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2020

How a New Jersey retailer reinvented itself during the coronavirus to keep the family business running

 

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Oberg & Lindquist, a New Jersey-based home appliance retailer, has thrived as a family business for three generations. And Debra Oberg, the business’ first female president, knows how rare it is for a small business to survive for as long as her family’s has. To ensure that Oberg & Lindquist made it to a fourth generation, she significantly invested in the business by enlarging the showroom, increasing inventory and expanding delivery capabilities.

 

Despite the daunting odds, her efforts made her feel confident the business was on good footing. But when the coronavirus hit she learned overnight that the way Oberg & Lindquist had done business for more than 70 years would need to fundamentally change.

 

“I was selling appliances by the time I was 13,” Oberg says. “My father taught me it starts with relationships. Anyone can make a sale, but not everyone can make a customer.” To keep existing customers and make the new ones the business’s future depended on, Oberg knew they’d have to find some way of recreating the exceptional customer service they were known for, but do it outside the showroom.

 

In just a few weeks, Oberg & Lindquist had to transition from a showroom-based store to an exclusively online retailer. That forced Oberg and her team to adapt to a drastically different operating model. All customer inquiries and issues were now conducted via telephone calls and video chats, while in-person deliveries had to keep moving with added safety protocols.

 

“It was incredibly stressful, but we wanted to stay connected with our customers,” she explained. “We were available from 10 AM to 7 PM every day to talk to customers, answer questions and help them get what they needed. Buying an appliance is a very personal experience, and we needed to ensure that the relationship remained core to our business.”

 

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It wasn’t just logistics that proved to be a challenge. Oberg needed financial help, badly. “Every day, I woke up wondering what lay ahead for us,” she notes. “How would I pay utilities and healthcare, keep paying the salaries of my employees and be able to buy the inventory I needed for my customers? I didn’t know what each day would bring.”

 

When she heard about the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), Oberg’s first call was to her bank. “I’ve only had one bank my whole life,” Oberg emphasizes. “My grandfather always told me, ’You trust and stay with your bank.’” She credits Karla Yasmin Aguilar, a Bank of America Small Business Banker, with helping her through the PPP loan application process.

 

With New Jersey’s phased reopening plan, Oberg & Lindquist’s doors are open again, and Oberg and her team are serving customers in person, though only by appointment. What has the experience of seeing her business through a public health crisis taught her? “We all have to trust what got us here and take it day by day,” she notes. “Running a small business is about sweat, tears and more sweat.”

 

To date, Bank of America has distributed over $25 billion in loans to more than 334,000 clients, 99% of which has gone to businesses with less than 100 employees. Learn more about how the Bank is supporting clients and communities and their small businesses during this unprecedented time.

 

 

09/14/2020

How an Arizona dentist protected her all-woman practice in the wake of the coronavirus


Dr. Nikki Trombetta moved nine times in 16 years with her husband, an active-duty Air Force pilot, before their young family settled in Marana, AZ. This fast-growing community between Tucson and Phoenix has become a hub for the aerospace, aviation services and defense industries—and it seemed like exactly the right place for Dr. Trombetta to open the dental practice she’d always hoped to lead.

 

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For about a year, Marana Dental Care and its staff thrived—until late March, when Arizona’s stay-at-home order went into effect. With no way to see patients, her office was forced to temporarily close its doors. In the wake of the coronavirus, many dentists’ offices across the nation have found themselves in similar straits. In March and April of 2020, half of all U.S. dental workers were laid off—accounting for 35% of all health care jobs lost during that time.1 Dr. Trombetta recalls that the toughest day in the last several months was when she walked into a staff meeting, “looked everyone in the eye and acknowledged the uncertainty of what lay ahead for our practice, our patients and

our jobs.”

 

She knew immediately that she’d need to adapt her business in line with new realities—to plan for seeing patients virtually when possible at the beginning, then eventually opening with modified hours and services as the stay-at-home rule was relaxed. Throughout the process, she was determined to keep her work family intact. And that meant funding. “It was pretty clear we were going to need outside financial support if we wanted to remain operational,” Dr. Trombetta says. Working with Bank of America banker Carlos Nieto, she applied for and received a loan through the federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) that has helped her adjust her practices to new social distancing policies—and keep her team employed.

 

In addition to the funding, Dr. Trombetta has received an outpouring of community support, which has done just as much to strengthen her confidence in Marana Dental Care’s long-term viability. This episode has also given her invaluable insights about how to run a business, especially one that’s owned and operated by women. Her advice to other women entrepreneurs? “Surround yourself with the right people. Business will always be there, but the people and the customers are crucial. No one knows everything, and when you do things for the first time, you’ll make mistakes – that’s OK. Reach out to people who will take a genuine interest in helping you succeed.”

 

To date, Bank of America has distributed over $25 billion in loans to more than 334,000 clients, 99% of which has gone to businesses with less than 100 employees. Learn more about how the Bank is supporting clients and communities and their small businesses during this unprecedented time.


  1. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/10/upshot/dentists-coronavirus-economic-indicator.html


09/18/2020

The world is ‘on edge’ these days.  Emotions are running high. Small businesses in particular are impacted, since happy customers are the backbone of any business.

 

Now more than ever, it’s time for you and your employees to practice emotional intelligence. This skill set of understanding and managing your emotions, as well as those of the people around you, is essential for those in public-facing roles, both online and offline. Mari emotional intelligence pic.jpg

 

Small tweaks in the way you handle customer support will make a huge difference in your business’ success, during coronavirus recovery and beyond.

 

Emotional Intelligence & How it Impacts You

 

When emotions go up, intelligence goes down. It’s that simple.

 

Ever notice how when a person smiles, laughs, or is kind, it can have a positive impact on your mood? The opposite is also true.

 

When an agitated person enters your realm, it’s human nature to get triggered and have a strong emotional reaction. This damages your health - your body gets into fight or flight mode; you release stress hormones. This can wear on your body over time, so you must be cognizant of it. Keep your immune system strong, manage your stress, and prioritize your emotional health so you can be the one having a positive effect on others.

 

A little bit of compassion, empathy, and genuine care goes a long way, regardless of your client or prospect’s emotional state. In fact, according to a report by the consulting firm Deloitte, customer-centric companies are 60% more profitable than companies not focused on the customer.

 

You can improve someone’s day by tuning in to their needs and providing them with an outstanding experience at your small business. You can even turn a wary prospect into a long-term customer simply by using solid soft skills to make them feel genuinely important.

 

Soft Skills that Improve Your Emotional Intelligence

 

Whether your interaction is in person, on the phone, or online, similar rules apply. When you are interacting with a client - whether they are in a regular or amped-up state, stay positive, helpful, and genuine.

 

Here are 5 key tactics that you and your team can use every day to improve your emotional intelligence.

 

1. Listen

 

When a customer is upset, don’t make assumptions or jump to conclusions. Listen deeply … listen between the lines…try to hear what’s not being said.

 

Within reason, allow the customer to ‘empty out’ and explain what’s happening and why they are upset. The more you can simply ‘hold space’ for this fellow human being, even for a few short moments, diffuses intense emotions.

 

This will make a vital difference.

 

2. Build Empathy

 

Many business communications are fragmented, fleeting and hasty. This is especially true online, but even in person people tend to be in a rush. Expressing empathy enables you to draw others out, show that you care, serve your marketplace, and enhance your small business’ reputation as a quality company.

 

Simple and effective ways to build empathy include:

 

  • Ask someone their name. Sometimes individuals don’t immediately reveal their first name - or else they’ll use an alias on social media. If they don’t offer their name, just ask.

  • Use the person’s name. A person’s name is the sweetest sounding word in their entire vocabulary, and it’s a huge part of their identity. When you use a person’s first name in a natural way while communicating with them, you’ll instantly build more rapport and empathy. This is one of my personal favorites.
  • Find out one fact about the person. If you are on the phone or in person, build rapport through conversation. If you are interacting solely online, check their bio on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn (depending on where you’re communicating), or try a quick Google search to gather a bit more information about them. Once you know something about them, mention it in a natural way. It could have something to do with their profession, education, “likes,” hobbies, or some other facet of their personality or preferences. The idea is to make a genuine emotional connection.

 

Building empathy should be easy, since businesses are more human than ever. When you pay attention to your prospects and clients, you’ll discover that most everyone has very similar wants and needs. They want to be heard and understood, to belong, to know that they matter, and that they make a difference.

 

3. Take A Breath

 

Strive to never respond to anything when you’re emotional yourself. Remember, if you’re reactive, you’re not thinking clearly and may say something or act out in a way that you’ll later regret. Best to take a long, slow deep breath and have a method like an internal mantra, telling yourself to not take this person or situation personally.

 

This can often be easier to do online vs. in person, but one of my favorite mantras before hitting the send/post/update/publish button is, “What is my deepest intent?” Let me tell you, that question has kept me out of a few knee-jerk reactions over the years! For example, if my intent is to make the other person wrong, well I’m probably still triggered and need to go calm down.

 

If you ever face a negative situation in which you feel attacked, you have an opportunity to lead by example with grace, dignity, and compassion, best you can.

 

4. Prioritize Your Health

 

You can’t help your team, coworkers, or clients, if you’re not taking care of yourself. This includes good sleep, eating well, regular exercise, social support, and having at least one pursuit that brings you joy. Maintain your health and sense of balance with a daily self-care routine that works for you. This might include deep breathing, meditation, Quigong, yoga, or similar practices.

 

Keep an eye out for your coworkers and team. If someone starts to exhibit signs of ill-health and stress, find an appropriate moment to speak with them gently or let a manager know who can address the situation. The sooner you diffuse negative situations, and help someone on the road to recovery, the better.

 

5. Actively Check Your Social Media

 

Exhibiting emotional intelligence does not only apply to one-on-one customer service in your store or online. Interaction on social media also counts. Be cognizant of what your business posts, as well as how you engage with your audience online.

 

Much like children who throw tantrums, most individuals who feel the need to attack others online are simply seeking attention. If you respond at their level, you’re essentially giving them what they want. And, by engaging with that person publicly, you’re potentially introducing the attacker to your fans and followers. As a result, you may alienate a cross section of your own online community and target audience.

 

If something looks fishy, don’t let it escalate. Shut it down right away.

 

If you take only one thing from this article, in any and all customer situations, let this phrase be your guide: “Handle with care.”

 

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

The world is ‘on edge’ these days.  Emotions are running high. Small businesses in particular are impacted, since happy customers are the backbone of any business.mari emotional intelligence.jpg

 

Now more than ever, it’s time for you and your employees to practice emotional intelligence. This skill set of understanding and managing your emotions, as well as those of the people around you, is essential for those in public-facing roles, both online and offline.

 

Small tweaks in the way you handle customer support will make a huge difference in your business’ success, during coronavirus recovery and beyond.

 

Emotional Intelligence & How it Impacts You

 

When emotions go up, intelligence goes down. It’s that simple.

 

Ever notice how when a person smiles, laughs, or is kind, it can have a positive impact on your mood? The opposite is also true.

 

When an agitated person enters your realm, it’s human nature to get triggered and have a strong emotional reaction. This damages your health - your body gets into fight or flight mode; you release stress hormones. This can wear on your body over time, so you must be cognizant of it. Keep your immune system strong, manage your stress, and prioritize your emotional health so you can be the one having a positive effect on others.

 

A little bit of compassion, empathy, and genuine care goes a long way, regardless of your client or prospect’s emotional state. In fact, according to a report by the consulting firm Deloitte, customer-centric companies are 60% more profitable than companies not focused on the customer.

 

You can improve someone’s day by tuning in to their needs and providing them with an outstanding experience at your small business. You can even turn a wary prospect into a long-term customer simply by using solid soft skills to make them feel genuinely important.

 

Soft Skills that Improve Your Emotional Intelligence

 

Whether your interaction is in person, on the phone, or online, similar rules apply. When you are interacting with a client - whether they are in a regular or amped-up state, stay positive, helpful, and genuine.

 

Here are 5 key tactics that you and your team can use every day to improve your emotional intelligence.

 

1. Listen

 

When a customer is upset, don’t make assumptions or jump to conclusions. Listen deeply … listen between the lines…try to hear what’s not being said.

 

Within reason, allow the customer to ‘empty out’ and explain what’s happening and why they are upset. The more you can simply ‘hold space’ for this fellow human being, even for a few short moments, diffuses intense emotions.

 

This will make a vital difference.

 

2. Build Empathy

 

Many business communications are fragmented, fleeting and hasty. This is especially true online, but even in person people tend to be in a rush. Expressing empathy enables you to draw others out, show that you care, serve your marketplace, and enhance your small business’ reputation as a quality company.

 

Simple and effective ways to build empathy include:

  • Ask someone their name. Sometimes individuals don’t immediately reveal their first name - or else they’ll use an alias on social media. If they don’t offer their name, just ask.
  • Use the person’s name. A person’s name is the sweetest sounding word in their entire vocabulary, and it’s a huge part of their identity. When you use a person’s first name in a natural way while communicating with them, you’ll instantly build more rapport and empathy. This is one of my personal favorites.

  • Find out one fact about the person. If you are on the phone or in person, build rapport through conversation. If you are interacting solely online, check their bio on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn (depending on where you’re communicating), or try a quick Google search to gather a bit more information about them. Once you know something about them, mention it in a natural way. It could have something to do with their profession, education, “likes,” hobbies, or some other facet of their personality or preferences. The idea is to make a genuine emotional connection.

 

Building empathy should be easy, since businesses are more human than ever. When you pay attention to your prospects and clients, you’ll discover that most everyone has very similar wants and needs. They want to be heard and understood, to belong, to know that they matter, and that they make a difference.

 

3. Take A Breath

 

Strive to never respond to anything when you’re emotional yourself. Remember, if you’re reactive, you’re not thinking clearly and may say something or act out in a way that you’ll later regret. Best to take a long, slow deep breath and have a method like an internal mantra, telling yourself to not take this person or situation personally.

 

This can often be easier to do online vs. in person, but one of my favorite mantras before hitting the send/post/update/publish button is, “What is my deepest intent?” Let me tell you, that question has kept me out of a few knee-jerk reactions over the years! For example, if my intent is to make the other person wrong, well I’m probably still triggered and need to go calm down.

 

If you ever face a negative situation in which you feel attacked, you have an opportunity to lead by example with grace, dignity, and compassion, best you can.

 

4. Prioritize Your Health

 

You can’t help your team, coworkers, or clients, if you’re not taking care of yourself. This includes good sleep, eating well, regular exercise, social support, and having at least one pursuit that brings you joy. Maintain your health and sense of balance with a daily self-care routine that works for you. This might include deep breathing, meditation, Quigong, yoga, or similar practices.

 

Keep an eye out for your coworkers and team. If someone starts to exhibit signs of ill-health and stress, find an appropriate moment to speak with them gently or let a manager know who can address the situation. The sooner you diffuse negative situations, and help someone on the road to recovery, the better.

 

5. Actively Check Your Social Media

 

Exhibiting emotional intelligence does not only apply to one-on-one customer service in your store or online. Interaction on social media also counts. Be cognizant of what your business posts, as well as how you engage with your audience online.

 

Much like children who throw tantrums, most individuals who feel the need to attack others online are simply seeking attention. If you respond at their level, you’re essentially giving them what they want. And, by engaging with that person publicly, you’re potentially introducing the attacker to your fans and followers. As a result, you may alienate a cross section of your own online community and target audience.

 

If something looks fishy, don’t let it escalate. Shut it down right away.

 

If you take only one thing from this article, in any and all customer situations, let this phrase be your guide: “Handle with care.”

 

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

In May, Facebook started rolling out Facebook Shops. This latest foray into e-commerce from the social network is designed to help businesses stay afloat as they face a challenging market. Mari Facebook stores pic.jpg

 

Small businesses can set up an online store their customers can access on Facebook and Instagram. Sure, you have your website, which will always be a valuable asset. However, your Shop, which shows up on the business’ Facebook page or Instagram profile, enables you to take your selling social. You can interact with your customers in real time and ultimately improve your bottom line.

 

Since Facebook prides itself on being a user-friendly platform, these Shops are designed to mimic live shopping experiences as much as possible. Businesses can choose the products they want to feature from their catalog, customize the look and feel of their shop, and communicate with customers through Instagram Direct, Messenger or WhatsApp.

 

Facebook wants online retailers to have a unified presence across the Facebook family of apps. Your customers can choose to check out on Facebook or Instagram and, soon, they’ll also be able to check out on WhatsApp or Messenger.

 

Facebook’s image recognition

 

For years, companies have been using images, as well as live and pre-recorded video, on social media to highlight their products and services.

 

Facebook’s new shopping technology takes things up several notches.

 

Facebook built a universal computer vision system, designed for shopping, called GrokNet. This product recognition model can identify fine-grained product attributes across billions of photos in a variety of categories.

 

By using artificial intelligence to automatically identify and tag products, photos become shoppable. Businesses can upload their offerings. And customers can easily find and purchase the products they seek.

 

AI, AR, Digital Assistants and more

 

Facebook will be combining artificial intelligence, augmented reality, and even digital assistants, as they build out “social first” shopping.

 

For instance, Facebook is creating a state of the art technique to predict layered objects, such as clothes, in photos. Additionally Facebook will be introducing Rotating View. This state-of-the-art 3D-like photo capability will allow anyone to use the camera on their phone to capture multi-dimensional panoramic views of products and then upload them.

 

Also coming soon is the ability to sell products during live videos. Small businesses will be able to tag products from their Facebook Shop or catalog. Then, those products will be shown at the bottom of the video so people can easily tap, learn more, and purchase.

 

As businesses work to find their footing, Shops is a nice addition to the small business toolkit to explore needed new revenue streams. And we all could use extra help these days.

 

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

by Steve Strauss

 

Here’s a quandary: How do you build and maintain company culture when your staff is working from home?steve remote culture.jpg

 

Having your team remain working from home might make sense. However, maintaining cohesion, productivity, positivity and connection – all hallmarks of good company culture – are challenging when your team is virtual.

 

So, what to do? Communication is the key, especially in a remote work environment.

 

Here are 5 communication tips for helping you maintain a solid, positive workplace culture, even when your team is working from home: 

 

1. Spell out your mission, purpose and policies

 

In order for people to navigate an at-home working environment, it is important to make sure that every person on the team understands your mission is, what their role is, and why they are vital to the business and that mission.

 

Reviewing the business’s purpose should be a valuable exercise. For newer employees, it can be the type of reinforcement they need to be able to keep the faith and do their job when there is little physical support structure in place. And for the seasoned employees, it can be a good reminder for those who may have become a bit jaded or forgetful of the company’s goals.

 

Additionally, sending out a list of company policies and procedures can reinforce your rules and expectations, and give guidelines for operating while working remotely. These things can add to a culture of transparency and, by giving your employees the information they need, can encourage clear communication. 

 

2. Weekly Zoom or Skype group meetings

 

Another good way to encourage clear communication is by hosting weekly video chats. While you can’t meet in person, Zoom, FaceTime, Skype, or another service can provide an excellent way for your staff to meet and discuss what is in store.

 

During this time, you can ask your employees if they have any questions or concerns, and create goals for the upcoming week, month, or quarter. This is a great way to create that human connection.

 

3. Schedule regular 1:1 time

 

Making sure you meet face to face is important to relationship building and camaraderie in any office setting – but probably even more so when it comes to working remotely. Setting up specific times for video one on ones allows employees to feel like their individual voices are being heard and matter. It also allows for the manager to give feedback and constructive criticism. 

 

These meetings can and should also occur for small workgroups. Giving your teams weekly face time can ensure needed collaboration, discussions and transparency.

 

4. Provide avenues for socialization

 

When it comes to creating camaraderie and culture, not only is providing space to communicate about work important, but equally vital is providing time for your employees to socialize, albeit virtually. It is incumbent upon management to re-create the water cooler online. Many organizations do this by using Slack channels where employees can chat and discuss things outside of the organization.

 

Additionally, some companies set up game nights, remote exercise lunches, and similar events to get employees to stay active and involved. While the office doesn’t exist in the physical right now, creating online events and places where people can be social is an important tool for maintaining good employee relations and company morale.

 

5. Ask for feedback and adjust accordingly

 

Last but not least - ask your employees for feedback! You can do this during Zoom calls, one-on-one chats, and you can even create an inbox where employees can leave suggestions and feedback anonymously.

 

Then respond to the feedback and adjust accordingly. Listened to employees are happy, empowered employees. This in turn fosters a culture of constructive criticism, corrective behavior, and employee empowerment for your small business.

 

Suggested Reading: Why You Should Ditch Annual Reviews and Create an Employee Feedback Loop

 

Creating a positive culture remotely is challenging, yes, but no less possible than in a physical setting – if you are creative and communicative.

 

 

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

Funding Minority Businesses.jpgby Steve Strauss

 

For minority entrepreneurs looking to start a business or otherwise get help for a business they already run, there are a number of options for financial help.

 

Indeed, there are many loans and grants available and allocated for minority-owned businesses – from the government, to banks, to nonprofits, and more. But where to get started? To help, here are some of the best options:

 

Minority Business Development Agency:

 

The Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) is a part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, and it seeks to provide aid to minority-owned businesses to help them grow. The agency provides a variety of financing options for minorities, such as grants, and access to venture capital specifically geared towards minority-owned businesses.

 

The MBDA also has MBDA Business Centers across the country, which provide financial advice for businesses: How to secure loans, get contracts, and more. Click here to find a MBDA Business Center in your area.

2. Community Development Financial Institutions

 

The Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund awards money to historically underrepresented communities and organizations in order to foster minority entrepreneurship, including ones that are supported by Bank of America.

 

The biggest contributor to CDFIs in the United States is Bank of America, with more than $1.6 billion in loans and investments to more than 250 CDFIs. “Bank of America supports local economies by partnering with community development financial institutions across the U.S., and Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia .”

 

3. Small Business Administration

 

The Small Business Administration (SBA) is a federal government agency and another great resource for minorities to receive funding as it is the biggest loan guarantor in America. (Note: The SBA does not make loans, it guarantees loans made by private institutions. Bank of America is an SBA Preferred Lender) There are many SBA-backed loan options, ranging from $500 to more than $5 million.

 

While most SBA loans are not intended specifically for minority entrepreneurs, the Community Advantage Loan Program offers loans up to $250,000 for businesses in historically under-served markets. In addition, the SBA also provides specific resources for minority-owned businesses with the 8(a) Business Development Program. This program offers minority-owned businesses opportunities to receive government contracts, as well as offers financial information and workshops to said business owners.

 

4. Local funding

 

One of the best resources may actually be in your own backyard. Funding is often available from regionally based organizations, specifically geared towards minority business owners. This includes opportunities provided by your local or state governments, and also local credit unions and banks.

 

Especially in the wake of COVID-19, many states and local organizations have set aside grants specifically for minority business owners. Do some research on your state and local organizations, because many will be able to provide you with financial help.

 

5. Grants.gov

 

While looking for state-based grants and loans largely depends on what’s happening locally, the best place to look for federal grants is through Grants.gov. Grants.gov has thousands of grants that may be beneficial to your business. Grants are provided to businesses who can aid the government in “projects to provide public services and stimulate the economy.”

 

6. Accion

 

Accion is a non-profit that offers loans to low-to-moderate-income businesses that don’t usually qualify for traditional lending. As such, it can be a very good option for minority business owners and new entrepreneurs. It has offices in 50 states, offering loans from $200 up to $300,000.

 

So yes, there are many options out there for the minority-owned small business to get the money it needs. This list is a great starting place to begin your search. Good luck!

 

 

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

marismith

The Facebook Sales Funnel

Posted by marismith Sep 3, 2020

Funnel on Facebook.jpgby Mari Smith

 

In today’s noisy digital world, prospects and customers need between 13 and 20 touchpoints before committing to a purchase. You can’t just publish a piece of content on Facebook and hope for the sales to come.

 

Sure, these touches include social media posts, but also email communication, watching videos, and browsing your website or store, as well as live interaction, such as speaking by phone and engaging via direct message.

 

Call it TLC or your customer service journey, the act of giving your prospect the care and information they deserve is a process called a ‘funnel.’ And, when you have the right one in place, incorporating organic and paid touches, you have set your small business up for success.

 

The Facebook Mix: Organic vs Paid Reach

 

Facebook’s platform can be frustrating for many small business owners. They may experience difficulty in properly identifying and finding their perfect audience, and more often than not, get very low organic reach on their Facebook business page. Then, when they try to understand how to optimize paid campaigns, they don’t quite know where to focus for maximum results.

 

Here’s the thing: since 2014, organic reach has been at an average of 1% to 6%. Since many small business owners do not realize this, they continue to post organic content with no paid campaigns, and their content gets very little reach, engagement, and results.

 

The secret is to find the right mix between organic and paid. Investing even in a small Facebook ad budget can make all the difference. It’s counterintuitive but it does work. You could get at least a 2, 5 or even 10 times return on your investment. 

 

I always recommend crafting organic content that is “boost worthy.” That is, create posts that you’d happily convert into a paid placement once you see your audience is responding.

 

Your good content gets noticed and then more people will notice your good content. Win-win!

 

Facebook Audiences

 

Before you jump into the funnel, be clear on who your audience is. Customers? Prospects? Is it everyone who likes or follows your Facebook page? Or not?

 

Map out your customer avatar, often called a persona. This includes likes, interests, demographics, etc. It’s anything and everything that will help you hone in on everyone you want to reach.

 

Think of the funnel with three distinct stages:

 

  1. Top of funnel – TOFU
  2. Middle of funnel – MOFU
  3. Bottom of Funnel – BOFU

 

Whether you do your Facebook marketing completely organically (no ad spend) or you invest in paid campaigns, you’ll want to lead your audience through all three phases.

 

To make things super-easy, inside Facebook Ads Manager, there are three clear categories of ad objectives. And each of them maps perfectly to the top, middle and bottom of the sales funnel.

 

  1. Awareness (TOFU)
  2. Consideration (MOFU)
  3. Conversion (BOFU)

 

Think of the sales funnel in these 3 buckets. People go from Cold to Warm to Hot Prospects … and then onto Paying Customers.

 

Cold Audience:

There are people who have never heard of you. They are complete strangers, so you need to make them aware of your business, brand, products, services, offers, and so on.

 

Warm Audience:

 

These people are already familiar with your business and what you do. They have not yet made a purchase, but are considering it.

 

Hot Audience:

 

These are your hottest prospects. They are now very familiar with you and are about to make a purchase. They’re on their way to convert from prospect to buyer.

 

Facebook enables you to target all three audiences, so you can very easily walk people through each stage of your funnel.

 

A Custom Audience

 

Facebook also gives you the ability to create what are called Custom Audiences. You can upload your own opt-in email subscriber list to match with Facebook users and retarget these people. Facebook hashes the data and it’s a perfectly normal practice, used for years by small and large businesses alike.

 

Alternatively, when you have the Facebook pixel installed on your website, you have the ability to retarget specific landing page visitors. For instance, if someone lands on your product page but does not make a purchase, you would retarget them to nudge them back to the product page.

 

Another way to retarget is by building an audience of people who have engaged with your content on Facebook and/or Instagram. People who have watched three seconds or more of your videos can be “reminded” about your business or service.

 

Expand Custom Targets

 

Facebook also lets you create what are called Lookalike Audiences. This is an extremely powerful tool. You start with a core Custom Audience and the magic Facebook algorithms go out and build you a fresh new audience, often in the millions, of potential leads and customers.

 

Here are some examples of Custom audience type:

 

  • Cold: Saved audiences from demographics and interests you’ve selected. These could also be from website visitors, e-mail lists and video views audiences.
  • Warm: People who have engaged with your Facebook or Instagram Page in the past 7 to 30 days, and viewed your videos.
  • Hot: Those who visited your website landing page, messaged your page, interacted with a Lead Form ad, or opted-in to your lead magnet.

 

Once you have your custom audience created you can use Facebook’s Lookalike Audiences to expand to similar users and capture more potential customers in your sales funnel.

 

The Funnel Strategy

 

Here’s my recommended Facebook ad strategy for leading your target audience through your sales funnel with paid campaigns.

 

Top of Funnel:

 

  • Content: Create a 30- to 60-second video that captures attention instantly. Be sure to place your brand, logo, and message within the first 3 seconds. First, publish it as an organic post on your Facebook page, and allow up to 24 hours of organic reach. Then make it into an ad using Ads Manager. (By the way, even a small budget on promoting a post can increase your organic reach as well!)
  • Purpose: You want to build awareness. This content - focusing on storytelling - should educate, inform, inspire or entertain.
  • Ad Objective: Video views, reach, or engagement. Your main goal is to expand your audience and build awareness so you can retarget in the next two phases.
  • Cold Target Audience: Saved (what you created using all your specific customer demographics) and/or a Lookalike Audience
  • Budget: Allocate approximately 25%

 

Middle of Funnel:

 

  • Content: Create a 15- to 30-second video that includes much of the same visuals and narrative of your TOFU video.
  • Purpose: The idea is to continue the same storytelling narrative, and entice the audience to want to know more … now! With this piece, you may want to include customer examples, highlight benefits, and/or show solutions.
  • Ad Objective: Video views, lead generation, messages (get people to DM you on Facebook), or traffic (send to a unique landing page for this campaign).
  • Warm Target Audience: These should be people who watched your first video. You may also want to include people who have engaged with your Facebook page and/or Instagram profile.
  • Budget: Allocate approximately 50%

 

Bottom of Funnel:

 

  • Content: Create a 5- to 15-second video continuing on the same narrative. You want to use a subset of visuals from your TOFU/MOFU videos - familiar content that gets right to the point!
  • Purpose: Here you want to promote a special offer with a strong CTA (call-to-action).
  • Ad objective: Conversions, Traffic, Catalog Sales or Store Traffic.
  • Hot Target Audience: Use Custom Audiences, based on your e-mail list of interested prospects, or from your Lead Form ads, Messenger ads, or visitors to a specific landing page. Your focus is on converting people into customers or clients who are now familiar with you, your company, campaign and offer.
  • Budget: Allocate approximately 25%

 

You’ll notice the suggested video lengths get shorter as you move prospects through the funnel. This is similar to television advertising where you might see a longer commercial then the same ad keeps repeating but it gets shorter and shorter.

 

That’s because advertisers know you don’t need to keep seeing the entire long ad. Repetition and retargeting really does work.

 

A Final Thought

 

One big mistake I see Facebook advertisers making time and again is they want to go straight to the bottom of the funnel. They think they can get that sale right away.

When they use all their budget on a cold audience, it’s typically a waste. Facebook ads rarely work well that way.

When building your funnel, remember:  You want to turn prospects into loyal customers by creating a bond between your strangers and your brand. Introduce audiences to your business, your products, and/or services. Allow them to get to know, like, and trust you.

 

Build that interest and engagement, and loyal customers with higher lifetime value is sure to follow.

 

 

 

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

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