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At the end of September, the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) hosted its annual National Women’s Business Conference (WBC)—which was unlike any other WBC in the organization’s history. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the conference was held virtually. And while the women of NAWBO may not have been able to share a handshake in the event hall or a round of applause in the auditorium, this unique event delivered as it always does in bringing together women entrepreneurs from across the world to learn from one another and share their ideas for the future.  NAWBO, which is celebrating its 45th year as an organization, chose “Brave Is…” as this year’s theme—and our team fully embraced that sentiment! Marking Bank of America’s eighth year as the presenting sponsor of the event, our team was energized, empowered and inspired by the incredible women business owners who are making brave strides across the country.

 

Three women who fully encapsulate the idea of “Brave Is…” are this year’s National Woman Business Owner of the Year Award finalists. From hundreds of nominations submitted from NAWBO Chapters all over the country, the group of finalists consisted of: Nooshin Behroyan, Founder & CEO, Paxon Energy & Infrastructure Services; Rebecca Fyffe, CEO & Director of Research, Landmark Pest Management; and Ranee Cress Wright, President and Owner, DrillMax.

 

After much deliberation, Rebecca was selected as this year’s Woman Business Owner of the Year  Before she was awarded the title however, the NAWBO audience had a chance to hear from all three women in a panel discussion moderated by Bank of America’s Senior Vice President, National SBA Executive, Karen Harrison. During the discussion, the three finalists shared their stories and what bravery means to them:

 

Rebecca Fyffe headshot.jpgRebecca Fyffe, CEO & Director of Research, Landmark Pest Management –

2020 winner of the Woman Business Owner of the Year Award

 

Rebecca is CEO and director of research at Landmark Pest Management as well as a subject matter expert on policies and programs designed to enable women and minorities to capture a representative share of economic opportunities in corporate and government procurement and contracting. She served as chair of the Chicago Transit Authority’s DBE Advisory Committee and has testified in numerous disparity studies.

 

  • “Even though I started [my company] because of a tragedy, we’ve had such a wonderful growth story that as a result of this, we've been able to help so many people live and work in safer, cleaner buildings.
  • “The advice that stands out most to me is a comment that Michelle Obama made. She said that when you make it through that door, it's not enough to just leave the door open for the woman behind you. Reach back reach through that door and pull the next person through –  and that is so much what NAWBO is about.”

 

Nooshin Behroyan headshot.jpgNooshin Behroyan, Founder & CEO, Paxon Energy & Infrastructure Services

 

Nooshin is founder and CEO of Paxon Energy & Infrastructure Services. In less than three years, she has grown the company into America’s 9th fastest growing management firm and a leading woman-owned consulting management firm, which is heavily focused on improving critical infrastructures in the oil, gas and utilities industries.

 

  • “I work in the oil and gas industry, which is not known for much diversity, nor inclusion and I wanted to elevate and advance women. I wanted to address the barriers and try change for positive impact - and that became the value for me to advance our business. I truly believe that it's going to take all of us to make a difference for women across all sectors, not just women engineers. We may be individually strong, but we are collectively powerful, and I see that in the community of now.”

 

  • “My advice for all of our women business owners is to understand your say-to-do ratio. In other words, how reliably are you going to deliver on what you're promising? What truly distinguishes a good company is the quality of their say-to-do ratio, because quality doesn't come by chance – quality is a responsibility that needs to be shared within all sectors of a given company.”

 

Ranee Cress Wright headshot.jpg

Ranee Cress Wright, President and Owner, DrillMax

 

Ranee Cress Wright is an entrepreneur and business owner with over 25 years of experience. As the current President of Drillmax® Inc, her dedication to innovation and growth has positioned Drillmax® as a global brand in over 35 countries. Within her company, Ranee uses her collaborative management style to create a unique company culture, which has led to 20 years of employee retention. Ranee helped build Drillmax’s reputation as the premier valve manufacturer of quality products for over two decades.

 

  • “When I think about my brave. It has to do with going beyond where I'm comfortable and leaning into the fear of the unknown. How I've leveraged my brave is to first allow myself time to acknowledge what I know and apply my know-how to make any adjustments and then to bravely advance in whatever the decision or circumstance is that I'm facing.”
  • “My deepest desire is that all women business owners would begin to see and understand that their companies most valuable asset is themselves.”

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

 

Oberg-Lindquist.jpg

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.”

 

Woman.jpg

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.

 

Marana-Dental-Image.jpg

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

by Rieva Lesonsky

 

National Women’s Equality Day is celebrated every August 26 to commemorate the adoption of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1920. That amendment  Sharon Interview.jpgprohibits the denial by the federal government and the states of the right to vote on the basis of sex.

 

While more recently women have made great strides in the world of entrepreneurship, we still have a ways to go. I recently sat down (virtually) with Sharon Miller, Head of Small Business at Bank of America, to talk about how women can continue to thrive—even during this global pandemic.

 

The last time Sharon and I spoke all signs pointed to a strong 2020 for women business owners. Obviously, the coronavirus has dimmed that outlook, making it a challenging year for all business owners.

 

Women: Timing is never perfect to start a business – Just start

 

Rieva Lesonsky: Before the pandemic, were you seeing more equality when it came to women-owned businesses getting funding?

 

Sharon Miller: Our last survey of women busines owners showed access to capital for women had improved over the last decade. But, in that survey, nearly 25 percent of the women said, “We women will never have equal access to capital.” There’s still a perception among women that money is harder to get.

 

Women think they have to have it perfectly right before they go to the bank. Many men come in without even having a concept.

 

Women need to get there [to the bank] sooner. Don’t wait until it’s perfect. Go now so you can get advice from professionals and learn what you will need to do to get funding. It’s never going to be perfect. Don’t be afraid to come in.

 

Today, women own about 40 percent of the small businesses in the country and that’s accelerating. Women are a force to be reckoned with. Women understand they can do this. And when we at Bank of America can’t provide help directly, we will be a resource to get women what they need through organizations like Vital Voices and NAWBO (National Association of Women Business Owners).

 

Lesonsky: You believe “confidence” is a big factor in women achieving success. How can we better instill confidence in younger women and girls, so they grow up more confident about pursuing entrepreneurship?

 

Miller: One of my favorite quotes—I have this pinned to my bulletin board—is from Henry Ford—"Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.” My daughter is 11, my son is 14, and I already can see the difference. I tell them, “You can do anything.” It’s really important to instill that in our daughters, nieces, and families.

 

We need to have role models who have achieved and accomplished at the highest levels—women who are helping their communities. We need to keep breaking glass ceilings so we can show what can be done.

 

Advocacy moves women forward

Lesonsky: Can you speak a little about the power of mentorship in helping women business owners succeed?

 

Miller: Mentorship—to have like-minded people and resources to help advise you and give you information and help with problems you’re not seeing or don’t know about—is important.

 

But what’s more important is advocacy. We can be mentors all day long, but as women, ask yourself, how can I be an advocate, how can I move them along? Be a referral source. In the corporate world, ask how you can help advance other women. We need to pull through women and minorities and make sure they have access.

 

Lesonsky: Bank of America was investing in helping women by sponsoring conferences and events. Now that the pandemic has played havoc with in-person meetings and conferences, how do we best connect and support one another?

 

Miller: Everything is virtual now. We’re the title sponsor at the upcoming NAWBO conference. And it’s going to be virtual, which means more people can participate. Human connection is important, but we have to adapt to the new normal. This is a time of self-reflection and everyone needs to define the new normal for themselves.

 

Finding work-life balance in the current environment

 

Lesonsky: I have read that while many women and men have been working at home these last few months, many of the responsibilities of taking care of the kids (teaching, etc.) have fallen disproportionally on women. This goes back to something you said last year. This question was asked: “I believe X will be impactful in helping women in business over the next five years.” And the No. 1 answer was achieving work-life balance. How do we do that in these pandemic times?

 

Miller: That was an optimistic conversation, but all of a sudden the world changed. I’m a mom of two and found out over spring break they were not going back to school. I thought, “What am I going to do?” My office became a classroom and I was balancing work with making sure the kids do what they’re supposed to.

 

Lesonsky: Do you have any tips for working moms?

 

Miller: You have to be even more structured in your day. Try to be the best mom and the best at work. Just do the best you can.

But you also need to pull away every now and then. Exercise. Take time for you. We all need time to refocus. You can’t do your best if you can’t be at your best.

We have to tell ourselves, “I can’t control this, so focus on what you can control.”

 

Investing in our communities

 

Lesonsky: In the podcast, you mention that women invest more in their communities than men. Today in particular, it seems especially important to invest in our communities. How can we business owners’ best do that?

 

Miller: Despite the challenges, there have been a lot of positives. There’s always a silver lining. We need to help businesses in our communities. Order take out from local restaurants. Raise funds for community programs.

 

At Bank of America, we don’t just serve clients, we serve communities. We’ve launched a billion-dollar commitment for racial equality. We’re not just having a health care crisis in America. We have to ask, “What do we stand for?” We may not understand someone else’s situation, but we can open our hearts and minds.

 

We can listen and make our communities better. We can make it a better world.

 

 

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

 

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

There was a time not so long ago when owning a small business was a lonely affair. In those pre-Internet days, there were very few resources for an entrepreneur to get advice, iStock-1224041142.jpglearn new skills, or find a community.

 

Things are much different now; indeed, one of the great things about owning and running a small business today is that there is just so much help available, much of it free.

 

One of the best and one of my favorites is SCORE. SCORE is the country’s largest network of volunteer, expert business mentors and is committed to helping small businesses start, grow, and achieve their goals. It does s

o in several ways:

  • SCORE has chapters of volunteer mentors throughout the country. Its more than 10,000 volunteers give small business owners free, confidential mentoring and training (both online and off) on virtually any subject – marketing, advertising, hiring, firing, business plans – you name it.
  • SCORE offers workshops and webinars
  • Its website is loaded with great articles, blogs, and other content.

 

I recently chatted with the new CEO of SCORE, Bridget Weston, to ask how it is helping entrepreneurs through this pandemic. She is a dynamic, resourceful and creative leader fully committed to helping small businesses.

 

Q: Hi Bridget. How has the pandemic changed what you are doing?

 

A: As you know, SCORE has been around since 1964 and for much of our existence, our mentoring was done live, in-person. If it can be said that there is a silver lining in this pandemic for us, it is that we were well prepared for this moment. We have increasingly been moving online and two years ago we created a virtual, on-screen mentoring process. Our training, tools, and system were all in place long before the coronavirus hit.

Q: How does it work?


A: Using either Skype or Zoom, our mentors and their clients can have a virtual coaching session. Being accessible to clients really matters and what makes that possible now is technology. And one of the great things about video mentoring is that our surveys find that it is just as effective as in-person sessions.

 

Q: Have you seen an increase in requests for mentoring since the pandemic began?


A: You bet, there has been a tremendous increase in demand the past few months. Initially, people needed help navigating the PPP. Now a lot of the questions are about sources of alternative funding and how to re-open safely. Other topics that we help with routinely are startups, business planning, finance, getting and keeping customers, and marketing and sales.

 

Q: Have you created, or do you have, any programs specifically for this crisis?

 

A: Yes, we have a few things. For starters, we have a Small Business Resilience Hub. The idea is that we know economic downturns bring unprecedented challenges. Our resilience hub offers training, resources and remote mentoring to help a small business not just survive but adapt and succeed.

There are several parts of the hub: Remote mentoring, resilience training, and a resource portal. As part of this, we offer real-time online mentoring each day. Business owners can find out more or sign up on our homepage.

 

Q: Could you tell us a bit more about SCORE’s work generally?


A: Sure. Last year we helped start 30,000 new businesses and create 100,000 jobs. In addition, 67% of our clients report that they increased their revenue as a result of working with us.

 

Q: Well, as you know, I love SCORE and what you do. Keep up the great work.

 

A: Thank you!

 

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

 

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

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Steve Strauss to provide 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

Retailers are on a roller coaster ride. And, while the reopening strategies are different across the country, for many small businesses reopening is unsettling, especially with worker/customer fears of infection and the possibility of closing again. rieva keeping retail customers.jpg

 

A successful reopening encompasses three major strategies: compliance to local health guidelines, setting expectations for customers and employees, and creating a comfortable and safe in-store customer experience.

 

Reopening Guidelines

 

Most local governments  have very specific reopening guidelines on best practices for reopening retail stores. Search your county website for a protocol checklist for retail establishments. Your county’s public health department has the jurisdiction to make sure businesses are following protocol, so contact them if you have questions about possible violations.

 

The rules vary by location, but most follow similar procedures in five key areas:

 

  1. Workplace policies and practices to protect employee health
  2. Measures to ensure physical distancing
  3. Measures to ensure infection control
  4. Communication with employees and the public
  5. Measures to ensure equitable access to critical services

 

Within each key area, there are specific policies for retail owners to follow. A few policies of note:

 

  • Employees who are not needed in the store should continue to work from home.
  • Symptom checks – fever, cough or shortness of breath – should  be conducted before employees enter the workspace. You should check for employees with a cough, shortness of breath or fever. Note other symptoms the employee may be experiencing.
  • Employee breaks should be staggered, and employees must stay 6-feet apart.
  • All store entrances should be monitored in order to track occupancy.
  • Check-out stations should minimize exposure between cashiers and customers and use barriers, such as ones made from Plexiglass.

 

Suggested Reading: Here’s what to Consider as You Re-Open Your Business

 

Setting Expectations

 

Employees and customers will invariably have mixed reactions about returning to retail stores. Some may be incredibly nervous to be around others while others may feel they want to get back to “normal.” In any case, it is the responsibility of the retailer to follow government reopening guidelines and set realistic expectations.

 

By clearly communicating your expectations to employees and customers, you can reduce or even eliminate confusion and increase the possibility of a successful reopening.

 

Be Aware

 

The new rules of retail go beyond complying with government regulations. Working in a time of crisis means employees may have to deal with:

 

  • Stressed-out customers. Whether customers are unnerved by being in public or impatient due to longer lines, employees need to know how to deal with potential conflict or tension.
  • Staying home. Gone are the days of coming to work when you don’t feel well—and that includes you, the boss. You might want to update your sick day/PTO policy to make sure sick employees don’t feel financially pressured to come to work.
  • Doing jobs not in their job description, such as deep cleaning.

 

Customers should also know what is expected of them while shopping in your store. Best practices include sending emails informing them about your policies regarding social distancing and wearing masks. Post information on the store’s website and social media channels.

 

Also, promote the other ways consumers can buy from you, whether from your website or social channels. Are you offering curbside pickup? That can attract shoppers who don’t want to shop in-store.

 

Finally, post signs about your new procedures and policies around your store.

 

Create a Winning Store Experience

 

Despite defining what they can expect, many customers will still feel uneasy shopping in-store. They’re concerned about:

 

  1. Being indoors in a place with strangers
  2. Being near employees and other customers
  3. The length of time they’re in a store

 

It’s a good bet that customers will have a better experience if their shopping outing takes place quickly and can be accomplished while maintaining safe social distances.

Make sure you keep the occupancy down to a level comfortable for all involved. Consider widening shopping aisles or adding one-way arrows on floors to direct the flow of traffic so customers can social distance properly.

 

If your location is conducive, put samples of your merchandise outside your store, so customers don’t have to step inside. If you can, arm employees with tablets to check in-store inventory and allow them to process transactions remotely. Make sure employees are extra helpful and patient and thank each customer for their business.

 

Remind customers they can “click and collect,” via BOPIS (buy online/pickup in-store) or curbside pickup. You could also temporarily offer free delivery for online orders.

When business actually gets back to normal, customers will remember the extra steps you took to keep them safe and reward you with their loyalty.

 

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

 

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

 

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

You can read more articles from Rieva Lesonsky by clicking here

 

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

 

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

Expanded Talent Pool Hiring.jpgby Rieva Lesonsky

 

Economic slow days can give your business a lucky break—at least when it comes to hiring skilled talent.

 

It sounds bad but there’s a positive side to this for small business owners. You have a larger and more experienced talent pool to hire from—and that’s just in the U.S. With more businesses working virtually today, it may not matter if your worker is in New Zealand or around the corner.

 

Even if you’re still stuck in survival mode, it makes sense to think beyond the current conditions and consider how your business might seize the opportunity to grab accessible talent while it’s available.

 

What to Know About the Newly Unemployed

 

According to a LiveCareer national survey of people who became unemployed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, most are unsure how to relate their skills on a resume or even how to apply for jobs in other industries. In addition, job seekers are not comfortable speaking with potential employers about their key skill sets.

As an employer, that means you may have to read between the lines on potential candidates’ resumes or think outside the box when looking for certain skills acquired in other industries. Start with the skills you want candidates to have and then look for clues, such as:

 

  • Longevity at jobs. If the candidate job hops, are they for higher-level jobs?
  • Responsibilities. Was the candidate working with detailed information or expected to multitask?
  • Did the candidate work with complex equipment?
  • Did the candidate work directly with the public? With vendors? In sales?
  • Did the candidate work in a physical capacity or sit at a desk for long hours?

 

Every job has transferrable skills if you know how to look for them and nurture them.

 

The unemployed are also invariably feeling stressed and anxious from not having a job at a time of high unemployment. According to MedicalXpress.com, being unemployed may cause feelings of:

 

  • Loss of identity and sense of purpose
  • Unappreciated and a loss of feeling essential
  • Anger, fear and jealousy at others who can still work
  • Being lost and not knowing what will happen next.

 

Of course, not everyone feels this way, but as an employer it’s important to understand that  new employees might need more encouragement and patience than in normal times.

What can your company do to attract potential talent? A recent Robert Half survey found post-pandemic employees want more telecommuting opportunities, a COVID-19 safe work environment and fewer business travel trips.

 

Where to Find Talent

 

COVID-19 related job losses quickly filled the job boards with qualified talent looking for work, but there are other places to find employees. Here’s a quick rundown. Take a look at any job website and:

 

  • Online job boards. The highest volume of candidates is likely on Indeed.com, but you should also check GlassDoor and ZipRecruiter. Popular specialty job boards include SalesJobs.comJobsOnTheMenu.comTalentZoo.
  • Social media. Post your open positions on your social media platforms. LinkedIn is the best platform for making work connections.
  • Schools. Contact college, high school and trade/vocational schools and check with  their career centers.
  • Employees. Your employees likely know people who have lost their jobs during the pandemic. Put the word out about open positions.

 

Make it a Win-Win

 

You need talented employees and the growing talent pool wants a stable job. Work provides an atmosphere of belonging and the current unemployed talent pool wants a team to be part of. Your mission is to find and convince candidates your business is the place to put down roots, return to some version of “normal” and show off their skills.

 

 

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

 

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

emergency Fund.jpgBy now, more than a few businesses have realized that they need – or needed – an emergency fund.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

  • Payroll
  • Rent
  • Taxes
  • Insurance
  • Utilities

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

  • Get a guide. See Step 3, below.
  • Start training. This is essential in mountain climbing as it is in saving. For many people, saving does not come naturally. Neither does mountain climbing. The only way to climb that mountain is to begin small, practice, and get in shape. Start saving small, but get in the habit.
  • Choose a route. There are several routes to get to the top of a mountain. Some are easier than others. It begins by planning the trip, picking out a base camp, and plotting rest areas and important markers along the way. Again, this is the same process for creating a rainy-day emergency fund. Pick a reasonable path and start climbing.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

About Steve Strauss

 

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

 

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

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Steve Strauss to provide 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

Influencer Authenticity.jpgby Mari Smith

 

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

 

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

 

Let me break the considerations down for you.

 

Getting Started

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

More than the Numbers

 

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

 

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

 

Audience:

 

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

 

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

- Have little to no followers themselves

- Have no profile pictures

- Have spammy sounding usernames

 

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

 

Engagers and Engagement Rate:

 

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

 

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

 

Tone, Style and Communication

 

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

 

Content:

 

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

 

Sponsored Content:

 

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

 

Engagement:

 

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

 

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

 

Tools

 

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

 

Google Search:

 

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

 

Followerwonk:

 

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

 

BuzzSumo:

 

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

 

Facebook’s CrowdTangle Link Checker:

 

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

 

HypeAuditor:

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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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