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3 Empowering Small Business Tips for Today, 2019, and a Better Future

Posted by MiriamEllis

“American business is overwhelmingly small business.” – SBE Council

Small businesses have created 61.8% of net new jobs in the US since the early 1990s. Local business is big business. Let’s celebrate this in honor of Small Business Saturday with 3 strategies that will support independent business owners this week, and in the better future that can be attained with the right efforts.

What’s Small Business Saturday?

It’s an annual shopping event sponsored by American Express on the Saturday following Thanksgiving with the primary goal of encouraging residents to patronize local merchants. The program was launched in 2010 in response to the Great Recession. By 2017, Small Business Saturday jumped to 7,200 Neighborhood Champions (individuals and groups that organize towns for the event), with 108 million reported participating consumers spending $ 12 billion across the country.

Those numbers are impressive, and more than that, they hold the acorn of strategy for the spreading oak of a nation in which independently grown communities set standards of living, set policy, and set us on course for a sustainable future.

Tips for small businesses today

If your community is already participating in Small Business Saturday, try these techniques to enhance your success on the big day:

1. Give an extra reason to shop with you

This can be as simple as giving customers a small discount or a small free gift with their purchase, or as far-reaching as donating part of the proceeds of the day’s sales to a worthy local cause. Give customers a reason to feel extra good that they shopped with you, especially if you can demonstrate how their purchase supports their own community. Check out our Local Business Holiday Checklist for further tips.

2. Give local media something to report

Creativity is your best asset in deciding how to make your place of business a top destination on Small Business Saturday, worthy of mentions in the local news. Live music? A treasure hunt? The best store window in town? Reach out to reporters if you’re doing something extra special to build up publicity.

3. Give a reason to come back year-round

Turn a shopping moment into a teaching moment. Print up some flyers from the American Independent Business Alliance and pass them out to customers to teach them how local purchasing increases local wealth, health, and security. Take a minute or two to talk with customers who express interest. Sometimes, all it takes is a little education and kindness to shift habits. First, take a few minutes to boost your own education by reading How to Win Some Customer Back from Amazon this Holiday Season.

AMIBA has a great list of tips for Small Business Saturday success and American Express has the best examples of how whole communities have created memorable events surrounding these campaigns. I’ve seen everything from community breakfast kickoffs in Michigan, to jazz bands in Louisiana, to Santa Claus coming to town on a riverboat in California. Working closely with participating neighboring businesses can transform your town or city into a holiday wonderland on this special day, and if your community isn’t involved yet, research this year can prepare you to rally support for an application to next year’s program.

Tips for small businesses for the new year

Unless your town is truly so small that all residents are already aware of every business located there, make 2019 the year you put the Internet to work for you and your community. Even small town businesses have news and promotions they’d like to share on the web, and don’t forget the arrival of new neighbors and travelers who need to be guided to find you. In larger cities, every resident and visitor needs help navigating the local commercial scene.

Try these tips for growth in the new year:

  1. Dig deeply into the Buy Local movement by reading The Local SEO’s Guide to the Buy Local Phenomenon. Even if you see yourself as a merchant today, you can re-envision your role as a community advocate, improving the quality of life for your entire town.
  2. Expand your vision of excellent customer service to include the reality that your neighbors are almost all on the Internet part of every day looking for solutions to their problems. A combination of on-and-offline customer service is your key to becoming the problem-solver that wins lucrative, loyal patrons. Read What the Local Customer Service Ecosystem Looks Like in 2019.
  3. Not sure where to begin learning about local search marketing on the web? First, check out Moz’s free Local SEO Learning Center with articles written for the beginner to familiarize yourself with the basic concepts. Then, start following the recognized leaders in this form of marketing to keep pace with new developments and opportunities as they arise. Make a new year’s resolution to devote just 15 minutes a day, 5 days a week, to learning more about marketing your small local business. By the end of a single year, you will have become a serious force for promotion of your company and the community it serves.

Tips for an independent business future: The time is right

I’ve been working in local business marketing for about 15 years, watching not just the development of technologies, but the ebb and flow of brand and consumer habits and attitudes. What I’m observing with most interest as we close out the present year is a rising tide of localistic leanings.

On the one hand, we have some of the largest brands (Google, Amazon, Facebook, etc.) losing the trust of the public in serious scandals surrounding privacy, human rights violations, and even war. On the other hand, we have small business owners uniting to revitalize their communities in wounded cities like Detroit and tiny towns like Bozeman, in the wake of the Great Recession, itself cited as a big brand product.

Where your company does business may influence your customers’ take on economics, but overall, the engrossing trend I’m seeing is towards more trust in smaller, independently owned companies. In fact, communities across the US are starting to map out futures for themselves that are as self-sustaining as possible. Earlier, I referenced small business owners undergoing a mental shift from lone merchant to community advocate, and here, I’ve mapped out a basic model for towns and cities to shift toward independence.

What most communities can’t access locally are branded products: imported big label clothing, packaged foods, electronics, cars, branded cosmetics, books. Similarly, most communities don’t have direct local access to the manufacture or mining of plastics, metals, and gases. And, very often, towns and cities lack access to agroforestry for raw lumber, fuel, natural fibers and free food. So, let’s say for now that the typical community leaves these things up to big brands so that they can still buy computers, books and stainless steel cookware from major manufacturers.

But beyond this, with the right planning, the majority of the components for a high standard of living can be created and owned locally. For example:

There are certainly some things we may rely on big brands and federal resources for, but it isn’t Amazon or the IRS who give us a friendly wave as we take our morning hike through town, making us feel acknowledged as people and improving our sense of community. For that, we have to rely on our neighbor. And it’s becoming increasingly clear that it’s up to towns and cities to determine whether neighbors are experiencing a decent standard of living.

Reading the mood of the economy, I am seeing more and more Americans becoming open to the messages that the percentage of small businesses in a community correlates with residents’ health, that quality social interactions lessen the chances of premature death by 50%, that independent businesses recirculate almost 4x as much community wealth, and that Main Street-style city planning massively reduces pollution vs. big box stores on the outskirts of town.

Small Business Saturday doesn’t have to be a once-a-year phenomenon. Small business owners, by joining together as community advocates, have the power to make it a way of life where they live. And they have one significant advantage over most corporations, the value of which shouldn’t be underestimated: They can begin the most important conversations face-to-face with their neighbors, asking, “Who do we want to be? Where do want to live? What’s our best vision for how life could be here?”

Don’t be afraid to talk beyond transactions with your favorite customers. Listening closely, I believe you’ll discover that there’s a longing for change and that the time is right.

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Google Birthday Update: Google Confirms Small Algorithm Update On September 27th

On Friday we reported on a possible Google update that touched down on September 27th. Google’s Danny Sullivan confirmed on Saturday that Google did do a “smaller” update this past week but would not classify it as a big update like the Medic Update from August 1st.


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A basic SEO audit for small businesses

Most small businesses can perform a simple audit and improve their SEO considerably without involving an agency. Ten steps you can take to get started.



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NFIB Index Shows Small Business Optimism in the US is at Its Highest Level Ever

Small businesses are feeling very positive these days. According to the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB), this optimism has reached record-breaking levels.

A recent NFIB report showed that August’s Small Business Optimism Index came in at an all-time high of 108.8. The previous index record was 108 and was set 35 years ago in July 1983.

Juanita Duggan, the President and CEO of NFIB, said in a press release that the amazing number was a clear indication that business in the US is indeed booming, a claim that many small business owners have reaffirmed.

There were also several key points that the August index survey revealed, like:

  • Inventory investment plans were the most stable since 2005. Meanwhile, capital spending plans are at the highest peak since 2007.
  • New records have also been set with regards to job creation and unfilled job openings.
  • The number of small company owners who said it was a good time to expand tied with the record high seen in May 2018.

Duggan also stated that as taxes and regulations were changed, small companies also adjusted their business plans and expectations.

“We’re now seeing the tangible results of those plans as small businesses report historically high, some record-breaking, levels of increased sales, investment, earnings, and hiring,” Duggan explained.

The NFIB president also pointed out in an earlier report, most of the optimism seen in the index was due to the component gains generated by expectations. For instance, expectations regarding business conditions, real sales, and even when would be a good time for businesses to expand.

However, the new report highlights real industry activities, like capital spending plans, inventory investment plans, and job openings. This data, based as it is on real activity, shows that higher GDP growth is on the horizon.

While the Optimism Index is confirming facts that people want to hear, it also showed problem areas. For instance, companies are still having difficulty securing qualified workers. About 90 percent of businesses trying to fill a position have reported they found very few to no qualified applicants. What’s more, the percentage of firms who might offer a higher salary remained unchanged at 32 percent while businesses who planned to give employees a pay raise dropped to a low 21 percent.

[Featured image via Pexels]

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SearchCap: Google’s deal with Mastercard not ‘deceptive’, small business SEO & more

Below is what happened in search today, as reported on Search Engine Land and from other places across the web.



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US House of Representatives Pass JOBS Act 3.0, Bill Aims to Help Small Businesses Get More Funding

Small businesses won big on Tuesday night when the House of Representatives passed JOBS Act 3.0. The bill passed on a 406-4 vote, a surprisingly solid consensus from a chamber that has gained infamy due to its present bipartisan differences. But what is the JOBS Act 3.0 and what does it mean for small businesses in the US?

Understanding JOBS Act 3.0 and Its Significance

Originally known as the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act of 2012, the legislation has been under discussion for several years as Congress tried to hammer out changes that both parties would be happy with.

JOBS Act 3.0, or the JOBS and Investor Confidence Act of 2018, is an amalgamation of 20 distinct bills. These bills are all designed to encourage and boost entrepreneurship by making it easier for small businesses to gain access to capital markets.

Under JOBS Act 3.0, new legislation will ease banking regulations, allowing startups to get the financial help they need. It will also stimulate venture capital and make it possible for initial public offering (IPO) to become more manageable and affordable.

This move certainly garnered the approval of Tom Quaadman, the Executive Vice President of the US Chamber Center for Capital Markets Competitiveness. According to Quaadman, these pro-growth policies will not only help get new businesses off the ground, it will also improve the chances that these enterprises will grow, innovate, and boost the job market.

“It is a win for entrepreneurs, businesses, and job creators across the country,” Quaadman said.

Ways the JOBS Act Can Benefit Small Businesses

There are numerous ways JOBS Act 3.0 will help small businesses. For one, it will remove barriers that hinder companies from raising capital.

The US Chamber of Commerce revealed that three-fourths of the country’s business financing comes from capital markets. However, the sheer number of regulations makes it challenging to keep up with demand. This has resulted in a decline in the number of US startups in recent years. Now China is leading the IPO revolution, producing more than one-third of the world’s startups compared to the 11 percent by the US.

New regulations would also permit a larger number of accredited investors to invest in startups and small businesses, thus improving their chances. For instance, people who earn more than $ 200,000 a year or those who have a net worth of $ 1 million or more could become accredited investors. This will boost the pool of investors and provide more capital funds.

The Act will also clarify how businesspeople and angel investors can discuss their investments without running into trouble with securities laws. A clear understanding of these regulations would increase venture capital movement and make acquisitions by small businesses easier.

What’s Next for the Bill

The JOBS Act 3.0 has garnered a lot of support from numerous organizations and companies. The Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) even praised it for being a “tremendous step forward for small, pre-revenue innovators.” However, the bill still has some ways to go.

The legislation is now in the hands of the Senate, the chamber of Congress that has become known for not getting things done. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will now have the job of wrangling enough votes to get the bill in front of President Trump by fall.

[Featured image via Pexels]

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Google Rebrands AdWords, Introduces ‘Smart Campaigns’ for Small Businesses

Google has revamped how its ad services and products are organized and sold in a bid to make its advertising system easier for brands to understand.

After two decades, Google is retiring AdWords and DoubleClick names and rebranding them instead. They are also being reorganized in order to better showcase their capabilities and growth trajectory. DoubleClick products and the Google Analytics 360 Suite will now fall under the umbrella of Google Marketing Platform. DoubleClick Ad Exchange and DoubleClick for Publishers will be integrated into the Google Ad Manager while AdWords will now be called Google Ads.

The newly introduced Google Marketing Platform is designed to assist clients in planning, buying, measuring and optimizing their digital media and customer experience. The decision to merge the DoubleClick and Analytics 360 Suite brands was the result of marketer feedback regarding the advantages of using analytics and ads technology to create improved customer understanding and bigger business results.

Meanwhile, Google Ads will represent the extent of the company’s advertising capacity across its numerous properties, like Google Maps, Google Play, and YouTube. Google Ads will also roll out a new type of ad strategy called Smart Campaigns. This feature will be utilizing machine learning technology and focuses on small businesses. It will be the default experience of start-up companies.

As for the Google Ad Manager, the unified programmatic system is developed to help partners to generate higher revenue in a more efficient manner.

The three new brands are being hailed as a way to help all advertisers and publishers pick the right solutions for their business, regardless of the size. It also aims to make it easier for companies to provide consumers with trustworthy ads and an improved experience regardless of the channels and devices used.

The restructuring of its ads business was announced on Tuesday by Sridhar Ramaswamy, the SVP of Ads at Google. According to Ramaswamy, the company’s extensive ad offerings is challenging for advertisers, ad agencies, and publishers to navigate. He also mentioned that while advertising opportunities have never been greater, it has also become more complicated.

“It is harder for advertisers, publishers, and agencies that help them choose the right products for their business and know how to use them,” Ramaswamy said.

Despite the changes, brands have nothing to worry about as Ramaswamy emphasized that Google’s “underlying products aren’t changing.” But while the rebranding is basically just a name change, there will be small changes in some ad interfaces that will streamline the different services that the company’s advertising and marketing products offer.

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PayPal Here Launches Two New Card Readers, Giving Small Businesses More Ways to Accept Payments

Every customer wants a swift and smooth payment transaction, with little fuss. This holds true regardless of whether they’re buying from a major enterprise or a small business. That goal is certainly possible with PayPal Here’s two new payment card readers.

PayPal recently launched a Chip and Swipe reader and a Chip and Tap reader, both of which will help users and small companies easily conduct credit card transactions anywhere.

The Chip and Swipe reader is an improved version of the company’s previous swipe-style reader. It now comes with support for debit and credit cards with EMV chip technology. Meanwhile, the Chip and Tap reader can process contactless payment options from NFC-supported devices and also accepts EMV-supported cards. The device also comes with a portable charging stand.

Image result for paypal chip and swipe card reader

Both payment readers can easily process transaction choices like Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, and Google Pay.

PayPal’s new readers have been designed with portability in mind. The two devices are about the size of a deck of cards, making it possible for small retailers and entrepreneurs to do business in any location—a country fair, the neighborhood cafe—without worrying about wires or having to carry bulky hardware. They can easily connect to any mobile device using Bluetooth technology. The readers also have a user-friendly interface and can now be used for extended periods, thanks to their rechargeable lithium-ion battery.

PayPal is offering the Chip and Swipe reader for $ 24.99 and the Chip and Tap reader for $ 59.99. Both devices will work seamlessly with the PayPal Here. The app is available via the Apple App Store and Google Play.

In a statement, PayPal In-Store’s Chief Chris Gardner stated that the company understands the “challenges small businesses face—including protection from fraudulent transactions and the costs of equipment to run their business—and constantly work to develop products and services that allow them to thrive in an increasingly competitive environment.” Their new and affordable card payment readers are their newest endeavor to help small business.

Gardner also pointed out that small and medium businesses also look for a “one-stop shop” for all their commerce and payment services. After all, these companies don’t have the time to deal with various vendors to manage all these financial activities. PayPal is determined to be the company to handle these demands. Merchants can use PayPal for their online transactions, PayPal Here for their physical processes, and PayPal Working Capital to help finance their expansion.

[Featured image via PayPal]

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3 Small Steps that Led to Oversized Outcomes

Remember the movie Sliding Doors? It’s a story of two parallel lives — one in which the heroine catches a particular train home from work, and one in which she misses that train and catches the next one. That insignificant event goes on to change everything about her life — and even the time of
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Salesforce Offers New AI Features to Small Businesses

Most Corporations have the advantage of unlimited access to all the features a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) platform offers. Now small businesses can also enjoy this perk as well.

During Salesforce’s yearly Dreamforce conference, the company announced that one of their best performing CRM platforms – the Sales Cloud Lightning Essentials – will be available to all. With this, small businesses will enjoy the same access to features that large enterprises use to grow rapidly and work quicker and smarter. Small companies will also have access to Salesforce’s newest innovations, like Einstein AI, Lightning, and Trailhead.

Essentials Meet the Demands of Small Business

Salesforce knows that to be able to cope with the demands of today’s competitive marketplaces, businesses should be able to easily integrate new technology into their day-to-day operations. This need is underlined by the revelation that 66% of small company heads are handling two or more departments. Meanwhile, only 26% of small businesses have an in-house IT department while the rest either deal with contractors or try to work out IT problems on their own.

Salesforce Essentials can go a long way in easing this burden, as the platform was designed for simplicity and functionality. Small business analyst, Brent Leary, explained that small companies need guidance and a user-friendly platform, especially if they’re new to CRM. Essentials’ simple interface does meet that requirement, with the Trailhead feature providing the necessary assistance needed to develop leads faster and see results more quickly.

New AI Features Great for Small Business

The three key features added to the Sales Cloud Lightning Essentials will definitely make a difference to small businesses.

Trailhead is an interactive, online learning platform that assists users in its implementation. It also gives guidance on topics like how to implement innovation and raise business knowledge.

Meanwhile, Einstein is showing small businesses the practical aspects of artificial intelligence. In an interview, Salesforce’s Senior Product Director of Marketing, Eric Bernsley, explained that while most have a lot of questions about AI, they don’t want big, vague concepts. They want to see how AI can help businesses get more done.

Entrepreneurs and small business owners know that manually inputting data is time-consuming and leaves little time for a company to identify or pursue new opportunities. But with Einstein, basic sales activities can be automated or records kept up-to-date. It can also help with predictive lead scoring or look at areas connected to possible leads.

Since Essentials is built on Salesforce’s Lightning framework, small businesses will be able to enjoy a smooth transition of their workflow on any device due to the system’s intuitive design. And when Essentials is combined with other Salesforce Apps, small businesses can eventually manage their whole sales conversation – accounts, leads to contacts – on any device, whether from the office or out in the field.

More importantly, all of Essentials’ features are scalable, meaning they’re flexible and can meet the CRM needs of any company, regardless of the size. And since Essentials is also built on a global platform, upgrading can be done anytime, something that will be beneficial to small companies.

[Featured Image via Salesforce]

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