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2017

Carol Roth Headshot.pngI constantly have entrepreneurs clamoring for me to give them opinions on their new businesses.  However, this request is always followed by asking me to sign a non-disclosure agreement for fear of their precious new idea getting out.

 

And every time I am asked to sign an NDA, I decline.

 

This is met with the protest follow-up question, “Well, then, how do I protect my idea?”

 

My answer is always the same. “You don’t.  And it doesn’t matter, because your idea is basically worthless.”

 

You heard me right; ideas have little to no value. It’s the execution of the ideas that holds all the value. It’s why Facebook is worth billions of dollars and why myriad other social networks aren’t. It’s why the very same company can be worth nothing or millions at different points of its lifecycle – or under different management.

 

Let me explain further.

 

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE ARTICLES FROM SMALL BUSINESS EXPERT CAROL ROTH

 

First, with rare exception, your idea already exists in some form. Most ideas are an improvement on or a different spin on an existing idea. Also, regardless of which components of your idea you believe to be “new,” there are probably others that have thought of it, as well. This is a main reason why neither venture capitalists nor I will not sign nondisclosure agreements; very frequently, the same ideas come to light independently at the same time or near the same time.

 

Moreover, the components of your idea that differentiate it, including you, your experience, your network, your intellectual property and other unique things you and your team bring to the table, can’t be replicated. You and your team are what differentiate how you frame a problem and its solution, the technology and other resources you bring to the table and your willingness (or lack thereof) to do anything it takes to make it happen.

 

A standout example of this is Google. When Google started as a mere search engine, the idea to create a search engine was not new. In fact, there were many search engines that preceded Google, including OpenText, Magellan, Infoseek and Snap. What was different was the way that the founders envisioned search, their competencies and ultimately, their code. The idea for Google wasn’t valuable, but the execution of Google was, and remains so today.

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That’s why the execution of a business is all that matters in determining value. It’s why investors bet on the founders behind a business more than anything. Most business plans pivot – some in a small way, some entirely – but investors back people they believe will execute well, regardless of the pivots required along the way.

 

When Starbucks was created, the idea of a coffee shop on every block that charged significantly more for coffee when coffee was widely available wasn’t a great idea. But Howard Schultz’s management and execution of that idea is what made Starbucks change the landscape and our consumer habits.

 

Another way to illustrate the non-value of ideas are the companies that have had different fates under different management.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: 5 STEPS TO FINDING A BUSINESS MENTOR

 

If you know anything about mixed martial arts, you are probably familiar with the Ultimate Fighting Championship or “UFC” league. It was created by Semaphore Entertainment Group in 1993. As I explain in my book, The Entrepreneur Equation, it almost went bankrupt. Years later, two casino moguls, Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta, along with Dana White, bought out the struggling business. Less than a decade later, the UFC was valued at approximately $1 billion. In July of 2016, the business was sold to WME-IMG for approximately $4 billion.

 

So, one company based on a single idea was once worth nothing and later worth $1 billion and then $4 billion. This variability is because the idea for a mixed martial arts league was worth nothing. It was the execution that created the value.

Since I brought up my book, you may ask why I decided to copyright it if ideas have no value. The answer is straightforward: I didn't protect the idea of the book; I protected the final work product.

Here’s the differentiation. My idea was to write a book around the framework of evaluating the risks and rewards of entrepreneurship. Had I done nothing with it, it would have no value. Only after writing the 80,000-plus words and then revising, editing and packaging it into a final product did I seek protection.

 

So, get over holding onto your ideas and get out there and do something with them. When you have put the time, effort and money into generating something of value, you can protect that, but don’t let your fear of sharing ideas hold you back.

 

About Carol Roth

Carol Roth is the creator of the Future File™ legacy planning system, “recovering” investment banker, billion-dollar dealmaker, investor, entrepreneur, national media personality and author of the New York Times bestselling book, The Entrepreneur Equation. She is a judge on the Mark Burnett-produced technology competition show, America’s Greatest Makers and TV host and contributor, including host of Microsoft’s Office Small Business Academy. She is also an advisor to companies ranging from startups to major multi-national corporations and has an action figure made in her own likeness. 

 

Web: www.CarolRoth.com or Twitter: @CarolJSRoth.

You can read more articles from Carol Roth by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Carol Roth to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Carol Roth is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Carol Roth. 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.  ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

Ebong Eka Headshot.pngOne of the most frequently asked questions about taxes I receive this time of year is: “What if I can’t pay all of my taxes on Tax Day?”

 

Great question – I get it, life happens and sometimes for many small business owners, cashflow is sporadic and in some unfortunate cases anemic.

 

CLICK HERE TO READ ARTICLES MORE FROM SMALL BUSINESS EXPERT EBONG EKA

 

So what do you do if you didn’t pay what you owe the IRS on tax day?

 

1. Don’t panic and don’t bury your head in the sand. The IRS isn’t trying to ruin your business, yet panicking or avoiding the issue will only lead to more troubles in the long run. Clients I’ve represented before the IRS could have avoiding large penalties if they had immediately dealt with the issue instead of putting it off.

 

2. File your return on time and pay as much as you can. Hopefully, you filed a valid extension to avoid the “Failure to file timely” penalty. You may still be subject to the late payment penalty if you don’t pay everything you owe by the filing date. Paying as much as you can upfront could also decrease the interest charges as well.

 

3. Consider obtaining a personal loan or credit card to pay what you owe. Why? Credit cards and personal loans generally have lower interest rates than the interest rates provided by the IRS.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: BEWARE THE NICKEL & DIMERS

 

18022330_s.jpg4. Don’t wait for the IRS - Contact the IRS for an installment agreement. The installment agreement is a payment plan to pay the taxes you owe on your tax return. Visit the IRS.gov for Form 1127 – “Application for Extension of Time for Payment of Tax Due to Undue Hardship.” Form 1127, and its supporting documentation, should be filed as soon as you’re aware of taxes you owe or a tax deficiency you can’t pay without causing undue hardship.

 

Also, visit the IRS.gov for Form 9465 Installment Agreement Request. The IRS charges a fee to set up the installment agreement.

 

5. Don’t ignore letters or bills you receive from the IRS. Contact the IRS immediately if you receive letters or bills from them. Your situation will only get worse if you ignore bills or letters from the IRS. Additionally, IRS correspondence will provide instructions on what to do as well as what information they need from you. Contact your tax advisor or CPA if you have any questions.

 

Speak to your tax advisor if you have a problem with paying your taxes on time, need an installment or payment plan or have general questions about notices/letters you receive from the IRS. As a reminder Certified Public Accountants (CPA), Enrolled Agents and Lawyers are the only people who can represent taxpayers in front of the IRS. Just remember not to panic if you have a tax issue because help is only a quick email away!

 

About Ebong Eka

Ebong Eka is no stranger to the world of personal finance. As a certified public accountant and former professional basketball player he offers a fresh perspective to small business planning and executing. With over fifteen years of accounting, tax & small business experience with firms like PricewaterhouseCoopers, Deloitte & Touche and CohnReznick, Ebong provides practical money solutions tailored to the everyday person, the aspiring entrepreneur or the small business owner.

 

Ebong is the founder of EKAnomics, a sales, pricing and leadership firm. He is also the founder of Ericorp Consulting, Inc., a tax and management consulting firm. Ebong is the author of “Start Me Up! The-No-Business-Plan, Business Plan.

 

Web: www.ebongeka.com or Twitter: @EbongEka.

You can read more articles from Ebong Eka by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Ebong Eka to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Ebong Eka is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Ebong Eka. 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.  ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

Carol Roth Headshot.pngThere may be no better source of finding out what will help you grow your business than your existing customers. Those who do business with you have a keen understanding of what works and what maybe doesn’t work so well.

 

Here are seven things you should ask your customers about immediately. Even though many will give you feedback without anything in return, you can use the opportunity to thank them by providing a discount, special offer or other small token of appreciation.

 

You can use a simple email form, website form or survey software to gather your information. Just make sure you review the results and act on the feedback afterwards!

 

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE ARTICLES FROM SMALL BUSINESS EXPERT CAROL ROTH

 

1. Why do you shop or work with us?

You may think you know what your competitive advantages are and why your customers and clients choose your company over competitors, but perhaps they know a strength you are not emphasizing or they may highlight an employee you may not realize is a gem. Give them a blank to put in their answer and also have them choose key adjectives from a list that fits their “why” – such as convenience, customer service, high quality products, etc.

 

2. What do we do well?

This is another way of asking about strengths, but it also makes sure you double down on the reasons why your customers choose you.

 

3. What do you wish that we did differently or better?

This one is self-explanatory but extremely important. This will help identify deficiencies in your staff, operations and product/service offerings. It will not only ensure that you know where to focus to keep your existing customers, but it can provide ideas on what else you can do to make those customers buy more often.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: YOUR CONSUMER IS CHANGING AGAIN: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT MARKETING TO GEN Z

 

25524437_s.jpg4. What are your favorite products and services?

While you can look at your sales reports to figure out what products and services are most popular, this question helps you identify if there are certain products/services that are cornerstones to your business. This may include ones that aren’t bought as frequently, but are critical keep your customers happy, as well as products/services that could be expanded or highlighted to gain more business.

 

 

5. What products and services do you wish we had?

By asking existing customers what else they want to buy from you, you have a built-in focus group. Keep track and alert those customers when you do add those products/services to your offering to target those who you know already desire that product/service.

 

 

6. How likely is it that you would recommend our company or brand to a friend or colleague?

This is a question that is asked on a scale of 0-10 (10 being the best) and makes up something called the Net Promoter Score. It’s a simplistic but widely-accepted method for determining customer loyalty. Per the Net Promoter Network, those who are 9s or 10s are loyal enthusiasts who will refer others. 7s or 8s are satisfied but not enthusiastic and are vulnerable to competitive offers; and 0s up through 6s are unhappy and can damage your brand via negative word of mouth. This gives you an opportunity to double down with your best customers and step it up with those who are vulnerable, including assuaging those who are not happy.

 

7. Will you recommend us/refer us/give us a testimonial?

Finally, having a concrete referral program or testimonial program allows you to specifically ask your customers to help get you more business. If you don’t ask, someone else will!

 

About Carol Roth

Carol Roth is the creator of the Future File™ legacy planning system, “recovering” investment banker, billion-dollar dealmaker, investor, entrepreneur, national media personality and author of the New York Times bestselling book, The Entrepreneur Equation. She is a judge on the Mark Burnett-produced technology competition show, America’s Greatest Makers and TV host and contributor, including host of Microsoft’s Office Small Business Academy. She is also an advisor to companies ranging from startups to major multi-national corporations and has an action figure made in her own likeness. 

Web: www.CarolRoth.com or Twitter: @CarolJSRoth.

You can read more articles from Carol Roth by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Carol Roth to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Carol Roth is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Carol Roth. 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.  ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

Rieva Lesonsky Headshot.pngWhether your business is just getting started or is already established, growth is undoubtedly on your agenda.

 

Here are a dozen tips to help you focus on growing your business.

 

1. Focus on cash flow. Review your cash flow statement frequently to assess not only whether your business’s income is sufficient, but also where it comes from and where it goes. If your cash flow comes primarily from financing or investments rather than business operations, you may need to rethink your business model.

 

2. Target your marketing. Whether your business is B2C or B2B, it’s easier than ever to target a narrow customer niche thanks to digital marketing. Use pay-per-click advertising, social media and email to reach out to your specific target market with marketing messages tailored just for them.

 

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE ARTICLES FROM SMALL BUSINESS EXPERT RIEVA LESONSKY

 

3. Listen to your customers. Pay attention to what customers say both to you and about you on social media. Conduct regular customer surveys by phone, email or online. Listening to customers’ feedback will alert you to problems that could cost you business. It will also spark new ideas that can attract more customers.

 

4. Do a SWOT analysis. Evaluate your business’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as the opportunities and threats facing it. Then figure out ways to capitalize on your business’s strengths and correct its weaknesses. Make a plan to profit from opportunities and protect your business from potential threats.

 

5. Invest in your business. It’s difficult to part with hard-earned cash, but being penny-wise and pound-foolish is a recipe for stagnation. No matter how tight your business budget is, set aside appropriate amounts for essential investments such as marketing your business and purchasing equipment. Measure the ROI to ensure you aren’t wasting money.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: HOW THE GOVERNMENT’S MONTHLY RETAIL SALES REPORTS CAN BE USEFUL FOR YOUR BUSINESS

 

6. Explore new markets. Can you grow your business by adding a variation to a successful product line, targeting a new demographic for your existing products and services, or expanding into new geographic markets? Perhaps you can expand from e-commerce to brick-and-mortar, or vice versa. Doing market research helps you predict whether such a move will pay off.

 

44408886_s.jpg7. Market to your existing customers. New customers mean new business, but loyal customers can mean more business. Reach out to your existing customer base with special offers just for them. Implement a loyalty program that tracks their spending, helps you develop tailored promotions and encourages them to buy more.

 

8. Partner with other businesses. A strategic partnership with a complementary business can be a way to grow with a minimal investment of capital. Reach out to prospective partners to discuss how you can work together. This could range from sharing customer lists to developing a new product or service together or even forming a new business entity.

 

9. Ask for and use referrals. Develop a system to request referrals from customers soon after you complete their work or deliver their order. Use customer relationship management software to maintain information about referrals, including when you followed up and what the results were.

 

10. Keep your employees happy. Your employees are the foundation of your business, so treat them that way. Keep them loyal by offering competitive wages and benefits, professional development opportunities and a positive atmosphere. Arrangements that help with work-life balance, such as offering employees flexible hours or letting them work from home, help make your business a place people want to work.

 

11. Exploit technology. Is your business making the most of technology to save time, boost productivity and cut costs? If you don’t have an in-house IT expert to advise you, enlist an IT consultant to suggest ways that upgrading your technology can help your business grow.

 

12. Be prepared. You make plans for everything your business does—but do you have a backup plan? Whether it’s storing your critical data safely in the cloud, working with multiple vendors so you never run out of inventory, or having a strong relationship with a bank so you can quickly access capital when you need to, always have a Plan B.

 

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.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 informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Rieva Lesonsky is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Rieva Lesonsky. 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.  ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

Shama Hyder Headshot.pngWhere do you see yourself in 5 years? It’s a time-worn question, but there’s a reason it’s heard so often. Looking to the future is an effective way to sharpen your focus on the preparations that need to be made in the here and now.

 

But what if we look 20 years into the future? Where do you see your small business two decades from now? What role will technology play in your company’s day-to-day operations, and how will that affect your business model?

 

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM SMALL BUSINESS EXPERT SHAMA HYDER

 

Bank of America asked small business owners those very questions, and the newly released Small Business Owner Report details their responses. Overwhelmingly, entrepreneurs from every industry predicted major changes in the way they would be doing business 20 years from now. Here’s a look at their top 3 predictions.

 

1. Virtual Offices

Nearly half of respondents (49%) saw virtual offices as the wave of the future, with physical offices taking a back seat. And with good reason – already today, a growing number of small businesses are taking advantage of the benefits a virtual workplace provides. Besides the obvious cost savings, virtual offices allow companies to hire the best talent available, regardless of their location, and studies have shown again and again that remote workers are actually more productive than in-office workers – not to mention happier.

 

2. Automation

A significant amount of business operations would be handled via automation in the future, believed 42% of small business owners. This is already a trend we see everywhere today, in areas ranging from automated marketing apps to automation in enterprise resource planning, and with the rise of AI tech, such as IBM’s Watson, it’s bound to be a major factor in business operations by the time 2037 rolls around.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: THREE IDEAS FOR WOMEN BUSINESS LEADERS TO HELP OTHERS FOLLOW THEIR PATH

 

3. Going Paperless

How many bills do you still receive as physical letters in the mail? If you’re like many Americans, the answer is not many. Going paperless is a popular choice among consumers, and increasingly, among businesses, as well. With the advent of cloud storage and even backup- and disaster recovery-as-a-service, 42% of respondents said there’s no need to keep hard copies of most files anymore. Virtual files can be stored more securely and are easily accessed – and as a bonus, the environment stands to benefit, too.

 

61073755_s.jpgOne interesting point to note, however, is the fact that most small business owners surveyed did not think that this future was inevitable. A whopping 75% agreed that encouraging innovation in the workplace was a priority in order to bring businesses into this brave new world. And in fact, 77% felt strongly that this would be a key contributor to future business success.

 

So where do these small business owners see themselves in 20 years? Saving time and money while boosting productivity by working from home, taking advantage of automation, and going paperless. And they’re not waiting around for the future to come to them – they’re actively pursuing it, encouraging a culture of innovation in their companies. So now the only question is: Where do you see yourself in 20 years? And what are you going to do to get there?   

 

About Shama Hyder

Shama Hyder is a visionary strategist for the digital age, a web and TV personality, a bestselling author, and the award-winning CEO of The Marketing Zen Group – a global online marketing and digital PR company. She has aptly been dubbed the “Zen Master of Marketing” by Entrepreneur Magazine and the “Millennial Master of the Universe” by FastCompany.com. Shama has also been honored at both the White House and The United Nations as one of the top 100 young entrepreneurs in the country. Shama has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the prestigious Technology Titan Emerging Company CEO award. She was named one of the “Top 25 Entrepreneurs under 25” by Business Week in 2009, one of the “Top 30 Under 30” Entrepreneurs in America in 2014 by Inc. Magazine, and to the Forbes “30 Under 30” list of movers and shakers for 2015. LinkedIn named Hyder one of its “Top Voices” in Marketing & Social Media. Her web show Shama TV was awarded the “Hermes Gold award for Educational Programming in Electronic Media” and most recently she was awarded the “Excellence in Social Media Entrepreneurship” award for 2016 by Anokhi Media.

 

Web: www.shamahyder.com or Twitter: @Shama.

You can read more articles from Shama Hyder by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Shama Hyder to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Shama Hyder is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Shama Hyder. 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.  ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

Carol Roth Headshot.pngAsk most small business owners about who they think are their most trusted advisors and you may hear about their lawyer or accountant. However, one of the most valuable resources for any small business owner is a business banker.

 

Forging a strong relationship with a banker can be a huge benefit for entrepreneurs. Yet, not enough business owners do that early enough. Moreover, many don’t take full advantage of the relationship.

 

Here are four ways you will get more from building a relationship with a small business banker.

 

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE ARTICLES FROM SMALL BUSINESS EXPERT CAROL ROTH

 

1.     Go early

Many business owners wait to establish a relationship until they need debt capital, but this is a mistake. Creating a relationship with a business banker early will help your business before you have those capital needs.

 

First, your banker can provide introductions to key advisors, vendors or even potential customers that can help your business.

Second, your banker can get to know you and your business needs in your early stages so by the time you need them, you have already built a personal relationship.

 

Third, as most businesses need to have been in business for a couple of years and have revenue and key financial metrics to qualify for a small business loan, you may still have other capital needs. Your small business banker can point you in the direction of local equity sources or other potential early-stage sources of capital.

 

If you aren’t sure what other kinds of assistance your business banker can provide, just ask the question. You will find that your banker will likely become one of your most helpful and trusted advisors.

 

2.     Get your information organized

When you are ready to discuss your business’s financial picture with a business banker, be prepared. There is nothing more horrifying to a banker than a business owner that pulls out a shoebox full of papers that haven’t been organized. You need to have a business plan, historical financial statements (such as an income statement and balance sheet) and depending on the size of your business, personal information if you need to personally secure the loan.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: THE MAGIC OF CREATING MULTIPLE PROFIT CENTERS

 

Take the time to prepare so that you make the right impression when you finally are ready for a line of credit or other bank product. If you need more guidance on what to prepare, your business banker can provide you with a checklist, but make sure to do the work ahead of time.

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3.     Have a plan

As noted in the previous tip, you will need to have a business plan. I always say that if you fail to plan, plan to fail. Businesses that prepare business plans are statistically more successful than those that do not, so make sure that you take the time to prepare a thorough plan – and update the plan as your business changes.

 

Your business banker can help you make key strategic decisions by letting you know if having too much customer concentration, working in certain industries or other decisions could impact your business success and ability to attract capital.

 

Make sure the plan you bring to your banker has been updated and accurately reflects the current reality and projected state of your business.

 

4.     Negotiate!

One thing that many business owners don’t know is they have room to negotiate when it comes time to getting loans from their business banker. You can talk to your banker to set the amount of your borrowing, as well as interest rates, length of the loan and the basis on which interest will be calculated. Don’t be afraid of doing some wheeling and dealing to come up with the best terms for you and your business.

 

About Carol Roth

Carol Roth is the creator of the Future File™ legacy planning system, “recovering” investment banker, billion-dollar dealmaker, investor, entrepreneur, national media personality and author of the New York Times bestselling book, The Entrepreneur Equation. She is a judge on the Mark Burnett-produced technology competition show, America’s Greatest Makers and TV host and contributor, including host of Microsoft’s Office Small Business Academy. She is also an advisor to companies ranging from startups to major multi-national corporations and has an action figure made in her own likeness. 

 

Web: www.CarolRoth.com or Twitter: @CarolJSRoth.

You can read more articles from Carol Roth by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Carol Roth to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Carol Roth is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Carol Roth. 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. ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

Shama Hyder Headshot.pngWhen you’re getting ready to make a big purchase or sign up for a service, what’s the first thing you do?

 

You check out your options online, of course.

 

First, you likely check to see who the players are in the industry you’re looking at. Next, you might visit company websites, blogs, and social media pages to get a feel for which ones would be the best fit. Then, you look at reviews to narrow down the field even further.

 

And what is it exactly that you’re looking for as you do your research? A company that provides what you need, within your budget.


CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM SMALL BUSINESS EXPERT SHAMA HYDER

 

But if that still leaves you with a choice, then what is the deciding factor for you? Whether it’s a Yelp page full of rave reviews or a truly authentic blog that gives insider peeks at the company culture, the key to attracting customers in the digital age is projecting transparency and earning trust.

 

Anyone can create a professional-looking website, and today it’s almost a given that a company’s blog and social media pages will be full of informative posts. The real differentiator is a digital marketing strategy that places a high value on making sure consumers feel they can trust your brand, through transparency and social proof.

 

Here are 3 important elements to incorporate into your strategy to ensure that consumers choose your business every time.

 

1. Authentic Behind-the-Scenes Content

Of course, you’ve got to provide information about your products or services on your website – but don’t stop there. Consumers don’t want to do business with a faceless company hiding behind the polished façade of their site; they want to feel a personal connection with the real people behind the brand in order to trust them enough to buy from them.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: AVOID THE 5 COMMON DIGITAL MARKETING MISTAKES YOU MIGHT BE MAKING

 

In order to give people that feeling of connectedness, trust and transparency, you’ve got to open up and let them see behind the curtain. Share your company manifesto in your blog. Tell the story of why and how you got into this business in an informal Facebook Live video. Post pictures of your employees goofing off on Instagram. The more consumers feel that they know the real you, the more they’ll trust you.

 

66068892_s.jpg2. Influencer Backup

Social proof is one of the most effective marketing tactics – because everyone believes word-of-mouth advertising over what a company says about itself. That’s why reviews on an independent site like Yelp are so powerful – you know they’re from real people and haven’t been edited. But it’s even more effective when a well-known online industry influencer, someone who is considered an expert in the field and already has consumers’ trust and respect, gives your company a good review.

 

By recruiting influencers to your cause, you earn instant trust for your brand among their followers. Find the influencers your target audience follows, and reach out to them to see if they’d be willing to partner with you. Maybe they can write a blog post reviewing your product or service in exchange for some freebies, or maybe they can hold a giveaway on Facebook in exchange for pay. It’s worth every penny, because the ROI is substantial.  

 

3. Radical Transparency

Unfortunately, as much as we might like them to be, people and companies aren’t perfect. There will inevitably be times when a customer has a bad experience and then posts a negative review. But although the natural instinct is to want to delete or contest anything negative, in today’s digital climate, that can hurt more than help.

 

Instead of rushing to disavow negative comments, rush to apologize and make it right. Demonstrate publicly how your company handles less-than-stellar customer experiences, and you’ll not only improve the situation with that one customer – you’ll be attracting new customers with your openness, honesty, and willingness to fix mistakes rather than cover them up.

 

By taking every opportunity to showcase the real people behind your company in an authentic way, working with trusted influencers to show their followers that you can be trusted, too, and being completely transparent, even when it comes to negative reviews and comments, you’ll be creating an online presence that allows consumers to feel they can trust your brand. And that, more often than not, leads directly to a customer relationship that lasts.      

 

About Shama Hyder

Shama Hyder is a visionary strategist for the digital age, a web and TV personality, a bestselling author, and the award-winning CEO of The Marketing Zen Group – a global online marketing and digital PR company. She has aptly been dubbed the “Zen Master of Marketing” by Entrepreneur Magazine and the “Millennial Master of the Universe” by FastCompany.com. Shama has also been honored at both the White House and The United Nations as one of the top 100 young entrepreneurs in the country. Shama has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the prestigious Technology Titan Emerging Company CEO award. She was named one of the “Top 25 Entrepreneurs under 25” by Business Week in 2009, one of the “Top 30 Under 30” Entrepreneurs in America in 2014 by Inc. Magazine, and to the Forbes “30 Under 30” list of movers and shakers for 2015. LinkedIn named Hyder one of its “Top Voices” in Marketing & Social Media. Her web show Shama TV was awarded the “Hermes Gold award for Educational Programming in Electronic Media” and most recently she was awarded the “Excellence in Social Media Entrepreneurship” award for 2016 by Anokhi Media.

 

Web: www.shamahyder.com or Twitter: @Shama.

You can read more articles from Shama Hyder by clicking here

 

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

                 

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