SMB Nation Blog

SMB Nation has been serving the Bainbridge Island area since 2001, providing IT Support such as technical helpdesk support, computer support, and consulting to small and medium-sized businesses.

Why Asking for Advice is the Best Thing for Your Business and Yourself

BY: Annabelle Short

Do you remember as a teenager, your mom or dad would give you some advice on a relationship or maybe on how to do your homework?

You would respectfully ignore it because…

What do mom and dad know, right?

But, looking back, there were probably several times where you wished you had only taken their advice.Help

It is easy to display the same sense of pride when it comes to your business –

Your business is like your child. You developed the idea and have put time, effort, and money into ensuring its success. So, obviously, you are adamant that you – and only you – could possibly know what is best for it.

But, consider this:

Think of your absolute favorite article of clothing.

Maybe it is your favorite team’s t-shirt or that pair of jeans that fit just right…

Now, when you go to wash that article of clothing, the first thing you do is check the clothing label for washing instructions.

Can you dry it?

Will it shrink?

Does it have to be washed on cold only?

So, why should you not search for professional advice the same way for your business?

You can avoid obvious mistakes.

There are plenty of obvious mistakes that are not so obvious to you at the time-being…

You haven’t made them yet, so how would you know to avoid them?

But, there are plenty of other business owners who have and who would be more than happy to share their story, give you their insight, and allow you to learn from their mistake.

Some of these mistakes might be overwhelmingly embarrassing or just plain costly – but either way, if you could avoid them up front, why not?

It will energize you.

Running a small business can get lonely.

You can easily find yourself consumed with the many hats that you wear as a business owner. However, by getting involved with other business owners or finding a mentor, you can listen to how they approach their businesses…

Not only will connecting with others give you insight into how others do things but it could foster new ideas you have never considered and help your stress, leading you to realize you are not alone.

You don’t know what you don’t know.

This is a saying my parents have told be a million times over…

You don’t know what you don’t know.

And, it is as simple as that.

You might be missing out on the most cost-effective solution for your business that you have been actively searching for.

And, you know what?

It could be right there waiting to smack you in the face if you would just ask for help.

You and your business will prosper.

Ultimately, asking for help will only make you a better person and your business a better business.

You will learn new things that you can apply both to your personal life and to your business practices, you will meet new people who can introduce you to their audiences and help further your business, and you will have someone to call on when the road gets tough.

Final Thoughts

Being a business owner can be hard enough:

Many hats to wear and new challenges to face each day.

Why try to do it alone?

You are only being stubborn not asking for help and continuously missing out on opportunities that you might not even know are available.

Do yourself and your business a favor – swallow your pride and ask for help. When you and your business begin to prosper, you won’t regret it.

 

Annabelle Short is a writer and a seamstress of more than 5 years. She loves making crafts with her two children, Leo (age 9) and Michelle (age 11). Annabelle likes to write about business, crafting and sewing, and parenting. She splits her time between London and Los Angeles and writes for Wunderlabel. You can visit her blog to learn more about her and her handmade creations.

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How to Nurture an Email and Facebook Lead into a Sale

As more and more businesses adopt inbound marketing as a way to get more leads, the significance of choosing the most effective lead nurturing strategy becomes paramount. Typically, a large share of leads disappears after the first interaction with a business, so getting more quality ones and turning them into sales is something that you just need to master.

If you haven’t been able to turn your subscribers, followers, and fans into active sales, you need to change your approach to nurturing them. Are you interested in knowing how to accomplish this in the right way?

If you are, keep reading.

Today, we are going to talk about email and Facebook leads. Why? Because these two sources contain the most users, therefore they are used by the vast majority of businesses.

Let’s start with Facebook.

How to Nurture Facebook Leads

When it comes to social media, you should think about it as the initial step of your sales cycle. Your ultimate objective is to move leads to a landing page on your website. However, there is a complex task of getting them there.

These tips will help you to make this task easier:

Engage leads with Helpful and Shareable Content

Facebook is a powerful platform for lead generation that has one significant advantage: it gives brands a human face. The interaction with the customers, however, should follow some guidelines. For example, Facebook is not a tool for spamming your followers. People are using it for fun and communication, not sales pitches.

The marketers understand that. According to 2016 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends study completed by Content Marketing Institute, creating more engaging and useful content remained the highest priority in 2016. This situation is not likely to change anytime soon.

Top Priority B2C

Source: Content Marketing Institute

Therefore, all content you share with the leads on Facebook should be useful and shareable. The more shares and likes it receives, the better your reputation is.

Dos:

  • How to articles
  • Articles relevant to professionals from your industry
  • Engaging news

Don’ts:

  • Sales pitches
  • Posts with clear messages to “click here,” “buy from us,” and “share this.”

Optimize the Path to Conversion

Let’s come up and be honest here: many of us are fairly lazy customers. We don’t look for something really hard unless we urgently need it. So, if we have to figure out how to purchase a product or a service, we just might close that site and look for another one where purchasing is easy.

The takeaway here is that you to need to ensure that it’s super easy for leads to make purchases from you. Analyze the page of your business on Facebook:

  • How does a customer make a purchase?
  • Do they have to click on tabs, then click some more on your website, and then figure out how to contact you for the inquiry?

If you feel that your purchasing process is a bit complex, simplify it until it’ super easy.

How to Nurture Leads with Emails

If you’re using email marketing to increase your profits, consider these tips:

Think about the Experiences and Needs of your Leads

After a lead has signed up on your website using an email, you need to treat it as the beginning of the sales cycle. However, the most important role that defines your future marketing effort is the experience of that lead. Here are some examples of emails just for that:

  • Welcome Series – welcome the lead and thank them for joining! See an awesome example from Holland & Barrett below:

HB 1

  • Upsell Offers – emails that let the leads know about the sales and discounts and create a sense of urgency. Another great example from Holland & Barrett:

HB2

  • Educational Content – by sending relevant and helpful articles about the products you sell, you are building rapport with the leads. For example, you can describe product use ideas, benefits of specific products and other actionable information. Holland & Barrett excel at that as well:

HB3

Emails like these can drive major conversions and ensure that customers receive only highly personalized messages at the best possible moment.

Tools for Nurturing Leads using Facebook and Emails

  • MailChimp – an email automation tool that allows to enhance the process of engaging leads via emails sent on an automated basis.
  • Buffer – a social media tool that automatically posts the content at a time at frequency specified by the user.
  • Assignmenthelper.com.au – this tool is useful for creating marketing texts for Facebook campaigns, targeted emails, and more.
  •  Headline Analyzer from CoSchedule – verify whether the headlines in your content are appealing and get tips on improving them. 

Final Thoughts


To succeed, be critical of your lead nurturing campaigns because they are your tool for getting more sales. Don’t forget to measure the results you’re getting because it is the only way to determine where leads are in the sales process.

Hope these tips will be helpful for increasing your profits and getting more quality leads. Follow them closely and continue to build your success sale by sale!

Lucy Benton is a marketing specialist, business consultant. She helps people to turn their dreams into the profitable business. Now she is writing for marketing and business resources. Also Lucy has her own blog ProWritingPartner where you can check her last publications

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The Complete Guide To Human Resources For Small Business

by Rob Wormley in People Management

Human resources is probably one of the more complicated aspects of running a small business. The complexities of working with people don’t fit nicely on a spreadsheet. Yet HR is incredibly important; employee salaries and benefits make up a huge chunk of your operating expenses.

Your employees are one of your greatest assets. You must protect and manage that asset.

This blog post will teach you everything you need to know about human resources.

What Is Human Resource Management?

Human Resource Management (HRM) deals with your employees, whether in regards to recruitment, management, or other forms of direction and assistance. HR will often be in charge of (among other things):

  • Hiring
  • Performance management and reviews
  • Employee development, motivation, and training
  • Safety and wellness
  • Benefits
  • Communication between employees and/or management

HR carries a big responsibility. They have a huge effect on the culture and environment in your workplace, setting the tone for how employees communicate, settle disputes, and work with each other. Some small businesses prefer to outsource a large component of human resources, but there is no getting around human resources completely.

Human Resources: The Three Basics
HR is rife with laws and regulations, which is part of why small businesses often put off dealing with it. Generally, for businesses with fewer than 50 employees, there are three basic things you must implement to cover the bases, according to HR expert Jack Hayhow.

1. Employee Files
You must keep three specific files for each employee in your business. These files are:

  • I-9 File: This form is used by the U.S. Government to identify and verify that your employees are eligible to work in the U.S. Keep all of your employee I-9 files together, in one file, instead of under individual employee names.
  • Employee General File: This is a file you create for your own benefit. It contains any documentation associated with that employee that you’ve collected during their time with you. This includes resumes, reviews, disciplinary action, training verification, evaluations, W-4 forms, payroll details, and so on. You’ll use this file often.
  • Employee Medical File: These files will contain notes from doctors, disability information, and any medical information that you have on an employee. Because you are dealing with medical information, you must protect and secure these files from others. That is why these are separate from general files. Be sure to keep them in a locked and secure place.

2. Employee Handbook

Having an employee handbook is a must. Your handbook serves two important purposes: letting your employees know what you expect of them, and protecting your business in case there is a dispute.

An employee handbook can be as simple or as complex as you want, but there are some general approaches, depending upon the nature of your business, that you need to consider. According to the Small Business Administration, your handbook might include:

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Building Brand Recognition for Your Startup: Website Fundamentals

By: Rebecca Shipley 

When launching your startup, it is likely that the thought of how to best get exposure and a loyal following. And even better if you can do so while also building up your brand identity and its ability to be recognized and remembered by consumers, right? With the right elements, your website can make this happen for your startup. Use your website as a powerful tool to develop your brand and its ability to connect with and engage consumers.

Domain name
Your domain name is a link to your website (both literally and figuratively) that people will interact with before even reaching the homepage of your site. Therefore, you must help set your site up for success by choosing and brand conceptsregistering a domain name that ties in with your brand and promotes recognition and remembrance of it.

Make the domain name for your site something that is short and sweet, no longer than about four words. It should also be simple to spell out and to share, whether through word-of-mouth or digital mediums. Avoid using hyphens or numbers, as they tend to be accidentally put in the wrong place or left out entirely. These things will help your site’s domain name be remembered and shared, and as a result, promote brand recognition with more people, both on- and offline.

Your site’s domain name should also be brandable in the sense that it should itself be relevant to your brand. When a person sees it, they should know that it is connected to your brand if they are familiar with you. If a person has never before heard of your startup, once they visit your site they should see how its domain name ties in with the brand that is presented there.

Logo
Your brand’s logo will take up some valuable real estate on your website, placed prominently at the top of its homepage and various other internal pages. Ensure that it speaks to the message your brand wants to communicate and gives people the right idea of what your brand stands for and represents.

Both in design and in color scheme, your logo should not be too similar to that of your competitors. Avoid having it be overly fussy in a way that detracts from all your hard work on the rest of the site or that makes your brand look like it was indecisive on what it most wants to convey with its logo. The right logo makes a website and its design, as well as further promoting the site’s brand. The wrong logo can confuse consumers as to what your startup values and/or has to offer them.

Links to social media
Include links to each of your brand’s social media accounts on its website in a way and in a location that they are easily seen. Place them prominently on the site’s homepage or on a clearly identifiable tab. By directing traffic to your social media accounts through your website, you are allowing web users to see more of your brand’s content through its social media posts and your brand to build up the engagement of its social community online.

Content catered to your target market
Everything your brand does with its website needs to be done with its target market in mind. Give them content they find interesting and useful within your site. If you are not quite sure of who makes up your target market and what it is your target market wants to see from your brand, you will need to conduct market research in order to find out. This can be done either through primary research methods (like surveys and focus groups) or secondary research, in which your startup takes data already collected by an outside organization and uses it to form its own conclusions.

Know who you are using your site to market to, what it is they like and want to see, and craft your site around this knowledge. It is much easier to promote brand recognition with a specific segment of the market that you are working to get the attention of with your site than it is to attempt to do so by making general content that you hope pleases everyone.

Of course, your startup’s website needs to express what it is as a business and what it has to sell to the consumer. On top of that however, it needs to be a part of your startup’s online presence that serves as a strong representation of its brand and allows visitors to it to see that brand. Having your brand represented well on your site will allow people to recognize it, remember it, and be encouraged to follow along with all it is doing.

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How to Start a Business With (Almost) No Money

How to start a business

 

By: Jayson Demers

VIP CONTRIBUTOR

MARCH 21, 2016

You’re excited to start a business. Maybe you have an idea, or you’re just fascinated with the idea of launching and growing your own enterprise. You’re willing to take some risks, like leaving your current job or going without personal revenue for a while. But there’s one logistical hurdle stopping you: You don’t have much money.


On the surface, this seems like a major problem, but a lack of personal capital shouldn’t stop you from pursuing your dreams. In fact, it’s entirely possible to start and grow a business with almost no personal financial investment whatsoever -- if you know what you’re doing.

Why a business needs money

First, let’s take a look at why a business needs money in the first place. There’s no uniform “startup” fee for building a business, so different businesses will have different needs. It’s important to first estimate how much you need before you start finding alternative methods to fund your company.


Consider the following uses:

  • Licenses and permits. Depending on your region, you may need special paperwork and registry to operate.
  • Supplies. Are you buying raw materials? Do you need computers and/or other devices?
  • Equipment. Do you need specialized machinery or software?
  • Office space. This is a huge expense, and you can't neglect things like Internet, utilities costs, janitorial services and whether to outsource back office tasks, like payroll and invoicing.
  • Associations, subscriptions, memberships. What publications and affiliations will you subsribe to every month?
  • Operating expenses. Dig into the nooks and crannies here, and don’t forget about marketing.
  • Legal fees. Are you consulting a lawyer throughout your business-development process?
  • Employees, freelancers and contractors. If you can’t do it alone, you’ll need people on your payroll.

With that said, you have two main paths of starting a business with less money: lowering your costs or increasing your available capital from outside sources. You have three options here:

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