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2019

Sometimes, when I write for you, my customer for worthy content, I look around to see if there’s a trend emerging worth considering for your business. tim-mossholder-JfO62I4YRnY-unsplash.jpg

 

Today was like that. And I concluded maybe the time for making everyone love your brand is over. Work through this with me. It’s important.

 

Be Who You Are and Who You Want to Attract

 

There’s a weird fast-food war going among sellers of chicken sandwiches.

 

One company is thriving because their food is high quality and because they are very open about their religious values. While another has had much success introducing a tasty alternative for those who don’t want to support the other company.

 

In the sneaker business, one shoemaker supports a man who has made headlines standing against police violence. It’s a strong stance and revenue has gone up a lot because of it. Yet a different global firm sold sneakers made from ocean clean-up materials and easily sold 2 million pairs.

 

You don’t have to pick the same fights. You can support what makes sense for your brand.

 

Yet one detail is true: You must support something these days.

 

Reflect Your Buyer

 

This isn’t a piece about what’s right and wrong. Your business is yours to run.

 

Some companies thrive because of their commitment to inclusion. My schoolmate Doug Quint successfully launched a food empire with his Big Gay Ice Cream company, which started as an ice cream truck in New York and is now a regional staple in restaurants and grocery store freezers.

 

Maybe your buyer comes from a different upbringing than the whole Brady Bunch life that was reflected so often in advertising. Maybe they didn’t see people that reminded them of themselves in commercials or representing products they love.

 

Be Bold but Mean It

 

In 2019 and beyond, more buyers than ever say they prefer to buy from companies who share their values. But if your company doesn’t reflect any obvious values, how will someone know that they align?

 

The idea of this piece is to ask you to think about who you support and who might find strength in your alliance, and it’s to dare you.

 

You don’t have to be controversial, but please find ways to connect with and support people who will benefit from the association. Microsoft, for example, supports many different groups, including women in the gaming industry and fostering gaming inclusively for people with physical disabilities, and more. Where’s your group?

 

Put the Eggshells Away

 

Put the eggshells away and support a group that you feel aligns with your company’s beliefs and values. Purpose and beliefs and just plain support are the way forward.

 

Be more than just another place we can buy from. Be the place we want to support any day of the week. Your customers want to believe.

 

About Chris Brogan

 

Chris Brogan is an author, keynote speaker and business advisor who helps companies update organizational interfaces to better chris-brogan-headshot.jpgsupport 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 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

Ya gotta believe!” While this was the rallying cry of the 1973 New York Mets, it also serves as an entrepreneurial mantra for many. If you want to succeed in business, it helps to be optimistic. Optimism is what allows small business owners to surmount sometimes impossible odds to achieve improbable outcomes.

 

According to the just-released 2019 Bank of America Small Business Owner Snapshot, “Entrepreneurs remain optimistic about the strength of their local economies” and 82% mike-petrucci-c9FQyqIECds-unsplash.jpgsay they’re “poised to end 2019 on a high note…anticipating higher revenue” than last year.

 

They’re not quite as confident about the national economy, with 49% saying it will improve, down from 55% in last fall’s Snapshot. The political climate in the U.S., GDP growth rate, inflation and interest rate concerns have impacted their national outlook.

 

Trade Winds

 

Nearly half of the small business owners (44%) report being affected by “recent U.S. trade tariffs and policy.” Of those affected, 19% experienced a negative impact, 16% said the impact was “mixed” and 9% claimed a positive impact.

 

Put Adam Rizza, Chief Creative Officer of Sunscape Eyewear, in the negatively impacted bucket. Tariffs have affected his business—and what’s worse, he doesn’t think they’re going away anytime soon—if ever.

 

“The tariffs were inevitable,” he says, “and they’re here to stay. Sunscape currently manufactures their eyewear in China and Rizza says the factories there have “been advised not to give discounts” to American companies. Companies like his are “being squeezed,” he says. Retail buyers don’t want to pay more for wholesale goods and consumers don’t want to pay more for products in-store or online. “So ultimately,” he adds, “we’re going to have to eat it. Small businesses will suffer. The big guys have ways to get around it.”

 

But being the quintessential entrepreneur, Rizza found a solution. “We had to adjust, so we cut overhead and operational costs. But we can’t jeopardize quality, so we have to look outside China.” Sunscape, which has been doing business with Chinese factories for nearly 20 years, is now looking at moving production to Vietnam and is already manufacturing a new line of products here in America.

 

Like Rizza, the Snapshot shows 61% of small businesses have experienced an increase in the cost of goods. Most (55%) have raised their prices and 24% have lost customers as a result.

 

Tis the Season…

 

And while the Snapshot shows small business owners intend to enjoy the holidays (38% are going on vacation), 54% are stressed. Some are worried about balancing work and life (42%) and staffing issues (18%). To combat these concerns, they’re embracing some extra self-care (48%) and hiring seasonal employees (15%).

 

Other holiday season challenges are more customer-centric, such as creating customer demand (37%), keeping prices competitive (36%) and competing with the big box stores and online retailers (15%).

 

How will they cope with these challenges? Some plan to power through by developing new processes to handle a business influx (25%) while others, like me, will just guzzle more caffeine (21%).

 

Developing a 2020 Vision

 

What comes next? Despite those holiday stressors, as we head into the new decade, the entrepreneurs are embracing their inner Pollyanna – 80% plan to grow their businesses next year. Their top three goals: significantly increase revenue (47%), prioritize their online/social media presence (28%) and expand into new markets (23%).

 

Marketing smarter can help small business owners achieve those goals. Consider:

 

  • Embracing digital marketing. According to The Performance of Small and Medium Sized Businesses in a Digital Worldmall businesses that use digital tools are three times more likely to experience customer growth and two times as profitable.
  • Personalizing your emails. Instapage82% of marketers have reported an increase in open rates through email personalization. Plus, personalized email marketing generates a median ROI of 122%.
  • Increasing video marketing. According to HubSpot, 56% of 25-34-year-olds and 54% of 35-44-year-olds would like to see more video content from businesses.

 

For a better 2020, you’ll need to combine a positive outlook and practical business solutions.

 

About Rieva Lesonsky

 

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and Co-founder of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business Rieva+Lesonsky+Headshot.pngand 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. ©2019 Bank of America Corporation

SBOR-Callout-sm.gifThe bi-annual Small Business Owner Snapshot, conducted by Bank of America, explores the concerns, aspirations and perspectives of small business owners throughout the U.S. and across 10 major cities. The fall report explores a range of topics important to the constantly evolving small business landscape. Some important insights from this report explore:

 

  • Strong business growth indicators despite continued concern about economic factors
  • The impact of U.S. trade tariffs on small businesses
  • Both challenges and excitement linked to the Holiday and New Year seasons

 

For a complete, in-depth look at the insights of the nation’s small business owners, view the Fall 2019 Bank of America Business Advantage Small Business Owner Snapshot here.

I was a full-time lawyer for over a decade and one thing that always surprised me was how often the people sitting across from me in my office should not have been there; a Small Biz Legal Tips.jpglittle legal education would have helped them greatly.

 

There are simple legal tips and business strategies you can undertake to help yourself avoid potential legal trouble. Here are my top legal tips that can make your small business life easier:

 

  1. Do it yourself:

    Yes, of course sometimes you need a lawyer – that vendor did you wrong and you need to sue or whatever. But just as often, you don’t. Indeed, there are plenty of times when you can save significant amounts of money by doing it yourself. For basic needs such as forming an LLC or creating a will, do-it-yourself sites like LegalZoom can really help.

  2. A strongly worded letter can get you far:

    When someone owes your business money, it is understandable that you may want to sue them. “Suing the guy” can be cathartic. The bad news is that the guy can sue you back. And even if they don’t, lawsuits are usually pernicious and expensive. Often, a strongly worded letter from a lawyer can provide a result that ends up almost as satisfactory, and at a fraction of the cost.

  3. Don’t settle for the fee quote a lawyer gives you:

    If you do actually end up needing a lawyer to sue or handle a case, there is a secret that lawyers don’t want you to know. Their fees and costs, although high, are not written in stone. You can often negotiate cheaper prices. They may not reduce their hourly rate, but you can bet that paying 50 cents per photocopy is negotiable.

  4. Always put it in writing:

    This is one of those commonsense tips, but it’s amazing how often it is overlooked. To truly protect yourself, always make sure to put things in writing. Memories fade over time, people remember things differently, and people lie. A written record prevents all of that.

  5. Protect your intellectual property:

    If you are a creator or inventor (and these days, many of us are creating content online), it is vital that you protect your copyrights, patents, or trademarks. Patents typically require professional legal help, but copyrights and trademarks can be registered and handled on your own at www.USPTO.gov. (Note: One good thing to know about copyrights is that they need not even be registered with the USPTO to be legal; They are created as a matter of law at the moment of creation. This sentence is being copyrighted as I write it!)

  6. Stop creditor harassment:

    If bill collectors are harassing you, you can invoke the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act to stop the phone calls. If you say or write something along the lines of, “Pursuant to the FDCPA, you are to never call me about this debt again,” they must stop calling. Two things of special note:

    First, this statement has to be made to 3rd party bill collector and not the original creditor

    Second, once the bill collector has been given notice, while they must stop calling, they still have other remedies available, such as lawsuits


  7. No contract? Maybe no problem:

    This is a lesser-known fact – sometimes you can enforce someone’s promise to you, even if you do not have a contract. It’s called “promissory estoppel” and happens when you rely, to your detriment, on someone’s promise. Example: Let’s say a contractor asks you, a subcontractor, for a bid on a project and you give a very low bid for whatever reason, maybe you really want the gig or whatever. The contractor then gets the project and wants you to perform, but you realize that your bid was far too low. Too bad. Even though there is no formal contract, you still may be forced to live up to the low bid because the contractor relied to his or her detriment on your promise.

  8. Know when to admit blame:

    When you’re wrong, you’re wrong, and when that’s the case, your best bet is to lick your wounds, call it a day, and call it off. Fighting will only cost you time and money. Settling may be the best, most affordable, legal advice you can receive.

 

 

 

About Steve Strauss

 

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 Expert Steve+Strauss+Headshot+SBC.pngcolumn 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. ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

I’ve long been a big fan of ‘90s and ‘00s hip-hop music and I often make friends suffer through my quoting of lyrics. So small biz community, why not make you think about this hip-hop wisdom with me?

 

I promise there’s a small business nugget of great importance to you in this story. black-and-silver-cassette-player-159613.jpg

 

I Need a Doctor

 

In February of 2011, musician and business mogul Dr. Dre teamed up with another rap legend and protege Eminem and singer Skylar Grey to release the song “I Need a Doctor.” Now, I’m sure you played this a lot when it came out, but here’s a refresher.

 

The idea behind the song is that Eminem is pleading with Dr. Dre to come back to music and release the very, very, very long overdue next album he’d been promising fans for years. Here’s a little snip of lyrics I want you to read:

 

But you’re either getting lazy or you don't believe in you no more

Seems like your own opinions, not one you can form

Can't make a decision you keep questioning yourself

Second-guessing and it’s almost like you’re begging for my help

Like I'm your leader

You’re supposed to f---- be my mentor

I can endure no more

I demand you remember who you are

 

That last line: I demand you remember who you are. That’s the heart of the nugget.

 

Eminem is saying that when you get lost and start second-guessing yourself, go back to your roots and reset. Get your feet under you.

 

It’s important and useful advice. Unless it’s not.

 

Maybe We Didn’t Need a Doctor

 

At the time of this song’s release, Dre was working on other projects. Five years after “I Need a Doctor” came out (where Dre promises he’s back), he launches Beats by Dre and releases premium headphones to the world. They’re an overnight hit. He sells the company to Apple for over a billion dollars.

 

He thrives in a whole new direction, a “pivot” as the kids call it.

 

Dre released only one more album in 2015 when the movie “Straight Outta Compton” came out. It debuted at No. 2 and sold enough units. But it wasn’t exactly like the old days.

 

It didn’t matter. We didn’t need a doctor. Or at least, let’s say it this way: Dre knew where he was going even though no one around him was ready to accept that’s where he’s headed.

 

That’s the other big yellow highlighter I need you to take from this:

 

People won’t always see where you’re going, and they might inadvertently try to hold you back.

 

Your notes, then, should read like this:

 

  • I demand you remember who you are - go back to basics any time you feel indecisive.
  • People won’t always see where you’re going - your vision comes to you long before others see you at the center of it.

 

As a small business owner, sometimes you get thrown far off the deep end of ideas. You chase what customers need and that can muck up your business. Sometimes we add and add and add and lose sight of what our business needs to be (I demand you remember who you are). 

 

Other times, we should accept people won’t see the next big turn in the road and that we’ll have to earn our way into people’s minds once we start executing a new vision (they won’t see where you’re headed).

 

This isn’t some list of five ways to get people to answer an email. It’s more than that. The risk is that you’ll just read this and take no action. But if you had even five minutes, I challenge you:

 

Are you back in your roots? And are you working on your vision?

 

 

About Chris Brogan

 

Chris Brogan is an author, keynote speaker and business advisor who helps companies update organizational interfaces to better support chris-brogan-headshot.jpgmodern 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 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

A new year is on the horizon—along with a whole new decade. If your business brand is in need of a makeover, now could be the perfect time to shake things up.drawing-feedback-logos-critique-17845.jpg

 

Here are six reasons you should consider rebranding your business in 2020.

 

1. You’ve added a new product line or service to your business. Does your current brand fully convey these new additions? For instance, if your pizza restaurant is now brewing its own beer, incorporating that into the overall brand could attract new customers. Alternately, you might want to develop a separate, but related brand for the new products or services.

 

2. You’ve narrowed your focus. If your business originally was trying to be all things to all people, but now you’ve found your niche, rebranding to emphasize that change is a smart move. For example, if your general tutoring business now focuses on prepping high school students for the college entrance exam, you need to refocus your marketing efforts to reach that new demographic.

 

3. You’re expanding into a new market. If you’re expanding geographically, a brand that’s too locally or regionally oriented may limit you. You also need to make sure your brand resonates with prospective customers nationwide—or even worldwide—which probably requires some adjusting. For instance, international expansion may require a logo that conveys meaning without words.

 

4. Your brand is inconsistent. Due to budget issues, small businesses often update their marketing materials piecemeal, over time. Eventually, you can end up with a hodge-podge of logos, fonts or taglines that are all slightly different. If this sounds like you, either choose the most current brand identity you want to focus on or start fresh. Either way, you need to bring all your marketing materials in line.

 

5. Your brand is easy to confuse with a competitor. A new business copying your name, logo or brand isn’t the only thing that can confuse your customers. As you expand to new target markets or locations, you may suddenly be competing with businesses you never knew about whose brands are similar enough to yours to cause confusion.

 

6. Your brand is outdated. Every brand needs a refresher from time to time. If your logo was cutting-edge 10 or even five years ago, it probably looks pretty dated now. You might need a new look to fit in with current design trends or create a logo that reads well as a small online icon. If you’re too close to your brand to be impartial, try conducting customer surveys or calling in a focus group to give you their honest opinions.

 

How to make your rebrand work? Try these tips:

 

  • Go slow. You don’t need to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Small changes can be more effective at freshening up your brand while still retaining its value and familiarity to customers. If you want to modernize your brand, for instance, try updating fonts or taglines while retaining basic elements like colors.
  • Stay connected to your roots. If you rename your business, maintain a connection with your old name. For instance, co-working company WeWork recently announced it will be rebranding
  • Build anticipation
  • Involve customers in the rebrand. Give customers a stake in the rebrand by getting their input. Share potential logo designs or new business names for a vote or to get feedback. Customers can tell you if your new brand accurately conveys the message you want to send. After all, they’re the ones you need to please!

 

About Rieva Lesonsky

 

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and Co-founder of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business and Rieva+Lesonsky+Headshot.pngentrepreneurship, 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. ©2019 Bank of America Corporation

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