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If you travel through airports at all, you really don’t need to be told how great TSA Precheck is.

 

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Either you have enviously seen the empty lanes as you interminably wait in your own long, security line, or you have Precheck and have waltzed through security yourself, wondering why everyone else hasn’t gotten with the (great) program yet.

 

If you’re someone whose small business requires travel for buying trips, trend scouting, trade shows, or just a good old-fashioned client pitch, Precheck could save you valuable time and cut down on travel headaches.

 

How great and popular is Precheck? Check out these stats from the Transportation Security Administration:

 

The average Precheck passenger spends less than five minutes in a security line

More than 7 million people are enrolled in Precheck

Precheck is offered in more than 200 airports and by 67 airlines

 

The Global Entry program is essentially the same thing, but for international travel – an expedited security process for those who pass the required security clearances.

 

How do you get into each, and what are the benefits? Let’s see.

 

TSA Precheck

 

Getting into the Precheck Program is a three-step process:

 

1. Apply online: Precheck costs $85 for a five-year membership. You begin the process by applying online.

 

2. Pass the background check: Needless to say, the point of Precheck is to give preference and advantages to low-risk flyers. As such, you will need to pass a background check that includes an in-person interviewand fingerprinting.

 

3. Get accepted and use your number: Once you pass the background check (between 30 to 60 days), you will be given a “Known Traveler Number.” Then, whenever you make a plane reservation, you enter that number and thereafter will have “TSA Precheck” on your boarding pass, both mobile and printed versions.  Long lines be gone!

 

Here are two Precheck tricks you should know about:

 

1. Some credit card and other travel-related loyalty programs will pay for your Precheck application fee. You can find a list here.

 

2. If you have Precheck and are travelling with someone who is not a part of Precheck, it would behoove you to book them on the same reservation. This usually ensures that they will be given Precheck too on their boarding pass.

 

Global Entry

 

If you do any international travel, Global Entry is definitely something that should be on your radar (excuse the pun).

 

Global Entry provides travelers with the following perks:

 

      • TSA Precheck
      • Expedited customs screening when re-entering U.S. airports
      • Expedited customs screening when traveling by train or sea
      • The ability to use Global Entry kiosks when going through customs

 

The cost for the program is $100 for five years. So, for only an extra $15, you can apply for Global Entry and get all its advantages, as well as TSA Precheck, which is a pretty sweet deal.

 

The application process for Global Entry is equivalent to Precheck: Apply online and then attend an in-person interview at a Global Entry enrollment center.

 

Global Entry and TSA Precheck are altogether a better way to travel. Apply now and before you know it, you will be saving yourself wait times and airport stress, leaving more time to prepare for your business needs.

 

Bon voyage!

 

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About Steve Strauss

 

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

 

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

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

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

Social media marketing is a broad term covering everything from targeting detailed demographics on Facebook to threading tweets on Twitter, shooting video, and rustling up audiences on YouTube.

 

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Yet despite the constant conversation about social media marketing, one platform that’s often overlooked is Pinterest.

 

The platform has more than 250 million visitors every month with 84 percent of them turning to Pinterest specifically when they’re trying to decide what to buy. It’s popular with millennials, and it’s particularly popular with females. For any business, but especially businesses that target women, it shouldn’t be overlooked.

 

One of the reasons that Pinterest has such a dedicated, engaged audience is that it’s easy to use. Another important difference between Pinterest and other platforms, particularly for use in social media marketing, is that it operates more like a search engine than a social media site. Interaction with followers is less important than a steady flow of content properly keyworded. But like Instagram, and unlike Google, Pinterest is built on images.

 

Images are “pinned” to themed boards created by the user and can be shared or “repined” and commented on. And, since the platform tends to be both highly visual and instructional, adding text to your pinned images is often more impactful than the post caption itself in terms of audience engagement.

 

According to Lauren McManus of CreateAndGo.com, a consultancy for bloggers, text should have no more than two or three fonts and colors, but should emphasize the important words.

 

“The headline has to be click-worthy,” she says.

 

Pinterest is also unusual among the social networks in delivering better results for pictures of objects than for pictures of people. Users are more likely to be looking for purchase or design ideas than for selfies of their friends.

 

Format is important too. Pins should have a 2:3 ratio and be no more than 1,500 pixels long. 

 

“Pinterest has said that they will cut off pins at 1,260 pixels,” Lauren says, “but if you keep the majority of the text in the top portion of the graphic, then there usually won't be an issue. Our longer pins from the past still perform well.”

 

Businesses should create their own boards that they fill with relevant pins. Those pins could be product images or even form a kind of mood board related to the services the business sells. Farmers Insurance, for example, has boards that cover family life but also places pins that look like print adverts and promote insurance policies.

 

The real challenge in using Pinterest, as for many social media platforms, is building the audience. One option is to join a group board, a place on which lots of contributors place pins. “Group boards with lots of followers are great for exposure,” says Lauren. “But niche group boards are also very important as relevancy is key in the Pinterest algorithm for associating content with yours.”

 

Businesses should avoid boards with a virality score below 1.0, though, which means that a pin is shared for every pin added. Tailwind, an app that brings pinners together, has also proved to be useful.

 

Group activity is one vital step towards audience building on Pinterest but so is a steady flow of new content. Lauren recommends posting at least once a week and as often as two or three times a week. “Once you build up an audience, you can slow down,” she says. “You can also freshen up older content with new graphics. That's a great strategy.”

And of course, repinning other people’s content gives your audience new content easily while spreading your views to others and increasing the chances that your own pins will be shared.

 

But it’s the keywords that are most important. Users on Pinterest search for images and ideas so keywording your pins and placing them on properly keyworded boards is vital for being seen and growing organically. It sounds technical but adding terms to images is still more fun than targeting demographics and can be no less effective for small businesses.

 

While it may be tempting to stick to platforms that are familiar there is a huge benefit to experimentation. Small businesses, particularly those selling goods online, should explore Pinterest as a great option to reach potential customers in a new and fresh way.

 

Related content:

The Social Media Time Suck: How to Pick your Platforms

 

About Joel Comm

 

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As an Internet pioneer, Joel has been creating profitable websites, software, products and helping entrepreneurs succeed since 1995. He has been at the frontlines of live video online since 2008 and has a deep expertise in using tools such as Facebook Live, Periscope, Instagram or Snapchat to broadcast a clearly defined message to a receptive audience or leveraging the power of webinar and meeting technologies.

 

Joel is a New York Times best-selling author of 15 books, including “The AdSense Code,” “Click Here to Order: Stories from the World’s Most Successful Entrepreneurs,” “KaChing: How to Run an Online Business that Pays and Pays and Twitter Power 3.0.” He is Co-Host of The Bad Crypto Podcast one of the top crypto-related shows in the world and has spoken before thousands of people around the world and seeks to inspire, equip and entertain.

 

Web: https://joelcomm.com/ or Twitter: @JoelComm

Read more from Joel Comm

 

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

Just like students get summer homework, here are  summer reading suggestions for you, the small business owner I chose books that were not only filled with great advice for entrepreneurs, but ones you can dip into for easy, but informative, summer reading.

 

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It’s the Manager

Authors: Jim Clifton and Jim Harter

 

How should we prepare for the future of work? The premise ofIt’s the Manager, which is based on Gallup’s 30-year study of the workforce (over 37 million people were surveyed), is that while we continue to worry about the decline in global productivity, we’re ignoring the best solution—managers. In fact, the authors (Clifton is the Chairman and CEO of Gallup; Harter is Gallup’s Chief Scientist, Workplace) maintain the single biggest factor in determining your company’s success is the quality of your managers.

 

Because the book is from Gallup, it uses data to explore the challenges and offer solutions.  The research shows they key to business success today is aligning a company’s purpose and culture with the needs and wants of today’s employees, who want work with a deeper purpose.

 

The book is intentionally written for busy business people. Harter says, “Instead of …setting aside big chunks of time to read the book from start to finish,” you can read the relevant discoveries when an issue arises.

 

Turning the Flywheel

Author: Jim Collins

 

Jim Collins has written six books that have sold more than 10 million copies, including the iconic Good to Great. That book focused on seven principles, including the concept that good-to-great transformations aren’t caused by a “single defining action.” Rather, success stems from “the flywheel effect,” which Collins likens to the act of pushing a “giant, heavy flywheel” forward. First it takes great effort, but as you keep pushing the flywheel builds its own momentum until it’s almost unstoppable. For example, Collins explains, offering lower prices to encourage customer visits was Amazon’s flywheel.

 

The publisher labels Turning the Flywheel as a “monograph to accompany Good to Great.” The book is only 40-some pages long—so it’s ideal for summer reading – yet Collins covers a lot, explaining the steps involved in discovering, maintaining and extending your own flywheel.

 

Wise Guy: Lessons from a Life

Author: Guy Kawasaki

 

Full disclosure: I am a long-time fan of Guy Kawasaki, having read his The Art of the Startmore than a few times. Wise Guyis Kawasaki’s most introspective book, covering topics ranging from business skills to moral values to parenting.

 

The book is not written in a traditional style, making it easy to pick up and put down. There are numerous “Wisdom” sidebars, which alone make the book a worthwhile read. One of my favorite stories involves a Dutch bike company which noticed 25 percent  of its boxes were being damaged in shipping. They solved the problem by putting pictures of widescreen TVs on the bike boxes, because apparently workers are more careful when shipping TV sets.

 

Kawasaki says his goal for writing Wise Guywas to “help you live a more joyous, productive and meaningful life.” To help us do that he uses examples from his life. To underscore the “you’re never too old to learn something new” trope, for instance, Kawasaki talks about his adventures when he took up surfing at age 62.

 

Trillion Dollar Coach: The Leadership Playbook of Silicon Valley’s Bill Campbell

Authors: Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg and Alan Eagle

 

While not a household name to most of us, Bill Campbell has coached business people we’re all familiar with, including all the authors (Schmidt is the former CEO of Google and executive chairman of Alphabet, Google’s parent company).

 

Campbell, a former college football coach who died in 2016, was known as Silicon Valley’s preeminent executive coach. The book’s title pays tribute to Campbell’s success—he helped build corporate giants like Google, Intuit and Apple, creating over a “trillion dollars in market value.” The authors talked to more than 80 of Campbell’s clients, including Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer, Susan Wojcicki, the president of YouTube and Brad Smith from Intuit about the lessons Campbell taught them.

 

Campbell believed in only coaching the coachable. What makes a person coachable? “Honesty, humility, the willingness to persevere and work hard, and a constant openness to learning.” If you’re coachable, there’s a lot to learn in this book.

 

 

About Rieva Lesonsky

 

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

 

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

 

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

You can read more articles from Rieva Lesonsky by clicking here

 

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

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2018 Bank of America Corporation

Q: I am trying to grow my business, but with limited results. Expanding is an expensive undertaking, and one that seems unaffordable. The costs for building out a new store, labor, inventory, and other overhead make the risk almost not worth it. Is there an easier or less expensive way to expand my business?

 

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A. There is. Consider: While retail sales only rose by 3.6% from 2016 to 2017, a different sales

sector grew by a whopping 16% that same year.

 

What is that part of the economy?

 

E-commerce.

 

And it’s not just last year. E-commerce sales have shown double digit growth every year for the past decade.

 

Advantages of e-commerce include, but are not limited to:

 

    • The ability to acquire new customers faster, and cheaper
    • Higher average sales than physical retail
    • More average monthly orders
    • Loyal customers

 

Those are some compelling reasons to invest in building out e-commerce as part of your existing business. And let me add one final selling point: The cost of entry is pretty darn low.

 

If you are already on the e-commerce bandwagon, way to go. But if you are like most small business people and are not really engaging in selling your products online in a big way, you are missing out on a great opportunity. This is the easiest, most efficient, and most affordable way to grow your business.

 

So, how do you do it, you ask? There are essentially two ways. First, you can create your own e-store and website, and that is what we will discuss here. The other, to be discussed on a different day, is to sell via online marketplaces like Amazon and Etsy.

 

There are basically three steps to creating your own e-commerce store:

 

1. Decide what you are going to sell.

 

If you already sell some products from your physical store, you are ahead of the game. Figure out which would be best to sell online. Are they unique? Is there a large market? Can you sell them inexpensively? What would it cost to ship? These questions, and more, must be considered when deciding what you are going to sell online.

 

After that, you will need to photograph all of your products so they can be displayed digitally. You will also need to write up attention-grabbing headlines and product descriptions.

 

If you don’t have products to sell yet, you will need to find some. The secret here is deceptively simple. Buy low, sell high.

 

I had a pal once who was a great retailer. He would always tell me, “It’s all in the buying.” Johnny knew that if he was able to buy product at the right price, selling it would be the easy part. Your job is the same: find something people will want to buy online, and then purchase it at the right wholesale price. A simple Google search will help you locate scores of online wholesalers.

 

2. Create your e-commerce store:

 

There are a lot of e-commerce hosting sites out there that offer online merchants everything needed to set up an e-store. (This can either be a standalone site or part of your regular website.)

 

The host will guide you through a point-and-click site creation process that allows you to get selling online. The software helps you upload and display your products, prices, and descriptions using pre-made templates. It will also allow people to buy from you via a shopping cart and checkout system.

 

If you search for “e-commerce hosting” you will find many options. What you want is to find a trusted turn-key e-commerce web-hosting solution. Any good hosting provider should offer inventory control options, live customer support, security, and an easy to use dashboard.

 

Suggested Reading: E-Commerce 101: What You Need to Know About Amazon Marketplace

 

3. Get a merchant solution:

 

You obviously need to be able to take online payments. You can use PayPal, Apple Pay, take credit cards, or find some other online solution.

 

Making the transition from solely brick and mortar to the e-commerce world can feel like a huge step. But with more money to be made while keeping a budget, it begs the question -- what are you waiting for?

 

 

About Steve Strauss

 

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

 

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

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

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

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Are you leveraging the right tools and marketing methods for your small business? On this episode of “The Heartbeat of Main Street,” Mari Smith shares her top tips to master Instagram marketing.

 

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“The Heartbeat of Main Street” delivers timely insights tailored to the needs of small business owners and entrepreneurs. Featuring a rotating line-up of small business experts and industry leaders – and covering a range of topics – each episode explores the trends that have an impact on revenue creation for small business owners.

 

The series is hosted by ForbesBooks, and more information can be accessed through a dedicated home page. New episodes will appear regularly on the Small Business Community podcast page. Be sure to check back often – so you don’t miss a beat.

 

Automated:                Welcome to “The Heartbeat of Main Street” with ForbesBooks at ForbesBooks.com and Bank of America at BankofAmerica.com.

Here’s your host, Gregg Stebben.

 

Gregg Stebben:         Welcome to "The Heartbeat of Main Street" brought to you by ForbesBooks and Bank of America. Mari Smith joins us to talk about marketing your business on Instagram. Mari is often called the Queen of Facebook marketing. Facebook, of course, owns Instagram. IBM recently named Mari one of seven women who are shaping digital marketing, and she is a Forbes perennial top social media power influencer.

 

                                  Mari, thanks for joining us.

 

Mari Smith:                Oh, you bet. Happy to be here.

 

Gregg Stebben:         Mari, you are the author of The New Relationship Marketing and also Facebook Marketing: An Hour a Day, and you are a columnist for Bank of America. Could you take a guess at how many small businesses should be marketing themselves on Instagram, but aren't?

 

Mari Smith:                Okay, so I happen to know that there are two million advertisers using Instagram stories ads, and if I were to guess how many are not using Instagram with their stories or not, I'm going to say probably like at least a million.

 

Gregg Stebben:         So, if we're not using Instagram for marketing right now, what's the best way for us to get started, today?

 

Mari Smith:                Sure. One of the quickest ways: of course, you've got to have an Instagram account.  Go into your settings, link your Instagram account to your Facebook account, and then you'll be able to cross-purpose and cross-post. It makes it much easier to put your content in both places, especially for stories. I'm going to recommend that'll be the number one place to start — focus more on publishing stories, and that's the little circles at the top of your Instagram account that are getting some incredible attention. There’s actually 500 million daily active users right now on Instagram stories.

 

Gregg Stebben:         So, we've talked about how many businesses aren't using Instagram, but probably should be. We've talked about companies who aren't using Instagram, but realize they should be, and how to get started today. What if I'm already using Instagram, but I know I could be, or I should be, doing a better job there. What's the most important thing for me to do today to make my business more attractive on Instagram and to reach more customers?

 

Mari Smith:                The number one thing I'm going to say here is consistency. It's to make sure that you're publishing on-brand, good messaging, vibrant visuals and short videos, and for the story format, because it's just super easy to create short — it's ephemeral, meaning it disappears, and it appears top of mind. Top of mind, top of feed. Ideally, for consistency, I would say one story a day, if you can. Ideally even three. If you can get up to three stories a day, you're off and running.

 

Gregg Stebben:         She is Mari Smith and I'm guessing that if we come find you on Instagram we're going to find a great example of how we should be using it for our businesses, too. Tell us how to find you on Instagram, Facebook, and of course your website as well.

 

Mari Smith:                You bet. So, on Instagram, I'm @Mari_Smithand I do want to mention the Bank of America Small Business Community online, I have written numerous articles on Instagram marketing and stories as well, so they can find out more over there.

 

                                  And then, Facebook, on Facebook.com/MariSmith and marismith.com.

 

Gregg Stebben:         And Mari Smith is M-A-R-I Smith, S-M-I-T-H. Mari, thanks so much for joining us, and for more great tips from Mari and other small business experts, check out Bank of America's online Small Business Community at bankofamerica.com/SBC.

 

Automated:                Thanks for listening to “The Heartbeat of Main Street” with ForbesBooks at ForbesBooks.com and Bank of America at BankofAmerica.com.

 

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Ensure your business is growing and earning customers by experimenting with new marketing methods. On this episode of “The Heartbeat of Main Street,” Steve Strauss shares his top three tips to attract new customers and get your business in front of new eyes.

 

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“The Heartbeat of Main Street” delivers timely insights tailored to the needs of small business owners and entrepreneurs. Featuring a rotating line-up of small business experts and industry leaders – and covering a range of topics – each episode explores the trends that have an impact on revenue creation for small business owners.

 

The series is hosted by ForbesBooks, and more information can be accessed through a dedicated home page. New episodes will appear regularly on the Small Business Community podcast page. Be sure to check back often – so you don’t miss a beat.

 

Narrator:                    Welcome to “The Heartbeat of Main Street” with ForbesBooks at ForbesBooks.com and Bank of America at BankofAmerica.com. And here's your host, Gregg Stebben.

 

Gregg Stebben:         Welcome to “The Heartbeat of Main Street” brought to you by ForbesBooks and Bank of America. Steve Strauss joins us with a few quick tips for attracting new customers. Steve is USA Today's small business columnist. He's the author of 17 books, including the best-selling Small Business Bible. Steve, thanks for joining us.

 

Steve Strauss:           Gregg, great to be here.

 

Gregg Stebben:         Steve, you own a small business, and in your capacity as USA Today's small business columnist, and also as a Small Business Community influencer for Bank of America, you also talk with a lot of small business owners. They must ask you all the time, "What can I do to get more new customers?" So what's the number one tip you offer when someone asks?

 

Steve Strauss:           My number one tip is also my number two tip and my number three tip. And that is this: market your business, and then market it some more, and then market it some more. Look, we go into business. We have a marketing idea. It works. It keeps us around for a little while. We get some customers. The problem that so many small business owners have is they learn one trick or two tricks and that's it. They don't expand beyond that.

 

                                  But if you're going to really grow your business, then what you really need to do is get your business in front of new people. New eyeballs. New ears. So the way you do that is by marketing your business in all sorts of different ways. Instead of doing the same thing that you've done for years and years, whether it's a stall at the Saturday market or an advertising campaign that works. What I would suggest is you come up with three or five different kinds of things that you can do. Find some guerilla marketing strategies that make sense to you and implement those. What that is going to do is get your business in front of new people.

 

                                  If you get in front of enough new people, some new people are going to become your customers. You do your job great, you offer great service, you offer great prices, great customer service, and then those new people will become regulars. That's exactly what we want.

 

Gregg Stebben:         Steve, I want to mention here. You use the term guerilla marketing, and I want to make sure everyone listening is aware that that's actually a series of books by a gentleman by the name of Jay Conrad Levinson. And it is actually - in addition to Steve's book, The Small Business Bible- Guerilla Marketing, that book series is a great place to go and get ideas for things to try you have not tried before. And to break down that barrier of thinking, "Oh, well what I've done in the past has worked. Now it's time for me to do something else."

 

                                  I want to move on to tip number two, Steve, because as you alluded to, it's easy to keep doing the same thing over and over again, although in reality those things tend to lose their potency over time. And at the same time, the world around us and technology is changing so fast. How do I keep up, so I know I'm going to where my new customers are, even if it's, for instance, some new social media website that I've never even heard of before? How do I make sure I've heard of it so I know that I should be using it?

 

Steve Strauss:           Let me preface this, Gregg, with saying I've lived this. My first business was my own law firm back when I practiced law. The way I got my customers was that I would put on seminars to the public. I would advertise them in the newspaper, to really date myself, and then people would come in to the Holiday Inn for the day and then for the next six months I would have customers. And that worked for me for years and years, until one day it stopped working. And you know why? It was because it was what you said. It just wasn't fresh anymore. People had seen it. It was stale. So I had to start trying some new things. And that's what I think any smart business has to do.

 

                                  The great news is, it doesn't cost you a lot these days to market your business. Technology is amazing, and one of the amazing things for small business insofar as technology goes, is that there are all sorts of tools out there that allow us to market our business, to get in front of these new eyeballs that I mentioned, without spending a whole lot of money. So it could be content marketing. You create some articles or videos related to your business with a link to your website. People find it, see it, share it. You're getting people that way.

 

                                  Or what if it's a pay per click? You create a little Google ad or an ad on Facebook and someone sees a nice little ad. People who don't know your business but loves your ad, they'll click on it. And what's great about that is you don't pay for that ad until they click on it. So that's really beautiful.

 

                                  Or search engine optimization. SEO it's called. You create some webpages on your website that are specifically designed to sell whatever your product is, and then you get it out there. And that's going to be almost free customers, because SEO builds and builds over time. It could be your social. It can be your e-newsletter. The point is there are lots of different ways to do this marketing that I mentioned up front. So the good news is there are just so many ways now to do this marketing that I suggested up front, and none of them really cost you a whole lot of money. They'll take a little time, but they're going to pay out big in the end.

 

RELATED CONTENT: Learn why local SEO matters more than ever.

 

Gregg Stebben:         Steve, I want to ask about one last thing. And that is, it seems to me that one thing we have not talked about here is if you want to reach new customers, one way to know who they are and where they go is to talk to your existing customers. Where do they go? What do they do? Who do they know? And how can I motivate them to actually become my sales force for me?

 

Steve Strauss:           Well, word of mouth. You are preaching to the choir, my brother. I grew up in a small business family and my dad owned at one point 20 carpet stores. Then eventually went down to one giant carpet warehouse. He really had a lot of experience. And in that carpet warehouse he had a banner that said, "Our word of mouth advertising starts with you." That was the essence of his 20 years of experience as a very successful entrepreneur. So word of mouth works, because it is people talking to people about something, an experience they had that's good, hopefully, and that's what people trust.

 

                                  But these days, word of mouth really is word of click. I've been talking about all these digital ideas. When someone retweets your tweet, well that's word of mouth. Isn't it? It's word of click. When someone likes your Facebook page, that's word of mouth. It's someone saying to the rest of the world, "Hey, this is a valuable thing that I like that you should like."

 

RELATED CONTENT:Learn from Mari Smith how to increase authentic reviews on Facebook.

 

                                  When someone takes your e-newsletter and forwards it on to someone else, that, again, is word of click and word of mouth. So today it's not just one person talking to one person. It's one person talking to a thousand. And for small business people, that's an incredible opportunity.

 

                                  One thing I would suggest is ask for it. Ask people to retweet, and ask people to give you a good review. Ask people to give you a like. People want to be nice. People will do it, and if you do your job right, they'll help you. You're going to get a lot of word of mouth and a lot more business as a result.

 

RELATED CONTENT: Rieva Lesonsky explains how to boost positive online reviews and deal with those pesky bad ones

 

Gregg Stebben:         Really well said. Okay, I want to recap what Steve said here. We're talking about ways to find new customers for your small business. Tip number one, Steve said market, market some more, market some more, market some more. Try new things. Don't just keep doing the same things you've been doing over and over again, because eventually those things are going to go stale. Meanwhile, there's all kinds of new avenues for you to try and succeed with.

 

                                   Number two is to think about digital marketing. Using things like SEO, pay per click, e-newsletters. And I think part of what you're suggesting, Steve, is experiment and just try things to find out what works.

 

Steve Strauss:           Absolutely. Yep.

 

Gregg Stebben:         And number three. Never forget about word of mouth marketing, or as Steve called it, word of click. Don't forget about the power of your existing customers. Where do they go? What do they do? These are good clues for where to get new customers. And ask them to help you market your business. If they're satisfied, they should love sharing information about your business with their friends and family.

 

                                   Steve, these are great tips. Where can our listeners go to find out more about you and to get more of your great advice for small businesses?

 

Steve Strauss:           You can go to USAtoday.com and find my column, Ask an Expert. You can go to my website which is mrallbiz.com. Or I would really suggest go to the Bank of America Small Business Community. I write there. There's a lot of other influencers who create some great content there. Articles, videos, podcasts like this. And you can find anything you need to take your business to the next level.

 

Gregg Stebben:         Steve just mentioned Bank of America's online Small Business Community. It's at bankofamerica.com/SBC. Steve, thanks for joining us.

 

Steve Strauss:           Gregg, keep up the great work. Thanks so much for having me.

 

Narrator:                    Thanks for listening to “The Heartbeat of Main Street” with ForbesBooks at ForbesBooks.com and Bank of America at BankofAmerica.com.

Happily, summer has arrived. While many businesses tend to slow down in the warmer season, summer can be a boon to your business. How? Because the slower season is the perfect time to give your business a mid-year check-up.

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You can wisely use this typically slow time to reflect on 2019 to see what is working, what is not, and then institute some changes to put you ahead when business picks back up.

 

Mid-year reviews help your business stay on track and keep your goals in sight. Whether it be a simple status update or an overhaul of some of your practices, this mid-year review can help you formulate a better plan.

 

There are three steps to the process, and it is deceptively simple. Essentially the mid-year process involves sitting with your team and answering three big questions about your small business:

 

  • What has worked?
  • What has not?
  • Where can we do better?

 

Let’s drill down into each.

 

1. What have we done right and what successes can we acknowledge?

 

Begin with the positive. What were your best successes so far this year and how did you achieve them? Outlining practices that worked, goals that were met, customers satisfied, and money that was made and saved is critical to understanding next steps you might want to take for your business.

 

This part of the review is an opportunity to find the pattern in why things worked well. Which area of your business produced the most profit? What services have been popular? What performed well on social media?

 

In this regard, you might want to employ the 80-20 rule. Which 20 percent of your efforts created 80 percent of your successes? You might want to emphasize those going forward.

 

2. Which failures are obvious and why didn’t you reach some of your goals?

 

This part of the review can be the most painful but is also the mostnecessary. Looking at failures gives you an opportunity to get your business back on track. A mid-year review is an ideal time to take a look at mistakes made in the last six months. What didn’t work well - and why?

 

Dig in. Look at it all: products that fizzled, where your team may have dropped the ball, opportunities missed, dissatisfied customers, marketing mistakes, money lost and squandered.

 

Understanding the why is critical here. Again, we can look to the numbers to help see where our business didn’t excel. Where have you been losing money? What posts didn’t get good engagement? Is your marketing bringing in clients? Having these numbers provides crucial insight into what needs to be changed moving forward.

 

Suggested reading: Use a Small Business Dashboard to Understand your Data

 

List the mistakes, list the root causes, and begin to think about needed pivots to correct the situation.

 

3. What do you want the future to look like for your company? How can you implement some changes?

This is the payoff: A mid-year course correction.

 

Knowing the successes and failures of your business and the numbers that drive those ups and downs should lead you to some conclusions. This final step helps you consciously manifest the future of your company. This is where you outline your vision, and importantly, the steps it will take to get there.

 

Ask yourself: How can we not make the same mistakes again? And how can we double-down on our successes? What has stopped or hindered our progress? And given all of this, should you have some new, updated, concrete goals based on the above? You want to be both big picture and minutiae oriented here. What is the vision, and what are the exact steps needed to implement that vision?

 

Finally, write down and keep your new goals in view at all times - this way, they’ll always be in sight, even when the day to day gets in the way.

 

Related content:

 

 

About Steve Strauss

 

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

 

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

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

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

We know Generation Z will transform workplace culture—but not all of this cohort will enter the workplace. This demographic, whose oldest members are between the ages of 18 and 23, is already displaying a passion for entrepreneurship. What’s driving Gen Z to be their own bosses, and how might they transform the business world?

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Fiscally Responsible

 

Gen Z grew up in the shadow of the Great Recession, seeing their parents struggle financially and their older millennial siblings battle for scarce jobs. They don’t want to live out the same nightmare, so they are wary of taking on debt (21 percent percent already have savings accounts). Although the Center for Generational Kinetics predicts a higher percentage of Gen Z will attend and graduate from college than any prior generation, they are already planning how to avoid college loans.

 

More than half (60 percent) of Gen Z believe money is evidence of success, compared to 44 percent of millennials at the same age, according to a survey by We R Gen Z. Already, the survey reports, 70 percent of Gen Z’ers earn their own spending money—about the same percentage as millennials, except that Gen Z is 10 years younger.

 

Freedom and Self-Reliance

 

To avoid being at the mercy of employers, Gen Z is choosing non-traditional ways to earn a living. Nearly half (46 percent) of Gen Z workers are freelancers, Upwork reports, and 73 percent are freelance by choice, not from necessity.

 

While some Gen Z workers choose the self-reliance of freelancing, others go one step further by pursuing entrepreneurship. Almost two-thirds (65 percent) of Generation Z want to be financially independent by age 30, Barna Group reports; five years after finishing college, 20 percent want to be entrepreneurs, Robert Halffound.

 

Gen Z is realistic about their prospects—77 percent expect to work harder than previous generations to achieve success. They’re also confident: 80 percent of high school students believe they’re more driven than their peers.

 

The Digital Generation

 

How will Generation Z businesses differ from prior generations? This is the first demographic to grow up in a fully digital world. Weaned on YouTube videos, Gen Z’ers know they can learn anything online—from how to make natural cosmetics to how to use 3D printers or find suppliers. They live their lives online and are natural social media marketers.

 

For some, showing bigger businesses (and older people) how to reach Gen Z is a business in itself. Back in high school, Tiffany Zhong knew she wanted to be her own boss, so she started asking venture capitalists for advice. When VCs started asking herfor Gen Z insights, Zhong realized she had a business on her hands. Today, her marketing firm Zebra Intelligence helps brands connect with Gen Z. Connor Blakley and Jonah Stillman are others who have capitalized on their Gen Z status to consult with businesses on managing and marketing to this generation.

 

Other Gen Z entrepreneurs sell products, not knowledge:

 

  • Taylor Frankel co-founded cosmetics brand Nudestix at 17; today, the company’s products are sold in Ulta and Sephora.
  • Allan Maman and Cooper Weiss, founders of Fidget360, gained viral fame (and made hundreds of thousands of dollars) by capitalizing on the fidget spinner craze in high school. (Weiss has since been involved in other startups while Maman is working on a new venture.)
  • Teni “Tia” Adeola launched Slashed by Tia from her dorm room in 2017, creating clothing based on her passion for Renaissance painting; today her designs are worn by celebrities such as SZA and Gigi Hadid.

 

For all three companies, social media marketing and an instinctual connection with their peers online were key to success.

 

How will Generation Z transform the world of business? It remains to be seen—but I, for one, am looking forward to finding out.

 

About Rieva Lesonsky

 

Rieva Lesonsky Headshot.png

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

 

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

 

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

You can read more articles from Rieva Lesonsky by clicking here

 

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

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2018 Bank of America Corporation

It’s never been easier for a small business to connect with customers and leads. Open a Facebook page, target some advertising, and within a few days a business could have thousands of followers all within its market area and matching its customer demographics.

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That’s valuable and it can bring sales. But it’s no replacement for the word-of-mouth recommendations that come from networking.

 

These are two very different strategies. Online networking gives you the lightest of contacts with a large number of people. Offline networking gives you deep, powerful relationships with a relatively small number of people.

 

While networking on social media can provide sales, networking in the real world can give you loyal customers who return to you again and again. Those customers also act as advertisers, sending the people they know to your business.

 

But networking doesn’t just increase sales. Networking ensures that businesses that need help with the Christmas rush or over the summer break have people to ask when they need temporary staff. Instead of advertising and interviewing, they’ll be able to call a contact and ask whether their friend’s student offspring is coming back from college and needs some work.

 

When they need an insurance policy, a good connection can tell them where to turn. If a business owner is looking for a new location, networking can put them in touch with people who know of outlets for rent and who understand the market area.

 

And if the city decides to make changes that could affect their business, networked owners will hear about those changes, and have the channels to influence them before they’re fully implemented.

 

Social media marketing is about sales and branding. Networking is unique. It’s about information, which is no less valuable.

 

Building those networks doesn’t happen quickly or easily. But it does happen enjoyably because meeting people is interesting and fun. Local chambers of commerce might be ideal networking centers, venues in which people with shared interests swap information and advice. But they’re also social hubs where people with similar outlooks meet and talk.

 

They’re good places to start networking, but the value of a network depends on its nodes. Some people are just more connected than others. We all have friends who have huge contact lists and who seem to know everyone. It pays to build a relationship with those people.

 

They may be consultants whose work requires them to network at conferences around the world. They could be local activists whose volunteer work puts them in touch with the municipality and with other local service providers. Or they could be teachers who meet dozens of parents each year and manage to stay in touch with many of them.

 

Every community has individuals with extraordinary numbers of friends. Good networking should include identifying those people and building a relationship with them.

You can often find them by volunteering in your local area, by taking part in PTA events or by joining local clubs and schemes. Don’t do anything you wouldn’t enjoy—if you don’t like golf, don’t join a golf club—but look for activities that you find meaningful or important.

 

Most of a small business owner’s work involves creating products and making sales. That effort is made in the workplace and during work hours. Networking happens outside the store or office, and it happens after working hours.

 

But it doesn’t just make sales. It also makes friends.

 

 

About Joel Comm

 

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As an Internet pioneer, Joel has been creating profitable websites, software, products and helping entrepreneurs succeed since 1995. He has been at the frontlines of live video online since 2008 and has a deep expertise in using tools such as Facebook Live, Periscope, Instagram or Snapchat to broadcast a clearly defined message to a receptive audience or leveraging the power of webinar and meeting technologies.

 

Joel is a New York Times best-selling author of 15 books, including “The AdSense Code,” “Click Here to Order: Stories from the World’s Most Successful Entrepreneurs,” “KaChing: How to Run an Online Business that Pays and Pays and Twitter Power 3.0.” He is Co-Host of The Bad Crypto Podcast one of the top crypto-related shows in the world and has spoken before thousands of people around the world and seeks to inspire, equip and entertain.

 

Web: https://joelcomm.com/ or Twitter: @JoelComm

Read more from Joel Comm

 

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

Entering into the Real Estate business attracts many people who are looking to establish a business or career on their own terms. That being said, one of the keys to the industry is establishing some sort of consistency in sales and income year over year. There isn’t a magic wand to becoming established in any industry and as always requires hard work, persistence, the right strategy, and don’t forget about timing. Now think about the image of what one would think the average Realtor® is in regards to demographics. It will become clear that a lot of Realtors® became one as a second career act.

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The median age of all Realtors® is 54 and the median experience of all Realtors® is 10 years[1].

 

Surprising right? Those numbers are saying that the average Realtor® started their real estate career at the age of 44. In addition to this, there are more than two million active real estate licenses in the U.S., and according to the U.S. Department of Labor, real estate broker growth is expected to grow 6% year over year from 2016 to 2026[2].

 

Based on the median age of Realtors® it is more than likely that most have already had some sort of experience with saving for retirement in a 401(k), IRA, or Roth IRA.  Although, some agents may not have experience in running a business and it would be prudent to look at a company’s real estate operations as a business and run it like one. Those working in the industry that have not owned their own business prior may also not be aware of what can be done to boost retirement savings as most real estate agents are self-employed independent contractors.

 

Many real estate agents may feel that they don’t need to save for retirement because they will either utilize income-producing properties or will be able to retire by selling off their book of business. While that may be the case in some situations, it is typically only part of someone’s bigger retirement savings picture.

 

Real estate agents have financial opportunities and obstacles due to the nature of how they are paid. Uneven cash flow due to fluctuating commissions can present a challenge. Although, that challenge can be met by selecting the right Small Business Retirement plan that would allow flexible contributions.

 

Small Business Retirement Plan offerings

  1. Small Business 401(k)
  2. SEP IRA
  3. SIMPLE IRA

 

Contact Merrill EDGE for assistance in choosing the correct Small Business Retirement Plan for your business.merrill.png

 


[1] https://www.nar.realtor/research-and-statistics/quick-real-estate-statistics

 

[2] https://www.bls.gov/ooh/sales/real-estate-brokers-and-sales-agents.htm

 

Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith Incorporated (also referred to as “MLPF&S” or “Merrill”) makes available certain investment products sponsored, managed, distributed or provided by companies that are affiliates of Bank of America Corporation (“BofA Corp.”). MLPF&S is a registered broker-dealer, Member SIPC and a wholly owned subsidiary of BofA Corp. Banking products are provided by Bank of America, N.A., Member FDIC and a wholly owned subsidiary of BofA Corp.

 

Investment products:

Are Not FDIC Insured

Are Not Bank Guaranteed

May Lose Value

 

 

© 2019 Bank of America Corporation. All rights reserved.

 

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With new reports coming in regularly about the negative impact humans are having on the environment, there is growing urgency to addresses our impact on the environment, or to join coalitions like the United States Climate Alliance.

 

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As a small business, you can contribute to creating change in a big way.

 

Why? Because, as opposed to governments and large corporations, we have adaptability on our side. Small businesses have the unique ability to pivot and adapt quickly. This, paired with a growing sense of urgency to go green, means your small business can implement little changes that can make a big impact, for the environment andyour wallet.

 

Undertaking a CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) initiative like this makes sense for all sorts of reasons. Of course, it is the right thing to do for the environment. And yes, it can save you money. But additionally, it will also make a difference to the people you most depend on – your staff and your customers; they will appreciate your efforts.

 

Here then are 5 easy ways to make your small business greener:

 

1. Reduce, Reuse and Recycle: There are several simple ways to reduce, reuse and recycle in the office:

 

      • Reduce water usage with low-flow toilets and faucets
      • Bring reusable cutlery, cups, and plates into the office
      • Opt to buy recycled products like paper and printer cartridges
      • Don’t use single-use plastic bags

 

Not only will doing these sorts of things help the environment and minimize your carbon footprint, but it can also save you money.

 

2. Upgrade the Office: There are several other ways you can reduce your office’s environmental impact:

 

      • Buy Energy Star products. Energy Star certification means that the appliance or product you are buying and using is green, and highly energy efficient. And again, this can save you money.
      • Use compact fluorescent lightbulbs. By simply replacing your standard bulbs with CF bulbs, you can reduce your power usage significantly. Added bonus: The new bulbs also provide better color and flicker less.
      • Install timers on lights. Lights are often left on in offices or other rooms when they are not in use. By installing occupancy sensors, you will be assured that your office energy use will be efficient and not wasteful.

 

3. Go Paperless: To the extent that going paperless is an option, you should definitely consider the benefits. There is an abundance of apps that help us do just about every task virtually. From cloud services to file management systems - even digital scanners! - our paper trail can be significantly reduced with one of the many available apps. Many companies also offer paperless billing, which could be a helpful option for your office.

 

4. Encourage Alternative Transportation: Vehicles are now the largest source of greenhouse gas pollution in the U.S., so one easy way to help would be to incentivize your employees to carpool, use public transportation, or bike to work.

 

Carpooled cars, for example, can have access to better parking spots than non-carpooled cars. Or for every day of riding public transport or biking, employees can get entered into a company-wide raffle to win a prize. This not only saves your employees money through lower transportation costs, but also ensures one less car on the road.

 

5. Explore Green Energy Options: It is estimated that at least half of all small businesses are located in areas that offer the option to buy energy from renewable sources like solar and wind. Many local utilities offer customers renewable power from green sources. Often, there are local incentives for using such sustainable energy supplies, as well as federal tax incentives for alternative energy use. Similarly, there are all sorts of tax breaks for investing in green tools like solar panels.

 

With these simple, affordable options, there is no reason to not make your business greener. Employees, customers, and most of all, the planet, will appreciate your efforts.

 

 

About Steve Strauss

 

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

 

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

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

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

Success is a habit—and like all good habits, you have to work hard to achieve and maintain it. We talked to 11 small business owners about the daily habits they believe contribute most to their success. From exercise to quiet time to diligently tracking sales in QuickBooks, here’s what some successful entrepreneurs do every day.

 

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Todd Brabender, President, Spread The News PR, which specializes in generating media exposure for innovative products, services and experts.

 

  1. Research: I spend the initial part of my day researching the media markets applicable to my client base. I scour multiple media outlets and formats to see what topics are being covered. What angles are popping, what trends are developing? Based on that research, I forge messages incorporating my clients with those solid news pegs and pitch to my media contacts all over North America to consider.
  2. Respond: I pride myself on being as immediate as possible in my email and phone correspondence replies with clients, associates and media contacts. When it comes to communications, my mantra has always been: Review. React. Respond = Results!
  3. Relax: By relax, I mean breathe. Several times a day I stop working, look away from the computer screen for a few minutes and take a string of cleansing circular breaths. It refocuses the mind, eases stress and helps stoke new creativity for ideas.

 

Charles Bragdon, President, Water Saver Solutions, which helps commercial and institutional clients optimize their water flow into cash flow.

 

  1. I spend time at the beginning of each day in prayer and reading a daily devotional. This helps me start with the right frame of mind and reflect on my many blessings. I also use this time to think about my challenges ahead for the day.
  2. Aside from our formal weekly production meeting, I also meet with my department managers daily to discuss project status, challenges or anything else on their plates. This gives me valuable time for mentoring and coaching and helps me forecast any obstacles.
  3. In my office, I update a whiteboard daily of long- and short-term projects. Having a visual status board in my office keeps me focused.

 

Laurel Delaney, founder of GlobeTrade, president of Women Entrepreneurs Grow Global™ and best-selling author of Exporting: The Definitive Guide to Selling Abroad Profitably.

 

  1. I write a blog post every evening that is published the following morning (except Sundays) at the Global Small Business Blog. This has helped grow the blog’s readership and bring in new consulting opportunities. If you build an audience, you can build a business. After I write the post, I read The Wall Street Journalto relax and keep up with world affairs.  
  2. Even though I meet with exceptional business owners all the time through my consulting work, I still turn to business books for answers to burning questions, challenges I face or ideas I wrestle with. I scan a book a day, many of which can be esoteric or quite old—from Winners Never Cheat by Jon Huntsman to Heroic Leadership by Chris Lowney to On Second Thought by Wray Herbert.
  3. I try to either run or walk outside every day to get fresh air, clear my head, change the scenery and take photographs of simple things with my iPhone. This alters my state of mind and eases business pressures. When I return to my office, I have newfound energy, a better perspective on what needs to be tackled next, and a far greater motivation to get things done.

 

Jill Dominguez, President, ESSERGY,a consulting firm that helps businesses, nonprofits and governments harness energy for social change.

 

  1. First thing every morning I check my email, review my schedule and task list before the open of the business day (which means 5 a.m. PT, since my clients are all over the U.S.). This practice keeps me organized on what can be a complex schedule of activity with several projects happening at once [and dealing with] many team members.
  2. Every evening I update and review my company task list with “To Do’s,” each color coded according to urgency with a drop-dead date.  Every team member who is involved with a task is asked for an update or status regarding the task with the corresponding date.
  3. I write everything down in my notebook. It is with me at all times. I prefer taking handwritten notes, as it does not require me to look away for long periods. I am a firm believer in eye contact, and when [you take notes on] a tablet or phone, it seems as if you are not paying attention to the meeting. The notes are the basis of our digital archiving system for the company. All notebooks are archived chronologically; I have notebooks going back 27 years. I doubt that is necessary, but I have been asked to go back and check on an issue or conversation for a client many years later, and recalling details is much easier when looking at my own notes.

 

Monika Jansen, Head “Kick-Ass Copywriter” and Strategist, Jansen Communications, a boutique marketing agency.

 

  1. Every morning, I go for a two-mile walk, which I consider a walking meditation. I don’t listen to music or podcasts; I just let my mind wander.
  2. I do a quick check-in with myself: Is everything I’m doing that day contributing to my greatest and highest good? If not, I will cancel or reschedule projects and calls.
  3. Finally, I don't schedule calls or meetings before 10 am. This allows me to settle into “work” mode, which is especially helpful on Mondays!

 

Erika Kotite, co-founder of She Shed Living, which helps women create a space of their own by offering custom shed design, build and installation services as well as a proprietary line of exterior chalk-based paints.

 

  1. Daily contact with my partner, Sabrina Contreras. Sabrina and I bring different things to the table—she has a business background and I have a creative/marketing background. We keep each other grounded and motivated to do all the things we need to accomplish that day. I firmly believe in utilizing that “second eye” when making important business decisions. Just like a writer needs a good editor to be successful, we need each other's perspective and critique to improve.
  2. Staying up-to-date on QuickBooksand banking. Since my background leans to the liberal arts, I’ve had to invest considerable time and training into learning how to keep our books. By disciplining myself to check our bank balance daily and input items regularly into QuickBooks, I’ve been able to avoid costly tax accountant charges. In addition, I have a much better idea of how we are doing financially and what we need to adjust in the future. For example, I know exactly how many shed sales per month we need to reach our business goals for 2019.
  3. Add content and stay engaged on Instagram. We have numerous social media outlets including a growing Facebook Group, but Instagram is where people discover us, present us with opportunities and refer clients to us. I carefully monitor not only our growth in followers but also engagement levels for each post. It’s equally important to support others on Instagram by liking, commenting and reposting, which I do every day.

 

Mika Leah, CEO, Goomi, which brings onsite fitness and wellness sessions to offices and other workplaces.

 

  1. Determine the three things I need to get done that day. Then I focus on only those three things.
  2. Plan ahead for the following day, review my calendar, write my three things to-do list, and even lay out my clothes.
  3. Have weekly mandatory status meetings with my team every Monday to connect on a personal note, review successes and failures from the prior week, and discuss the week ahead.

 

Barry Moltz, Author, speaker, host of the Small Business Radio Show, whose Shafran Moltz Group helps small businesses get unstuck.

 

  1. Determine my two priorities to accomplish that day (and do them) before checking email, social media or anything else.
  2. Check filtered emails and social media lists for current customers’ and key prospects’ messages or posts.
  3. Exercise—cycling and karate.

 

Charley Moore, Founder and CEO, Rocket Lawyer, which provideshigh-value legal services at an affordable price.

 

  1. I’ve been doing my best work in the early morning since I was a kid. We had a family business and I learned to open up shop at daybreak. Today, my most productive hour is usually between 6 to 7 a.m., when I can read the news, review KPIs and get a jump on email without meetings and distractions.
  2. I exercise six days per week. Even when I’m traveling, which is often, I stick to this exercise routine, which includes meditation and stretching. Leading any organization creates stress. Being able to be physically active is a blessing that I cherish as essential to a balanced life.

 

Adam Rizza, President, Sunscape Eyewear, wholesaler and e-tailer of sunglasses.

 

  1. Our main challenge is cash flow, so we watch our accounts receivable daily and budget properly. This is an exercise all entrepreneurs should apply, no matter their size. You have to have a good understanding of your cash flow.
  2. Daily meetings with my operations team. You have to make sure you are shipping daily—and accurately. This all ties into cash flow: When you ship on time, you get paid on time.
  3. Every day we work on new product development, retaining current clients and prospecting for new ones.

 

Aliza Sherman, CEO, Ellementa, a global women’s health company focused on cannabis, and author of Cannabis and CBD for Health and Wellness.

  1. Wake up early.My best work gets done in the wee hours of the morning; I get a good two hours of work in before things get busy. Once the workday actually begins, calls and meetings make up my day and by the afternoon, my brain is spent. Those early mornings are a time for me to really focus and produce. During the week, I’m often in bed before the kids!
  2. Eat a good breakfast.I can’t function without [eating] something substantial in the morning. My go-to breakfast is gluten-free toast with avocado and egg.
  3. Move around.My work tends to be sedentary—me, at a desk, on a computer. After writing the book The Happy, Healthy Nonprofit, I learned a lot about the tremendous value of moving your body throughout the day to clear your mind, boost your energy and prevent disease. My co-author, Beth Kanter, inspired me to walk more and to track my steps using a health app, something that suits my need to see progress. I alternate standing and sitting when at my computer and get some steps in walking when I’m talking on the phone. The better I take care of myself, the more successes I see day-to-day in my work.

 

Reading about other business owners’ daily success rituals is inspiring—but as Delaney says, “We cannot replicate business success by copying another business owner’s daily rituals—we need to cultivate our own.” What are your daily business success rituals?

 

 

About Rieva Lesonsky

 

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

 

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

 

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

You can read more articles from Rieva Lesonsky by clicking here

 

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

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2018 Bank of America Corporation

While the rain poured outside, the mood inside was sunny as National Small Business Week kicked off in Washington D.C.  on May 5. Small Business Week is the Small Business Administration’s annual tribute to “entrepreneurship and innovation.”

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During a panel discussion on the “Next Wave in Digital Commerce,” featuring Nate Smith (VISA), Courtney Robinson (Square) and Rishav Chopra (Intuit), the group identified how digital technology is changing the buying habits of businesses and consumers—and that small businesses need to act now so they don’t get lost in the digital wave.

 

Consumers today expect their online experiences to be simple and intuitive. Chopra said it’s important to be where consumers are—you can’t have a presence in just one channel—you need to be discoverable by phone, on the web, and in person. And, he added, “You need to eliminate any friction in the process.”

 

This underscores one of the main drivers of buying behavior—customer experience. If you want to attract buyers (whether B2B or B2C), you need to provide an excellent customer experience. To accomplish this Robinson advised the audience to “use data to drill down on who your best customers are, what they want and the best way to target them.”

 

Robinson said a common mistake small business owners make is “thinking your customer is everybody.” It’s not, she added, “You have to drill down to find your ideal customer.”

 

Chopra said the No. 1 pain point small businesses experience today is how to get customers in the door. “It is 6-7 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one,” he said. And once you “get them” Smith added, “it’s about creating loyalty.” You have to be proactive—reach out to your customers and get to know them better.

 

The digital transformation of small business impacts so many parts of your company: marketing, sales, customer loyalty, even raising or borrowing money. Plus, implementing digital solutions in your business gives you more time to better serve your customers.

 

Social Media Part of Marketing Mix

 

Day two started with a panel discussion, “Social Media Tips for Your Small Business”, moderated by Betsy Dougert (SCORE) and featured Dave Charest (Constant Contact), Brandon Olson (AWeber), Julia Cabral (LinkedIn) and me. Our panel emphasized the importance of integrating social media into your overall marketing mix and budgeting for it appropriately. The consensus of thepanel was:

 

    • Pick one or two platforms to get started. Start where your customers and competitors are.
    • Take social media seriously—this is your reputation on the line. Don’t relegate the job to interns.
    • There is no secret sauce to social media. What works for one company will not necessarily work for another. Plan your social campaigns and establish a consistent tone and presence.
    • While social media marketing canbe free, the panel recommended incorporating paid ads in your marketing plans.

 

How much should you spend on social media marketing? Here’s a formula I shared from  WebStrategies to help you budget: 

 

First, determine how much you’re planning to spend on all your digital marketing efforts. Then, decide what percentage of that budget should go to social media. Most companies spend about 5 percent-15 percent of their annual revenues on marketing in general and 35 percent-45 percent of that on digital marketing. Social media marketing should get about 15 percent-25 percent of the digital spend. Once you’ve done these calculations you can allocate the appropriate amount to your social media marketing efforts.

 

Each Small Business week I learn something useful and new! Did you attend any events this year? If so, what did you learn about?

 

 

About Rieva Lesonsky

 

Rieva Lesonsky Headshot.png

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

 

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

 

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

You can read more articles from Rieva Lesonsky by clicking here

 

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

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2018 Bank of America Corporation

When a company makes a mistake, what do you as a customer want? It’s easy. You want acknowledgement that something happened. You’d love an apology. And you want the company to act to resolve the problem.

 

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These are the “Three A’s” that I learned from teaching customer service years ago. More so, in all aspects of the business, we want something other than the plastic perfection portrayed by PR and advertisers.

 

We Want the Real Thing

 

In a recent New York Times article about the Gen Z pop artist Billie Eilish, it was reported that the singer forgot the lyrics to one of her own songs at Coachella, the massive concert event. Instead of skewering her, the live audience and millions of YouTube viewers erupted with loud support for what they took as Eilish being human. And as bizarre and otherworldly as her music and videos might be, right there beneath the angsty exterior is a strong sense of “I can relate to this person.”

 

Companies should highlight and promote their quirks, their unique employees, the stuff that makes them specifically who they are. Good or bad. A crabby company president might be perceived as humorous as long as their interactions are straightforward and spelled out ahead of time. Can you imagine? “Our president can be grumpy, but she’s also great at solving your challenges.” I’d trust that far more than a fake smile or clip-art people all over your website.

 

While I’m on the subject of websites for a moment, don’t use clip art. Multicultural people shaking hands over an office table is generic. So are happy old people at your counter. Look into using real pictures of real people and make the site even more believable.

 

We CAN Handle the Truth

 

Sorry, Jack Nicholson. We’re ready. When dealing with customers, it’s imperative that companies communicate and interact with a genuine, sometimes-flawed, human point of view and perspective. We want people with real names at the company to represent the brand. We want to reach out and connect with these people before, during, and after the purchase process.

 

Oh, and if your small business is just you? Then say “I” and not “we.” That “we” for just one person was a tactic back in the 1980s. It just took a while for people to catch up.

 

When your company makes a mistake, make a clear and straightforward apology and don’t try the old cover-up routine. There are too many examples of companies being found out, and then trust is shattered.

 

“People Won’t Want That”

 

I’ve been studying how culture and companies keep trying to map their reality to something from decades ago. It’s interesting to watch entertainment for one marker.

 

  • “People won’t go to a primarily African American superhero movie.” - Black Panther nets $1.34 billion.

 

  • “People don’t like female superheroes.” - Captain Marvel just passed $400 million.

 

This happens all the time on Main Street, too. We think that “people” won’t want a barber shop that also pours whiskey, but then someone opens a unique store concept and it thrives for that reason. It’s not the same as everything else.

 

Times are changing faster than ever before, and a lot of what used to be a “known good” is in flux. But one trend that companies must adapt to or risk running afoul of the world around us is that you must strive to create the most “real” version of what you offer and how you represent yourself and the company.

 

Be personable. Be quick to apologize when you’re wrong. And deliver an accurate depiction of who your company is and what it represents. Your buyers will appreciate it and that will reflect in your efforts to retain customers and earn referrals.

 

 

About Chris Brogan

 

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

 

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

Read more from Chris Brogan

 

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

 

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

In a previous story, we discussed how to find your target audience on social media. Now, you need to entice your audience to visit your store and become paying customers.

 

Here are five key strategies for getting online shoppers to your brick-and-mortar store:

 

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1. Offer exclusive store discounts

 

Create discounts that can only be redeemed in store. This shows that you value your online community and wish to reward them for their loyalty. At the same time, it encourages your community to visit your store offline. To add a sense of urgency, consider adding a time limit or create a mini-event offline to add to the experience.

 

2. Utilize Instagram shopping pins

 

If you qualify, use Instagram shopping pins. This will allow you to sell your offline items online. To learn more about this, you can read my post on How To Sell Your Products On Instagram.

 

3. Answer Q&As in your Facebook and Instagram Stories

 

When you answer every objection your customer has, you help them to reach a positive buying decision. By encouraging your online community to ask you questions and being transparent in your response, you help build trust, provide value and show people why you are a company in which they would want to invest their money.

 

4. Include clear calls to actions

 

When people are scrolling on social media, they aren’t in a ‘buyer’s mode’. Your audience isn’t going to take the desired action unless you ask them to. Be clear in inviting your online audience to come and check out your store with clear calls to actions on a consistent basis. Back this up with reasons to visit each time for the greatest impact.

 

For example, ‘Come and check out our Fall collection,’ or ‘Enjoy a warm cup of hot chocolate this rainy Sunday.’ It goes without saying that by setting aside a small budget for Facebook and Instagram ads, will enhance the results you can achieve with your direct promotions.

 

5. Promote offline

 

Just as you are trying to attract your online shoppers to your offline store, you are also trying to encourage your offline shoppers to interact with you online. If you can build an online audience out of your current customers, you can attract new people through social proof and the engagement they provide.

 

Your social media accounts should become an extension of your customer service. They should be part of your customer’s experience. If you can build a like-minded community of people and a culture around your brand, your customers become even more invested. Not only will they visit your store; they’ll bring their friends with them!

 

 

About Mari Smith

 

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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.

 

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 informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Mari Smith is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles 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.

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