. Have a plan to conduct testing and ensure you have ample resources, like test kits, etc.”

 

Check out these safety guideline resources:

 

 

 

 

What if you have some employees who aren’t comfortable going back to work just yet? “Employers cannot force employees to return,” Prosen says

 

The key, says Newell, is to “overcommunicate.” If you want your staff to return, he says, “you need to ensure your workspace meets the new standards for workplace interaction. Show your employees you have their best interests at heart.”

 

Prosen says you have to “overcommunicate” with your customers as well. “Update your social media and website with the actions you’ve taken to ensure workplace safety. Go overboard. You can always pull back.”

 

Before you open

 

Prosen says you also need to be concerned about the “capabilities of your suppliers, trucker availability, etc. And ask yourself if you can make money given the rules around capacity and social distancing.”

 

How do you determine how much cash you need to reopen? Prosen advises business owners “to create different revenue forecasts. Take into consideration there will be fewer sales opportunities to chase, your average deal size may decrease, and it may take longer to close new business.” He adds you should be “overly observant of your competitors” and how they’re performing. “This can be a great opportunity to take share from weaker competitors.”

 

Breaking with tradition

 

This might be a good time to break with traditional practices. Prosen suggests putting “traditional sales on the back burner. Find ways to offer meaningful advice. Employ a ‘give before you get’ marketing strategy. Be empathetic. Offer solutions to customers.”

 

Reopening your business is not going to be easy. The longer this goes on, Newell says, “the harder it’s going to get. Come up with a new norm. Talk to your landlords. Negotiate your rents. Work with your property management company and ask, ‘How can we get through this financially?’”

 

In our consumer-driven economy, customers are key to business survival. Want to know how many of yours will return?

 

Prosen says it’s simple, “Ask them.”

 

 

About Rieva Lesonsky

 

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and Co-founder of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small Rieva headshot.pngbusiness and entrepreneurship, and the /servlet/JiveServlet/downloadImage/38-3371-417615/Rieva+headshot.pngblog SmallBizDaily.com. A nationally known speaker and authority on entrepreneurship, Rieva has been covering America’s entrepreneurs for more than 30 years. Before co-founding GrowBiz Media, Lesonsky was the long-time Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine. Lesonsky has appeared on hundreds of radio shows and numerous local and national television programs, including the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN, The Martha Stewart Show and Oprah./servlet/JiveServlet/downloadImage/38-3367-416250/Rieva+headshot.png

 

Lesonsky regularly writes about small business for numerous websites and for corporations targeting entrepreneurs. Many organizations have recognized Lesonsky for her tireless devotion to helping entrepreneurs. She served on the Small Business Administration’s National Advisory Council for six years, was honored by the SBA as a Small Business Media Advocate and a Woman in Business Advocate, and received the prestigious Lou Campanelli award from SCORE. She is a long-time member of the Business Journalists Hall of Fame.

 

Web: www.growbizmedia.com or Twitter: @Rieva

You can read more articles from Rieva Lesonsky by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Rieva Lesonsky to provide materials for informational purposes only, and is not responsible for, and does not guarantee or endorse any of the third-party products or services mentioned.  All third-party logos and company names mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners and are used under license from Rieva Lesonsky. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, it's affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2020 Bank of America Corporation

There’s nothing official on my schedule today. My lunch plans seem to have canceled on me without a notification. I’ve got nothing that needs doing and plenty to do, if you know the feeling.

 

It’s the slow season. Yours might be different than mine. That’s not important. What matters most is that you don’t make a big mistake  and waste these days.

 

Slow Times are Growth Times

 

Let me start by telling you what most people do incorrectly with space and time. They fill it. Sometimes, they stuff it full of busy work that “needed to get done.” Other times, they look for meetings or calls they’ve been putting off. They stuff days full to the top like fat ticks on a dog.

 

When you hit slow times, the best possible use of this time is growth. This must be the measure by which you gauge the worth of actions you might take. Growth can mean rebuilding. It can be learning. It can represent restocking and preparing for the next busy cycle.

 

You might look at a quiet time as an opportunity to seek what might need pruning. This could feel counterintuitive. It’s quiet. Why cut something further?

 

Let’s pretend you run a manufacturing business, and you make seven different lines of products. When you’re busy, everything operates at or above capacity. But should it? Maybe in the slow time, cut back the line to five and then shift resources around to better suit that new configuration.

 

Slow Times Are Sales Times

 

You have the clients or customers you have. Go after new ones. Look for partnerships. Look for new seeds to plant that will turn into rich opportunities later.

 

Call your best clients and see how you can help, or look for referrals. This is slow season work for sure. That means your clients may also need a little boost in getting business. Ask if you can help grow their business in some way. Who turns away helpful people?

 

Make Your Own Conference

 

As a keynote speaker with thousands of friends in that industry, I can tell you that there are no shortages of quality content all over YouTube. Beyond just TED, there are more conferences posting material every single day. You could seek out a particular speaker, an industry, or an idea and find mountains of opportunities.

 

Because it’s your conference, you’re not relegated to live speakers on a stage. You can add documentaries and slideshows and instructional materials. You can learn from other industries and look for crossover points of support. This is a powerful way to fill a slow season day.

 

Write or Record Something Helpful

 

Your customers would love helpful guides, to-do materials, and more. When you’ve got some time, it’s a great time to create this kind of material. It’s a wonderful way to equip your customers for even more success.

 

You can do a step-by-step document, or if you want to get even more bold, you might make a small series of videos or audio recordings. Any of these can help.

 

Set Some Future Planning Days

 

Look at what’s coming this year, next year, and then five years out. Don’t just look at your own business. Think about what you’ve been reading and maybe even research more.

 

For instance, if self-driving cars and ride sharing apps are reducing the number of new cars sold, that also means that people will do a lot less “browsing” while driving. They’ll drive from destination to destination with fewer unplanned stops. How will that impact your business?

 

 

But Again, Never Overload the Slow Days

 

We often see slow times as an excuse to finish up busy work. The truth is, busy work needs to vanish. Priority or growth. Those are your only categories. And schedule this kind of work into only 40% or so of your calendar over these slow days. Leave room for spontaneous opportunities.

 

It’s vital that you look at slow season days as an opportunity to prepare for success. That’s where it comes. From the planning you do when the fires aren’t raging.

 

About Chris Brogan

 

Chris Brogan is an author, keynote speaker and business advisor who helps companies update organizational interfaces to better support modern humans. The age of factory-chris Brogan headshot.png/servlet/JiveServlet/downloadImage/38-3376-420067/chris+Brogan+headshot.pngsized interactions is over. We all come one to a pack. And it’s time to accept that we are all a little bit dented. Chris advises leadership teams to empower team members by /servlet/JiveServlet/downloadImage/38-3365-414530/chris+Brogan+headshot.pngsharing actionable insights on talent development. He also works with marketing and communications teams to more effectively reach people who want to be seen and understood before they buy what a company sells.

 

Web: https://chrisbrogan.com Twitter: @ChrisBrogan

Read more from Chris Brogan

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Chris Brogan to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. The third parties within articles are used under license from Chris Brogan. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2019 Bank of America Corporation

Filter Article

By tag: