Personal Money


North Korea is known as one of the most closed down socialist economies in the world. But even still, there is a small class of budding entrepreneurs. We learn how that works.

(Reuters) - JPMorgan Chase & Co said on Tuesday it would acquire online payment provider WePay as the bank looks to integrate payments into software used by small businesses.

Tax Reforms 20171016

Ottawa announced its plans today to cut the small business tax rate from 10.5 per cent to nine per cent by 2019, as it attempts to quell a backlash to proposed tax reforms that have stung the Trudeau government.

[Author: CBC News]

Tax Reforms 20171016

The Trudeau government plans to cut the small business tax rate from 10.5 per cent to nine per cent by 2019, and presented details at a national caucus meeting on Monday morning.

[Author: CBC News]

Fedbudget 20160322

The Trudeau government will announce plans to cut the small business tax rate from 10.5 per cent to nine per cent, and will present details of the new plan at a national caucus meeting on Monday morning, CBC News has learned.

[Author: CBC News]

Puerto Rico's economy was depressed even before Hurricane Maria. Now the island faces an especially dire future, and many small businesses don't see immediate prospects for recovery.

Morneau Vancouver 20170905

Finance Minister Bill Morneau will unveil changes Monday aimed at mollifying the many critics of his controversial small business tax reform proposals, hoping to tamp down a political wildfire that has scorched Justin Trudeau's Liberal government.

[Author: Joan Bryden]

President Trump is expected to issue an order on Thursday to allow the sale of health insurance plans that are exempt from some Affordable Care Act rules.


The Liberal government has infuriated small business owners from coast to coast to coast with its recent proposed changes to the tax system, but after weeks of blowback, Finance Minister Bill Morneau isn't shying away.

[Author: Peter Armstrong]

Chinese banks have balance sheets bloated with loans to big state-owned enterprises. The central bank is nudging them to lend more to smaller rivals.

Federal Cabinet Retreat 20170912

When Finance Minister Bill Morneau announced proposed tax changes in July, he said he expected some push-back, but it's clear the Liberals did not expect the shove to be quite this forceful. Here are four possible tweaks experts say finance officials could consider, to help farmers and other small business owners.

[Author: Karina Roman]

Just how much progress has the Trump administration has made in renegotiating the North American trade pact? Here’s where it stands on five major goals.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - High-income Wall Street financiers could be unintended winners from a section of U.S. President Donald Trump's tax-cut plan that is meant to help mostly small, "mom-and-pop" businesses.

President Trump claimed his tax plan will help small business owners and farmers, but not himself or the wealthy. That’s not quite right.

Federation of Small Business says a record proportion of owners are looking to downsize, sell or close their firm.

Morneau Vancouver 20170905

The Liberal government intends to offer some kind of measure to soften the blow of proposed tax reforms, CBC News has learned.

[Author: Karina Roman]

A new survey of employers shows moderate price hikes in health benefits in spite of turmoil in the individual insurance market

(Reuters) - JPMorgan Chase & Co will invest $40 million over three years in Chicago to revitalize neighborhoods, finance small business growth and promote job skills training, the bank said on Thursday.

Hootsuite founder and CEO Ryan Holmes

The head of one of Canada's best-known tech darlings says Ottawa's proposed changes to small business taxes could hamper innovation and prevent Canada from becoming a hotbed for technology giants.

[Author: The Canadian Press]

Trudeau Caucus 20170906

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau signals he is open to compromise on his government's plan to tighten the small business tax regime but pledges to largely stay the course as he looks to collect more revenue from some of the wealthiest Canadians.

[Author: John Paul Tasker]

A national correspondent reporting on Trump Country gravitates toward a factory owner with an unexpected sticky note on her computer monitor.

Trudeau Saskatoon 20170901

Ottawa's fall parliamentary session is a couple of weeks away and Canadians are already getting a preview of what could be the season's main event: a scrap over the Liberals' proposed tax changes.

[Author: Andy Blatchford]

A Michigan auto parts company has transformed itself and made money. But its chief finds herself caught between demands to lower costs and lift wages.

AFN Meeting 20170727

Some Liberal MPs are growing skittish as small business owners mobilize to oppose their government's plans to change the tax regime. They are telling Finance Minister Bill Morneau that his proposals need a tweak to stave off an electoral backlash.

[Author: John Paul Tasker]

Trudeau Saskatoon 20170901

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says that he will not back down from his mission to make the tax system fairer for the middle class, but he is willing to listen to the concerns of small business owners worried about the impact of closing tax loopholes.

[Author: Peter Zimonjic]

AFN Meeting 20170727

Liberal backbenchers have been getting an earful this summer from small business owners outraged by the Trudeau government's proposals to end what it calls "unfair tax advantages."

[Author: Joan Bryden,Andy Blatchford]

Thousands are applying for federal assistance, but it may be slow to arrive and require them to take on debt that could take years to pay off.

Jim McIngvale, also known as Mattress Mack, opened his two furniture stores in Houston to serve as temporary shelters. He invited people to come via a Facebook Live video and gave out his personal cell number.

As Houston started to flood, small business owner Jim "Mattress Mack" McIngvale posted a Facebook message urging people who needed shelter to come over. Hundreds streamed in.

(Image credit: Jim McIngvale/Screenshot by NPR)

The tax rebate was meant to aid struggling small businesses and revive Scotland's tourism industry.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Congressional Republicans, seeking to address the complaints of small businesses, are floating changes to their controversial proposal to eliminate business tax deductions for debt interest payments, business lobbyists said on Tuesday.

WASHINGTON, Aug 22 (Reuters) - Congressional Republicans, seeking to address the complaints of small businesses, are floating changes to their controversial proposal to eliminate business tax deductions for debt interest payments, business lobbyists said on Tuesday.

Finance Tax Corporations 20170718

Entrepreneurs say Ottawa is waging class war, singling out business owners as the beneficiaries of unfair tax advantages.

[Author: Kate MacNamara]

A weeklong power failure on Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands in North Carolina cost businesses millions of dollars, officials estimated.

Uncertain economic growth means rises to the National Living Wage should be delayed, says the FSB.

Rich Walker directs a robotics company, Shadow Robot, out of a modest office in London. He says the wait for clarity post-Brexit is hurting businesses.

Small business owners are among those who say indecision is damaging the economy as they wait for new rules governing a post-Brexit U.K.

(Image credit: Joanna Kakissis/NPR)

Water companies organise 36,000 switches of supply for small firms after new rules come into force.

Months on from April's new tax regime, many companies are still waiting for bills to be adjusted.

The Federation of Small Businesses says it has concerns over the effects of the 28 June attack.

Across the country, old-fashioned grocery stores, like the oldest business in Colorado, are among the most endangered of small-town businesses.

Small-business owners, some of the most vocal opponents of the Affordable Care Act, are divided over Republican plans to reverse much of the law.

How To Boost Conversions with Influencer Marketing

Every marketer has their little tricks up their sleeves when it comes to promoting their brands. Usually they follow by the same general model, adapting the same practices to different projects, or to fit certain needs. There is nothing wrong with this method, but it won’t work if you don’t add in new ways of marketing as they become more successful with customers.

Influencer marketing is a clear example of this thought in practice. Social media has been a powerhouse in promotion for years. But where that new means of marketing meets more traditional forms of endorsement advertising has been growing, though many people are still shaky on how to properly apply it to their campaigns.

Why Influencer Marketing?

Businesses keep doing the same mistake again and again: They discover a traffic generation strategy (in the vast majority of cases that’s Google search) that works for them, start growing exponentially and then instead of reinvesting into discovering more growth opportunities they keep feeding from that single source until it stops working for them.

Unlike most of online marketers may think, Google search is not the only source of traffic and awareness. There are more ways to generate clicks and sales:

The power of word of mouth should never be underestimated. People buy from people and via people’s recommendation. That is where the power of influencer marketing comes into play.

Influencer marketing is essentially the newer form of celebrity endorsement. We all remember sitting around Saturday morning and seeing a commercial for Proactive come on the screen, with a flawless skinned A-list actress trying to convince us that she had a problem with acne at some point in the past.

Think of influencer marketing as a more down-to-earth, simple version of that idea. You are taking the equivalent of celebrities in the digital realm (YouTubers, social media stars, bloggers, etc.) and having them push your brand into the spotlight. They endorse you to their fans which can be in the literal millions, and you reap the benefits.

The bigger of those benefits is creating a solid, trusting customer base. That base includes the influencer(s) that you have managed to snag. It is a mutually beneficial relationship that can vastly increase your conversions.

How To Boost Conversions with Influencer Marketing

Now that you understand why influencer marketing is so great, we can start looking at ways to incorporate it into your campaigns and get those conversions really growing. These are by no means exhaustive, but consider them your starting point. It won’t be long before you begin to see results, and can build on them.

Know Your Influencers Well

There is no point in trying to target an audience, much less find an influencer to help you do so, if you don’t really know who you are talking to. Before you begin you need to really understand the demographic you are catering to. Not just who they are, where they live and the basics (age, gender, education and income level, etc.). You need to know what they want, need, and don’t even realize they need.

Who do they watch you YouTube? Do they prefer Netflix or Hulu? Do they use Tumblr? Reddit? Facebook? Snapchat? Instagram? Do they like dogs or cats better? Do they put ranch on their pizza? It might seem like overkill, but the better you know your audience the more direct your trajectory will be when finding the perfect influencer to reach them.

Talking to your audience is almost always the first step to understanding them better. I’ve always been an advocate of surveying tools to help you better understand your niche community. Moreover, surveys provide so many opportunities beyond the obvious audience research. For example, you use them to actually build connections with influencers (by providing them with various perks in exchange for taking the survey). And afterwards, you can turn the results into a solid linkable brand asset and invite all the participating influencers to spread the word. That’s what Moz has been doing, quite successfully, with their “Search Engine Ranking Factors“:

  • Invite niche influencers to participate
  • List those influencers as contributors on the landing page
  • Build trust and turn your brand into the niche knowledge hub which, in turn, brings more conversions because buyers now know who they are buying from:

How To Boost Conversions with Influencer Marketing

Featured tool: I know there are a few obvious surveying tools out there but I’ve recently discovered Wyzerr which is probably new for most of the readers. It lets you build fun interactive quizzes that are actually enjoyable to take, so you are likely to get many more responses with it:

How To Boost Conversions with Influencer Marketing

Work out a Flexible and Effective Rewarding Strategy

I have just mentioned perks above and this is something you need to put some thorough thought into.

I am approached by so many companies on a daily basis: they invite me to check their tools out, participate in expert interviews and compete their surveys. Sadly, there are so few companies who actually get the “rewarding” part.

Don’t get me wrong: Not all influencers will insist on being rewarded. Most of them will simply want you to be polite. No one likes being used. Never demand.

That’s why I emphasized being flexible in the heading above. Don’t go to each influencer with the same cookie-cutter approach: Some of the influencers will want to be paid while others will get offended when you offer them a pay. Some possible perks include:

  • Exclusive access to your tool;
  • Free trip to your conference or meetup;
  • The opportunity to get featured together with other prominent niche influencers, etc.

Don’t miss the opportunity to thank your influencers after your campaign is wrapped up. Simply sending out a thank-you card or a branded coupon card can go a long way. It can very cost-effective too. Stock photography can come for free (here’s a good list) and designing a card is easy with sites like Canva.

Remember a proper “Thank you” notice is yet another opportunity to engage those influencers in sharing your brand around. As an example, here’s me sharing Buzzsumo’s gift basket because I was truly surprised and excited:

How To Boost Conversions with Influencer Marketing

There will be different rewards for different influencers, so there needs to be a tool that could help you manage the process properly. Salesmate helps organize and scale your influencer onboarding. It lets you clearly see which step of influencer onboarding your managers are at and what works for different influencers in terms if incentives:

How To Boost Conversions with Influencer Marketing

Salesmate integrates well with all my favorite apps too, so it’s nice to be able to keep everything under one roof.

Important note: When working on your rewarding strategy, keep in mind the legal aspects of online endorsement. Kerry O’Shea Gorgone gave a solid outline of disclosures influencers should be using when endorsing anyone online:

How To Boost Conversions with Influencer Marketing

Learn The Power Of Micro-Influencers

You don’t have to always be looking to get the guy who has a million Twitter followers to promote your brand. How about the gal with 100k? Or that teen blogger who has managed to build a steady ad-revenue through their beauty blog? Influencers come in all sizes, and that is where micro-influencers come in.

They don’t have the reach of the most popular social media mavens, but they have a dedicated audience and are often easier to secure. Plus you can build a relationship with them that goes beyond just marketer/talent.

It all comes down to how engaged their community is rather than how many followers they have managed to build!

Tools like Klear and Twitonomy will help you both discover and analyze the reach of niche (micro-)influencers. They both work for Twitter. Here are more ways to discover influencers beyond Twitter.

How To Boost Conversions with Influencer Marketing

You may also want to up your social media engagement by investing in Facebook ads and target your influencers’ followers. You’ll be sure to generate many more leads from your advertising campaign if you incorporate your influencers’ identity (logos, pictures) into your display advertising. Of course, you need to get influencers’ permission first.

Aim Higher: Focus on Building Loyalty

Brand loyalty is always a must, and influencer marketing really helps you to build it. They already have a relationship with their audience, and they are putting you forward as trusted within that relationship.

You are reaching them through someone they already know they can and should listen to. If you can prove to them that trying your brand out was a positive decision then you have a chance to hooking them for life.

Influencer marketing campaign shouldn’t really focus on the actual ROI (conversions or sales). There’s much more to it: The long-term goal should be to build trust which always results in a natural increase in conversions.

Building a brand ambassador program is a natural extension and a goal of an influencer marketing campaign.

Jeff Bullas (speaking of influencers) did an awesome breakdown of how you can use brand ambassadors by utilizing visual content.


There are many different ways that we can market our brands. Conversions are the natural conclusion to those efforts, and so we tend to be tangled up in the bigger picture. Breaking it down into smaller aspects of each campaign we can see where every piece fits into the whole.

Influencer marketing may not be the sandwich, but it is at least the cheese between the slices of meat. It adds something real and effective where that final push was lacking. You can vastly improve your conversion rate with the right influencers driving interest.

Do you have any tips for using influencer marketing to boost conversions? Let us know in the comments!

Influencer Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Influencer Marketing Secrets Revealed: Can it Boost Conversions?" was first published on Small Business Trends

Ready to Go Brandless?

Before spending time and energy branding your next product or service, it may be time to think again.

Brandless is a startup that works with manufacturers to eliminate the extra costs that are often associated with offering branded products. Instead, the company just provides basic products with simple labels that just state what’s in each product. And all of those items cost just $3.

Basically, Brandless is banking on consumers caring less about brand names than things like quality and value. By taking the branding and marketing costs out of the equation, the company can offer these items for less than consumers can find them from most other sources, without compromising quality.

Ready to Go Brandless?

If the company’s hypothesis about consumer priorities proves to be true, it could have a major impact on small businesses. Consider all of the money businesses spend on branding campaigns and how that money could go toward offering more value to consumers.

Of course, there may still be plenty of shoppers who equate recognizable brand names with quality. So you’ll have to carefully consider your products and target customers before opting for an un-branded approach. But this trend could certainly be something for businesses of all sizes to watch.

Image: Brandless

This article, "Could the Latest in Branding Be Not to Have One?" was first published on Small Business Trends

By Usman Raza

Entrepreneurs and small business owners struggle with many things, especially if they are short on cash. They are doing almost all job functions themselves and working long hours. They have to think about bringing new revenues, marketing, building their products, adhering to regulations in their industries, accounting, inventory and more. It is no wonder that they struggle with their weight as well. But, without their health, their businesses are sure to fail. Here are some ideas for staying in shape.

Drink Matcha Tea

Coming from Japan, matcha is a green tea that is ground to a powder. It has earthy-spinachy-umami taste. Like conventional green tea, it is high in antioxidants. Because it’s a powder, you end up consuming the entire leaf, and therefore, more nutrients. It contains ingredients that have been proven to help people maintain their weight or lose weight.

Don’t Sit Too Long

Many studies have shown a vast array of health hazards caused by sitting for eight hours a day. From organ damage and muscle degeneration to back problems and brain fog, prolonged sitting at a desk can cause a chain of problems from head to toe. You should incorporate more movement into everyday activities. You could schedule an hour to work out, either before you start work or after you are finished for the day. Other options include standing during conference calls, replacing your reclining office chair with a stability ball, or moving around the office periodically. You could leave your office and walk to a place for lunch.

Join an Adult Sports League

In the summer, many cities and suburbs offer opportunities for adults to partake in sports. You could join a league even if you haven’t done the sport before this. By learning the sport, you are exercising your mind as well as your body. You also are getting out the office or house and meeting new people. This might prove to be a good networking time as well. At least, you’ll be interacting with people who share your interests. Business owners tend to be competitive, so they push themselves to do the practices to get better. They like to work as a team, which is so important in sports. If sports aren’t your thing, you could go to a yoga or dance class. You’ll get the same benefits as you would from a sports league.

Be a Role Model

When you stay in shape, you are sending a message to your employees that they should stay in shape too. You could offer wellness programs where employees get reimbursed for healthy lifestyles and choices. You could bring massage therapists and exercise experts to the office. You could hold health fairs at the office, so your employees and you could learn about staying in shape. Healthy employees are more productive and cost you less in insurance. This could improve your bottom line.

Walk During Meetings

So much of the business world takes place on the golf course. Executives get together to have business meetings while playing nine holes of golf. However, if you don’t like golf, you could still have business meetings away from office locations or restaurants. Walk with your potential client and discuss business while moving. This will ensure you have a healthy heart and not waste your time for business.

Usman Raza is a marketing specialist at Crawford and O’Brien and Zensleep. Aside from doing SEO, when not working he enjoys spending time with his family. You can follow him on Twitter.

The post 5 Ways Business Owners Can Stay in Shape appeared first on Small Biz Daily.

Create a Profit Plan, Not a Budget

As a business owner, are you focused on how much money everyone is spending in your business? Or do you focus instead on how much profit you‘re going to make? Unfortunately too many small business owners focus too much time and effort on how much money is being spent and not nearly enough time figuring out how to make more money (i.e. Profit). It‘s more of a poverty vs. abundance mindset. Why not be a little different and focus on abundance vs. poverty as a small business owner?

There is a dirty word that surfaces for small business owners from time-to-time, which typically causes them to feel ill and break into cold sweats. BUDGETS. Nobody really wants one or frankly ever asks for one. It has a punitive, I‘ve just got called down to the Principal‘s office, feel to it. Budgets are constraining and inhibiting to growth and sustainability. A more energizing and productive path to take is developing a Profit Plan. This way you‘ll be able to focus on achieving profits vs. not spending yourself out of business.

Focus on Your Profit Plan, Not Your Budget

I used to be a pretty decent golfer with a low single digit handicap. There are lots of great analogies between golf and business. One of the main ones we focus on as business coaches is that both business and golf can get unnecessarily complicated. Anyone who has taken a few golf lessons can tell you that. You can get so focused on the proper mechanics of your swing that you forget how to hit the ball. And it stops being fun and starts feeling like work! I learned early on that the best thing to do with my golf swing was to keep things simple. Boil it down to one or two swing thoughts as I was addressing the ball and then forget everything else.

It helps to have the same kind of focus in business so things don‘t get overly complicated and it stops being fun. For small business owners, developing and executing a successful Profit Plan is essential to set the stage for making money on purpose. Start simple by asking yourself:

  1. What do I want my company’s sales to be for the coming year?
  2. How much do I want in profit/net income/the bottom line?

Those two numbers should be the key focus (i.e. swing thought) for you and your team. That way, everyone is focused on how you are going to make those sales and profit goals a reality. No confusion, no complexity.

Too many folks are directed to focus on a budget instead of a Profit Plan and what happens is they often lose sight of sales and profit goals and focus solely on the spending and expenses. Remember that the “score card“ in business is not how little you spend, but how much profit you‘re able to make. So be sure to focus on profit and not simply spending.

Chart Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "What’s the Dirty Word in Your Business?" was first published on Small Business Trends

Milestone Business Cartoon

This cartoon is basically just a play on words. You see “Founded” on signs a lot followed by a year, so adding “Dumbfounded” and some additional years isn’t a huge stretch. The trick for me on this one was, as usual, the details.

Which years would be dumbfounding? Was it early on in the business? Some sort of later issue? How long did it last? Which years sound funniest? Should it be an even or odd number of years?

I wish I could say there’s some sort of cartoon calculus to offer some answers, but mostly you just feel it out. (Which is good because I’m bad at math.)

This article, "The Late 70s and Early 80s Was a Difficult Time for the Firm" was first published on Small Business Trends

How to Create Your Own Pension Fund

Like flip phones and floppy disks, pensions are largely a thing of the past.

According to an analysis from global advisory firm Willis Towers Watson, the percentage of Fortune 500 employers offering a defined benefit pension plan to new hires dropped from roughly 50 percent in 1998 to just 5 percent in 2015.

Today’s workers are more often offered a defined contribution plan, such as a 401(k). The difference is evident in the name: A defined contribution plan lets employers and employees contribute to an investment account. A defined benefit plan promises employees a set benefit at retirement and puts the responsibility of providing that benefit — including the investment risk — on the employer.

Create Your Own Pension Fund

It’s easy to see why people without pensions are envious of older generations. But it’s still possible to create pension-like income on your own. Here’s how.

Consider an Immediate Annuity

With an immediate annuity, you give an insurance company a lump sum and receive monthly payments for life. The amount of those payments depends on a few factors, including the size of the lump sum, your age and interest rates.

These annuities can address the fear that your money will dry up, but they aren’t for everyone, says Neal Frankle, a certified financial planner and blogger at “The No. 1 problem is that you give up access to that money. If you die tomorrow, it goes away.”

You can structure the annuity so that if you die before receiving an amount equal to the lump sum, the balance goes to your beneficiaries — but electing that option will lower the amount you get each month.

Keep Some Stocks; Start an Income Plan

Some believe that it’s best to invest in stocks only preretirement; post-retirement, it’s all about bonds and fixed income. In reality, shunning equities after you’ve stopped working might be one of the quickest ways to run out of money. You need your money to continue to grow in retirement, and stocks provide that growth.

Once you have a properly allocated portfolio, you can work with a financial advisor to create an income plan that details how you’ll approach withdrawals.

A tip from Frankle: Ask to receive monthly distributions. “It’s only natural that when people get to the stage of not getting a paycheck, it’s scary. Rather than setting up a once-a-year withdrawal, set it up so it’s almost like a paycheck.”

Monthly distributions also make it less likely that you’ll pull more than you need from a 401(k) or an individual retirement account. It can be hard to return unused money due to the contribution limits on those accounts.

Bank on Your Home

If you own your home, you can use a reverse mortgage to take advantage of the equity you’ve built. These mortgages allow you to stay in your home and convert that equity into a stream of monthly payments. As long as you remain in the home, you don’t have to pay back the loan. If you move, sell it or die, the loan is typically repaid from your estate or the proceeds of the sale.

These loans have historically gotten a bad rap due to high costs and variable interest rates, but in recent years, they’ve grown better in these respects. Still — like immediate annuities — they’re not the right choice for everyone. Before you consider one, Frankle suggests another option: downsizing.

“If you need a reverse mortgage, chances are very good you’re living beyond your means, and you’re spending more than is coming in,” he says. “A reverse mortgage doesn’t solve that core problem. Many people would be better off downsizing and reducing expenses.”

Downsizing might not give you additional income, but it does make more of your income available for other expenses.

Republished by permission. Original here.

Piggy Bank Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Explore These 3 Approaches to Create Your Own Pension Fund" was first published on Small Business Trends

By Ronald Kimmons

Email marketing is one of the most powerful marketing channels available. It is highly scalable, responsive, and cost-effective. However, in conducting an email marketing campaign, there are some big, fat, ugly blunders that neophytes often commit. These can waste your time and resources, and harm your business—and you should do your best to avoid them. They are:

1. Buying a list

There was a time when email marketing meant buying a list, spamming that list, and hoping someone on that list was in your target demographic and would buy. Thanks to the government and email providers, such things are no longer done by legitimate marketers.

If you intend on purchasing an email list and sending out unsolicited mass marketing emails to that list, you need to know that:

  • Your conversion rate will be low. Those selling such lists will often cite “industry standards” by promising 3% conversion or something like that, but even that is pie in the sky. Those are the kinds of numbers seen by email marketers who have legitimate lists of people who chose to receive marketing emails because they were interested. Even if these people see your emails, the leads from purchased lists will not have the same conversion rates as more legitimate lists.
  • Many recipients will not see your emails anyway. Email providers have gotten very good at spotting spam. That being the case, do not be surprised to find that your emails are going straight to the spam folder. Also, note that in Gmail there is now a “Promotions” tab where promotional emails go. Even if your emails do not go to the spam folder, they will likely go here. Though this email is technically still in the inbox, people often ignore the contents of this tab.
  • You could get fined. Sending unsolicited mass emails like this is illegal in many countries. In the United States, according to the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003, you can be fined up to $11,000 per violation.
  • You could get sued. That’s right. People who receive spam email from you can actually take you to civil court. A lawyer named Daniel Balsam actually makes a living by suing spammers.

In short, don’t buy email lists to send unsolicited marketing emails. It’s not worth it.

2. Failure to comply with other CAN-SPAM policies

Even if your list was collected legitimately, with people who requested your emails, you still have to abide by certain other legal rules. For example:

  • Include identification information. This means your company name and address. Most marketers include this in the footer, and email marketing tools like MailChimp and Constant Contact make it easy.
  • Include an “unsubscribe” or “email preferences” link. This makes it easy for people to unsubscribe from some or all of your marketing emails.
  • Follow up when people do unsubscribe. If people change their preferences or unsubscribe completely, make sure to remove them from your list. Again, if you use an email marketing tool like MailChimp or Constant Contact, this is automated and easy.
  • Write clear subject lines. The subject line of your email cannot be misleading. This is (ironically) one of the more inexact requirements, so there is a little flexibility, but try to play it safe. As a marketer, it may be tempting to write whatever grabs people’s attention and causes them to open the email, but do not lose control. (More on this later.)
  • Information in ads should be clear and unambiguous. It is very good practice to include advertisements in your emails that are visually similar to what people might see in magazines or on posters. However, whatever you write there, make sure that it is easy to understand. Do not make statements that are intentionally vague and then rely on fine print to clarify them.
  • Make sure anyone working for you is compliant. Anyone sending out emails on your behalf—whether an employee or a contractor—is legally connected to you, and you are also liable if they fail to do what they are supposed to do.

Again, if you fail to abide by these rules, not only is this bad business, but you can actually get fined and/or sued for that failure.

3. Failure to be mobile-friendly

Google has now openly embraced a mobile-first philosophy. This is because the majority of internet activity now occurs on mobile devices. This is especially true for emails; it would be a big mistake to ignore mobile users when you draft your marketing emails. To optimize your emails for mobile, consider doing the following:

  • Make the text big enough to read. None of your text should be smaller than 14 point.
  • Make buttons easy to tap. Simply adding a link to your text may not cut it for some mobile users. Instead, try to use an actual button.
  • Use a layout that is responsive to different screen sizes. Again, email marketing tools like MailChimp and Constant Contact are usually good for this.

RELATED: 5 Ways to Test Mobile Marketing in Your Small Business

Being mobile-friendly may seem like a small thing, but it can actually have a big influence on the conversion rates of your emails.

4. Writing clickbait subject lines

For those unfamiliar with the term, clickbait is any headline or image that is intended to encourage the viewer to click at all costs, even if it means being sensational, irrelevant, or dishonest. Even when your subscribers are not specifically cognizant of the fact, over time, clickbait subject lines will cause them to lose trust in your brand. For this reason, try to avoid subject lines such as:

  • Anything containing the words “You won’t believe…”
  • Anything pretending to be something it is not. For example, to fake a transactional email, you may put in your subject line: “Your order has shipped!” If the subscriber did not order anything, he or she will often feel a strong inclination to open the email, but that does not mean that the subscriber will react well to the contents of the email. (Of course, real transactional emails are fine.)
  • “Last chance!” This may be okay in some cases, but don’t overuse it.
  • OVERUSE OF CAPS. It’s just annoying!

While all of these examples will probably significantly increase open rates, the net effect that they have on your business will often not be good. That said, there are still some moderate “clickbait” subject lines you can use that will increase open rates without harming your credibility. For example:

  • Use numbers. “7 Reasons You Need…” People respond to numbers because they are tangible, concrete images that interrupt one’s conscious thoughts. (Note the title of this article.)
  • Use the recipient’s name. “Chris, we noticed that you didn’t sign up for…”
  • Ask a question. People see a question, and they have a psychological need to give or see an answer.
  • Make a shocking claim. “Scientists prove chocolate cake is GOOD for you!” However, if you do this, you had better deliver on your claim.
5. Failure to deliver value

Some email marketers, feeling the pressure of their ultimate mission, often find themselves composing email campaigns that, to recipients, sound like this: “Hey, you should buy our stuff! It’s great stuff! Click here and buy our stuff! Give us money! Hey, have you bought our stuff yet? You know what you should do? You should buy our stuff!”

This type of email gets tiring, and people do not want to look at them.

As an email marketer, you have the responsibility to deliver real value to subscribers in the emails that you send—even if they never buy anything from you. They subscribed with the understanding that you would send them emails with valuable or interesting information about things they care about, so if you don’t deliver, you are not fulfilling your promises.

To ensure that you are delivering value, each of your emails should do at least one of the following:

  • Delight. If your email can make people feel happy or validated or laugh, you have succeeded.
  • Educate. Provide valuable information in an understandable format on a subject that the recipient cares about.
  • Provide a meaningful offer. This may be a discount, a bundled offer, a limited offer, an event, etc. The key word is meaningful. Simply offering 10% off on one random item one day and 15% off another random item another day is not going to cut it.

To deliver value, instead of focusing on your needs and desires, focus on the needs and desires of your subscribers. Value is determined based on what they want, and not based on what you like or what you want.

6. Sending too many emails

Even if your emails have a high level of value, most people just do not have the time to read emails thousands of words long coming from you every day. If they find your emails overwhelming, many people will unsubscribe, even if they note that your emails were of value to them in the past.

There is no universal limit to the number of emails you can send. It can be useful to email every day for several days if you are following up on some recent interaction. However, a good rule of thumb to go by is to average between one and three emails per week, and if you are emailing every day, go easy on the long-form content.

7. Being inconsistent

The key to trust is consistency. If you want to create and maintain a relationship with your subscribers, you need to make sure that you send your emails on a regular basis. Don’t send them sporadically, or with a cluster of emails followed by months of silence. Use your email tools to establish a gentle but firm presence and establish your business as a business that believes in stability and continuity.

8. Being nonresponsive

Before you go live and start pulling in contacts, make sure that your email drafts are ready to go. When people sign up for your mailing list or request that free offer, they expect to receive an email promptly. This is why you need to use good automation tools. If you fail to respond promptly, you will find that the open rates of your initial emails will not be very high, as the recipients have already moved on and the feeling of anticipation is gone.

This need for responsiveness does not only apply to the first interaction, either. Anytime your subscribers interact with you in some way and you fail to respond promptly, this will hurt the trust you have built with them, and it could cause you to lose them altogether.

9. Failure to include a relevant call to action

Every email should have a call to action. This doesn’t have to involve money, but it should be something—anything—that causes people to engage with you in some way. The call to action should be relevant to the content of the email, and it should be something that your subscribers can do right then and there.

Here are some examples of non-monetary calls to action:

  • View a video.
  • Install a free mobile app.
  • Take a quiz.
  • Start a free trial (especially for SaaS).
  • Register for an event.
  • Interact on social media.
  • Give feedback by email.
  • Rate your business on an online rating site.

Your call to action should be briefly stated at the end of your email. All of the content of your email should build up to it. If you are using an advanced marketing automation tool, you can track whether or not people take certain actions and use that to determine which emails they should receive in the future.

10. Failure to automate

If you fail to automate, you will inevitably fail to be adequately responsive, you will waste massive amounts of time, and you will fail to reach as many people as you should. There is no good reason not to use an automation tool. MailChimp even has a limited free plan for people who are just getting started. Even if you don’t get a premium plan, the more basic services are quite affordable.

RELATED: Marketing Automation Solutions Are Now Affordable for Your Small Business

 In conclusion, your email marketing should reflect the same level of professionalism that exists in other areas of your business. And even if it doesn’t, your recipients will assume that it does. So do it well! Go get ‘em! About the Author

Post by: Ronald Kimmons

Ronald Kimmons is the founder of Veritas Mobile Solutions and Wingfire Social. He is fluent in Mandarin and skilled in Spanish, Portuguese, and Indonesian. His companies offer services in various aspects of digital marketing including social media management, SEO, email marketing, and custom mobile apps.

Company: Veritas Mobile Solutions
Connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+.

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By Bruce Hakutizwi

If you’ve ever watched ABC’s Shark Tank, you’ll know the Sharks are at their most vicious when the contestants pitching their business ideas don’t know their numbers. They’ll pounce when questions about basic metrics like revenue, profit margin, and cost of customer acquisition are met with feeble replies of “Ummm…” and “Well…”

Whether or not you ever plan to pitch a business to the Sharks, the show is a great learning experience. Watching a business owner’s funding disappear as one potential investor after another drops out teaches you that knowing a company’s key performance indicators (KPIs) can be the difference between success and failure.

Shark Tank is produced with extra theatrics for the sake of entertainment, but the Sharks’ mentality is—or should be—true to all investors, even you. If you’re considering buying or investing in a business, you need to place the same emphasis on critical KPIs that the Sharks do.

What are KPIs and why are they important?

KPIs are metrics used to gauge business success. These metrics are often used to track progress toward strategic and operational goals, and also to compare performance against the competition.

If a business has set goals for the next year, or the next five years, KPIs can help the company take a meaningful look at how to achieve those targets; they also promote accountability. Whether the KPIs are business wide or specific to a particular department, they can be used to encourage ownership of performance and recognize strong contributions.

RELATED: Should You Start Up or Buy Your New Business? 12 Pros and Cons

Which KPIs do you need to understand?

The list of KPIs is long and new ones get created every day. Some KPIs might be more applicable to some businesses or industries than others. Monthly active users, for example, is a valuable KPI for app developers and other tech companies, but isn’t particularly useful in other sectors. More general KPIs are applicable across industries; these include financial (sales) or nonfinancial (customer satisfaction).

Familiarizing yourself with the right KPIs will give you a leg up when evaluating your next acquisition or investment. Here are five vital KPIs you should always be aware of:

Customer acquisition cost. Your cost of customer acquisition is the amount of money you spend on sales and marketing in order to acquire a customer. This number indicates the efficiency of marketing efforts and is calculated by dividing total acquisition costs by the number of new customers over a specific period.

Costs vary by industry. A retailer might spend $10 to acquire a new customer, while a financial services company might spend as much as $200. Research acquisition cost averages for the industry of the business you’re interested in to find out if it is overspending. If the company you’re looking at is spending too much, consider the options of refining the marketing strategy and more efficiently allocating the budget.

Customer retention rate. Most businesses can’t survive on one-time sales. They need to retain customers who come back regularly for goods and services. A business with a high customer retention rate indicates a quality product and effective support that satisfies customers. On the other hand, a low retention rate (or conversely, high attrition) could indicate a need to take a closer look at the product line and/or the support services offered pre- and post-sale.

Profit margin. Profit margin indicates “markup,” or how much a product’s or service’s revenue exceeds its cost to the business. Since a business with low margins might be vulnerable to drops in sales or have poor market share, a low or shrinking profit margin might raise concern about long-term sustainability. Knowing a business’s profit margin vs. revenue is essential.

Overhead. Overhead refers to fixed expenses outside labor and production costs. Rent, utilities, and insurance are all examples of overhead expenses. When compared to overall revenue, overhead can indicate a company’s efficiency.

Employee turnover. Turnover isn’t necessarily something you’ll find on the balance sheet, but it’s a nonfinancial KPI that can indicate how well a business is run. High employee turnover could be a red flag that current management isn’t engaging staff or rewarding strong individual or company performance. If you’re considering a business with high turnover, it might be time to revamp employee policies.

This list is not meant to be exhaustive. As a business owner, there are other KPIs you should track that will help you track business performance and meet goals. This list does give you a starting point when evaluating a potential investment.

None of these KPIs should be deal breakers on their own, but taken together they can offer a snapshot of a business’s health. However, if a company has high customer acquisition costs, low retention rates, low margins, significant overhead, and high turnover, it might be a good idea to move on to the next prospect.

RELATED: Buying a Business? Follow These 4 Steps to Keep Valuable Employees on Board

About the Author

Post by: Bruce Hakutizwi

Bruce Hakutizwi is the U.S. and International Business Manager for Bruce is passionate about helping small businesses succeed, and regularly writes about managing growth, acquisitions, succession planning, and buying and selling businesses. Connect with him @BizforSaleUS.

Connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

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4 Ways to Improve Customer Convenience

The internet has introduced insane levels of competition to virtually every industry. And, as one could expect, higher levels of competition mean better service for customers. Ultimately, this widespread competition has conditioned customers to expect convenience. If you can’t provide this, they’ll go elsewhere.

Customers Crave Convenience

How much do you know about millennials? Maybe your children are millennials, or perhaps the kid in the cubicle next to you is one. They get a bad rap a lot of times, but much of the negativity surrounding them is based on misconceptions. They’re different than previous generations, but millennials aren’t all selfish and lazy. However, they do want one thing: convenience.

Millennials love their technology and have been brought up in a world where they have unlimited access to whatever they want. Everything is just a click or a download away. While you may not agree with this mentality, blame the environment – not the individual.

Millennials are not only becoming the majority in the workplace, but they’re also increasing their buying power in the marketplace. Starting this year, millennials are expected to spend more than $200 billion annually. Over their lifetimes, they’ll spend a collective $10 trillion.

So when you hear that millennials love convenience, your ears should perk up. This isn’t something to fight or run from. You need to prioritize convenience or close up shop.

4 Ways to Improve Customer Convenience

As you try to real millennials and win them over, you have to make things as easy on them as possible. Here are some different techniques you may find helpful.

1. Try the 1-2-3 Method

There’s power in the number three. People like to see things grouped in 1-2-3 fashion. The reason for this isn’t exactly clear, but it’s something that the world has accepted as “right” for a number of years.

Whether it’s The Jackson Five singing their hit song ABC (“It’s easy as one, two, three…), Christianity with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the three-act structure in screenwriting, or sayings like “blood, sweat, and tears,” the number three is pervasive in society.

If you want to make something convenient for your customers, try the 1-2-3 method. With this approach, you help customers understand a process or complete a transaction in just three steps. Here’s an example from The Clunker Junker. As you can see, they simplify the process of having a junk car removed into three parts: (1) accept the offer, (2) schedule the pickup, and (3) get paid.

Could you do something similar? For your business, it might look like turning a five-step checkout process into a three-step process. For another business, it may involve creating an online account in three stages. Whatever the case may be, there’s a chance for you to use the 1-2-3 method and make things easier on customers.

2. Be Reachable Via Multiple Touchpoints

From a customer’s perspective, there’s nothing more frustrating than needing assistance and not being able to get in touch with your business. If a customer has trouble finding contact information or can’t get a hold of you quickly, they’re going to lash out or run away.

Is your business reachable via multiple touchpoints? You may not have the resources to have a 1-800 line or fully staffed call center, but there’s no excuse in 2017 for not having a CRM system, email support, social media support, or even live chat support.

Here’s the key, though. You can’t just offer an additional checkpoint for the heck of it. It’s better to have a limited number of touchpoints that you regularly respond to than to have a bunch of different ones that you never pay attention to.

3. Do Research for the Customer

There’s a massive amount of information online and many customers are fatigued by the idea of doing their own research. The process of searching for information, filtering out the good from the bad, and then cross-referencing different sources is just too much. If you really want to make your brand convenient, you can do this research for them.

This could look like crunching a bunch of numbers and developing a free case study or report that looks at the effectiveness of different products in the industry. Even if these reports don’t always favor your products, at least you’re building trust with customers and positioning your brand as a resource.

Progressive is a perfect example. As you probably know from their extensive marketing campaigns, they let customers compare car insurance rates on their website in just minutes. Sometimes they have the best price, other times they don’t. But customers visit the site because of the convenience and many are more willing to do business with Progressive because of this tool.

4. Eliminate Friction at Checkout

If there’s one thing customers really hate, it’s getting to the point of checking out on an ecommerce site, only to discover that they have to jump through lots of different hoops to complete the transaction. You can make your ecommerce site more convenient by eliminating unnecessary friction at checkout.

The worst mistake you can make is requiring customers to register an account prior to completing a transaction. You can always make this optional at the end of the purchase, but mandatory registration on the front end is a massive conversion killer. If you really want to make a positive impression, one-click checkout is preferred.

Put the Customer’s Needs First

As important as it is to offer customers convenience, it’s equally important that you understand what convenience is not. Convenience doesn’t mean stepping back and automating everything. Millennials still want interaction – they just want seamless interaction.

“Don’t get it twisted- this generation’s affinity for technology is not a rejection of humanity.  To the contrary, millennials desire and expect deep connections with others,” says Tamar Frumkin of Salesforce. “They are social, collaborative, value diversity, share experiences and appearances with friends and expect brands to engage with them as peers.”

Now’s the time to start putting the needs of your customers first. They want personable convenience. If you can offer this, they’ll reward you in the form of brand loyalty.

Happy Customers Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "The Hidden Mystery Behind Happy Customers? Try These 4 Tips" was first published on Small Business Trends

What’s in a name? Well, quite a lot actually. Especially when it comes to your presence on the web. Having the right domain name – as WestHost explains here – is often key to people being able to find your website in the first place and, let’s face it, if they can’t find your site then little else from there on really matters does it?

The problem is that global internet usage has continued to rise, narrowing the pool when it comes to .com and web addresses. There are, after all, only so many different words and combinations of words in the English language to play with and there’s a whole planet of people and businesses eagerly looking to snap their name up.

Chances are, if it’s a ‘proper’ word or a surname, it’s already taken. That’s the stage we’ve already reached.

This isn’t just a problem for start-ups either, some fairly big names have fallen foul of this and been thwarted in their bid to have the domain name they want.

Quartz points out, for example, that:

  • Google doesn’t own – the ideal site for its parent company – as BMW has this domain.
  • The website belongs to an Australian mining company and not the popular Microsoft game of the same name.
  • It took Apple 16 years to be able to get its hands on – a domain previously owned by a British company.

Domain names are dished out on a first come first served basis, so if you’re late to the party you have to accept that you have missed out – or pay a tidy sum.

Barring an ever-elaborate formation of words or phrases there’s one other clear solution to this – broaden the spectrum beyond .com and to different domains.

That is precisely what happen when, in 2014, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) introduced a new series of generic top-level domain names (gTLDs). While this paved the way for domains such as .club it has also opened up the chance for a company to create branded URLs.

BMW, Sky, Barclays and Google were among the first big firms to take up this chance for a .brand address. By putting their brand name to the ‘right of the dot’, business are able to take command of everything to the left, solving any web address headaches they might have had. New opportunities for this are opening up all of the time and the $185,000 registration cost does little to put off the sorts of big names outlined above.

It does, however, clearly put off small businesses who are starting out on their journey. While they can hope to benefit from having big players move out of the ever-shrinking space they’re competing for, they do still need to be aware of the fact that we are running out of .com and domain names and that they are going to have to think long and hard to find a title that is still memorable, relevant and user-friendly and not already taken. The rise of new domains might well open up opportunities for people in this space in the short to medium term and clear the bottleneck that, for now at least, exists.

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