Weird Holidays in April: 13 Your Small Business Should Celebrate


April approaches. And this means warmer weather, buds of spring and Easter beckoning. So celebrate this joyful springtime month. And if you own a small business take note.

You’ll learn a string of weird and wacky holidays are also on tap. And the savviest small businesses use these celebrations to their advantage when marketing.



Weird Holidays in April

Take a look at the following weird holidays in April And decide which ones your business can celebrate.

April Fool’s Day – April 1

No business can afford to miss out on this holiday for practical jokes.

Generate fun. Create good humor. And build great professional relationships. Play goodhearted pranks on your customers or clients. And make them laugh on April Fool’s Day. Use the likes of social media to create engagement with an April Fool’s Day prank to boost your brand’s exposure.

Reading Is Funny Day – April 1

April Fool’s Day shares a day with Reading Is Funny Day. Reading is Run Day aims at showing children that reading is just as fun as modern forms of entertainment. Naturally, you’ll want to think about this if you own a business associated with children or with  books. Think bookshop, children’s book author, children’s entertainer etc. Become involved in Reading Is Funny Day by running special promotions and marking the event.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Day – April 2

National Peanut Butter and Jelly Day again presents opportunities for certain kinds of businesses. Manufacturers of peanut butter or jelly, food retailers, cafes, bars and more should actively celebrate the day. Use it to pull in customers who like your product or service anyway.Or use it to encourage non-fans to give it a try.

Burrito Day, April 4

National Burrito Day presents another opportunity for certain kinds of small businesses. And cafes, restaurants, bars and certain food manufacturers should certainly participate. Promote your burrito recipes on your website, social media channels or on boards outside your premises. Draw attention to this weird February holiday and generate more business on April 4.

Pillow Fight Day, April 6

And you can even celebrate pillow fights on Pillow Fight Day. If you manufacturer bed linen, beds or pillows using this day for marketing makes sense. And the same holds true for interior designers. Use your imagination and creativity to weave Pillow Fight Day into your marketing campaigns. And leverage the idea to generate brand awareness.

Be Kind To Lawyers Day, April 9

This wacky April holiday only launched in 2017. But consider celebrating if you run a law office. And raise awareness of your profession. Because participating also shows you’re a fun, engaging lawyer firm which is ‘with the times.’

Barbershop Quartet Day, April 11

This day presents an opportunity for barbers and musicians. Barbershop Quartet Day celebrates barbershop music. The unique style features harmony singing without accompanying music. This style of music originated in the 19th century in American barbershops. Because at the time men used these shops to congregate and socialize.

Barber should celebrate this intriguing April holiday. Host a barbershop quartet show in your shop. And use it to pull in customers to enjoy a day of music, fun and cutting hair.

World Art Day, April 15

World Art Day celebrates fine arts to promote awareness of creative activity around the world. And any business involved in creative products or services should participate in celebrating World Art Day.

These include local artist and businesses making handmade jewelry. But they also include entrepreneurs selling arty products or running an art gallery. So be sure you hashtag World Art Day. And share your enthusiasm towards promoting creativity.

Get To Know Your Customers Day, April 18

And don’t ignore Get To Know Your Customers Day. The day encourages businesses of all sizes and sectors to get to know their customers better.

Use #GetToKnowYourCustomerDay on social media. Or go the extra mile and invite customers and clients to your business to chat with your team. Make the most of this holiday designed to help businesses grow.

Take A Chance Day, April 23

Every year, April 23 marks Take A Chance Day in the US. And this weird but wonderful April holiday encourages people to break out of their comfort zones. So take a chance on achieving an important goal. Businesses should use Take A Chance Day to something ‘out of the box’. And you nurture innovation, creativity and ultimately growth by doing something extraordinary.

Hairstylists Appreciation Day, April 25

You benefit from Hairstylists Appreciation Day whether you’re an independent stylist or run your own salon. So use the day to generate interest in your brand and hair styling services. Run Hairstylists Appreciation Day promotions. And post videos of your stylists busy styling customers’ hair on social media. Use this day dedicated to your creative trade to your advantage.

Independent Bookstore Day, April 27

Not many bookworms can resist exploring an independent bookshop. So if you run an independent bookshop be sure to celebrate and promote Independent Bookstore Day on April 27. Stack books of every genre or topic. And pull in the book lovers to ultimately sell more books.

International Jazz Day, April 30

Promote musicians, artists, record shops and other businesses associated with music. Use International Jazz Day to sell to music lovers.  Study up on this April 30 holiday. International Jazz  Day highlights the diplomatic role this genre of music has played in uniting people around the world.

So promote and celebrate this weird yet wonderful April holiday. And give jazz music and your business the recognition they deserve.

Image: Depositphotos.com


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25 Hobbies You Can Transform into a Small Business


We all have little hobbies and interests that we like to spend quality time with, but many people don’t realize how much money there is to be made from these passions of ours. With a little research and investment, it really is possible to turn these 25 hobbies into lucrative businesses.



Hobbies that Make Money

Pet Sitting and Dog Walking

If you love animals, then you can make money while enjoying their company by becoming the local pet sitter or dog walker.

Woodworking

This could be a real earner as people love to buy handmade boxes, tables, bookshelves and all sorts of decorative wooden items. 

Wood-burning

If you enjoy wood-burning as a hobby, then you should advertise your services as it is a popular decorative feature that most people don’t know how to do themselves. 

Arts and Crafts

Similar to woodworking but involving literally anything and everything else you can think of! If you enjoyed making it, then chances are people will enjoy owning it. You can even open your own web-stores on sites such as Etsy, eBay and Amazon. 

DIY

For everyone who loves a bit of DIY, there are probably thousands if not more who don’t like it at all. Advertise yourself as a local handyman and make some money while practicing and honing your skills! 

Yard Sale Shopping

If you enjoy rummaging through the goods at a yard sale then try applying a more professional eye and seek out items you can buy and then ‘flip’ for a better price at another sale. 

Writing and Editing

There are so many possibilities to make money from writing such as editing and proofreading, as well as selling your own writings on self-publishing platforms such as Amazon and Good Reads. 

Catering

Take your love of cooking on a grand scale to its financially rewarding end by providing a catering service for special events such as weddings and business conferences. 

Baking

Baking offers the unique possibility of selling your creations to local cafes and bakeries.

Photography

The enjoyment of photography often comes from capturing a perfect moment, and those perfect moments can be valuable to the likes of media outlets, stock photo websites and businesses. 

Playing Video Games

Video gaming has evolved more in the last few years then it did in the previous couple of decades. There‘s real money to be made now by streaming your expert efforts on sites like Twitch and YouTube. 

Playing Poker

Another game where there is money to be made is good ole poker. Professional players usually have a system which involves figuring out the ‘pot odds’ which determines whether they play or fold each hand, and this system means they usually win more than they lose. 

Reviewing and Reacting

An interesting recent development is the popularity (and thus money-making possibility) of online video reviews and reactions. There’s a bit of pot luck about this, but review something of a genre you’re already interested in and knowledgeable of and your own personal angle just might take off. 

Painting

You love to paint but are running out of places to hang your art? Then start selling it! 

Decorating

If you have a passion for creating ideal home comforts, then make your skills available to others by starting an interior design and decorating business. 

Making Clothes

Not everybody wants to buy famous labels and known brands. There are many folks who prefer to buy from independent clothes makers, which you could be if you advertise your creations for sale. 

Fishing

If you have developed some fishing skill over the years, then start building relationships with your local fishmongers and food markets. Restaurants also like to boast their ingredients are locally sourced, so source their fish for them! 

Sports Coaching

If that dodgy knee won’t let you run around quite as much as you used to, then apply your knowledge of the game to coaching instead. 

Sports Officiating

Local sports are often crying out for officials to ensure they can organize the games properly, so this is an avenue worth exploring for anyone interested in facilitating sports. 

Travel Blogging

Traveling is one of the best things someone can do with their life, and it gets even better when you get paid for it! Travel blogging can be quite lucrative these days so start exploring those possibilities as you plan your next trip. 

Dancing

Have you spent years perfecting a particular dance? Then earn some fun money by teaching others to dance it too. 

Playing Music

If you can play an instrument, then you can teach someone else to play the instrument. Ensure your skills are up to standard and you have whatever qualifications you need, then start earning some good money. 

Yoga

This isn’t recommended for anyone who has only taken a few yoga classes, but if you have reached the point where you no longer need instruction for your yoga routines, then perhaps it’s time to start a business teaching your knowledge to others. 

Driving

If you enjoy driving, then earn money by becoming a professional driver with Uber or Lyft. 

Growing Fruit and Vegetables

Lots of people love to buy locally grown produce, so with enough yard space you can turn your love of gardening into a business!

Images: DepositPhotos.com


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How to save your business from extinction | Mark Cameron


Mark Cameron

How to save your business from extinction 

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Do you know where your market will be in five years time? Do you plan on evolving with it or are you hoping that technological advancements won’t affect your business model? Well I have some news for you..

On this episode of Unstoppable, I sit down with CEO of W3 Digital, certified experience economy expert columnist for BRW and Marketing Mag to discuss the digital and technological transformations within the market, and the importance of evolving your business with the market rather than waiting until it’s too late.

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In this episode, you will learn:

  • 10:59 How to analyse your digital experience as a business owner
  • 12:34 Social media’s role in the digital experience
  • 16:23 What will happen with the emergence of consumer data
  • 22:46 Artificial intelligence: what is it and when should businesses start using it?
  • 36:47 The biggest mistakes business owners are currently making right now

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Most Stressful Cities in the US: Is Your Small Business Located in One?


You can’t avoid stress. But consider the many contributing factors. Where you live proves to be one of them. So if your business makes its home in one of these stressful areas, watch out. Keeping your employees stress free should figure high on your priority list.

With that in mind, Zippia set out to find the most stressed out cities in each of the 50 states in the U.S.A. The list has some little known and very recognizable cities, which goes to show you won’t be able to escape stress no matter where you live.

For the report, Zippia calculated the most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Census American Community Survey from 2013-2017.

Each city in the US were ranked using criteria affecting residents common to most people. This includes unemployment, hours worked, commute times, population density, home price to income ratio, and percent of uninsured population.

Cities ranking high in any or all of those areas were identified as being more stressful. Zappia then took a closer look at all 50 states to determine which cities in those states were the most and least stressed.



Top 10 Most Stressed Cities

In 2019, Zappia identified West New York, NJ as the most stressed city in the U.S. The report said it is one of the most densely populated cities in the U.S. and globally.

More people means longer commutes, which is the case in West New York. Add high unemployment rate and they have combined to make the city number on this dubious list.

The second city is in California, but you might’ve never heard Huron. The city only has 6,926 people, but the people work long hours, with an average of 45.7 hours per week. Huron also has the lowest average income. Long hours with low income will make anyone stress out.

The third city is South Miami, FL. This is not a typo, it actually made the list as the 3rd most stressed out city in the U.S. even though it is tourist destination.

While tourist may enjoy South Miami, it is a different story for residents who live there. They have to contend with long commutes, high unemployment rates, exorbitant home prices, and a large uninsured population.

The number four spot goes to Glasmanor, MD and Edgewater, CO rounds up the top five cities in the list.

The remaining five cities in the top 10 starts with Manorhaven, NY at number 6, followed by Woodlawn Cdp (Fairfax County): VA at number 7; Justice, IL at number 8; Fair Oaks, GA at number 9; and Terrytown, LA at number 10.

Monitoring and Managing your Stress Level

As the urbanization of the population continues to increase, the taxing effects on both the body and the brain of living in cities is resulting in more stress.

If you don’t monitor and manage your stress properly, it becomes the underlying condition for some of the deadliest diseases. High stress is an environmental condition for high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer, stroke, obesity, and insomnia to name but a few of the illnesses.

According to the Mayo Clinic, a small amount of stress can be good because it can motivate you to perform well. But if you don’t monitor and manage your stress level it can have some negative consequences.

The clinic says, “Multiple challenges daily, such as sitting in traffic, meeting deadlines and paying bills, can push you beyond your ability to cope.”

With the right stress management tools, you can help your mind and body adapt to the conditions you are living in. And these techniques will help your employees too.

Most Stressful Cities in the US

The graph below lists all 5o of the most stressed out cities in each state.

What Are the Most Stressful Cities in the US?

Image: Depositphotos.com


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10 Ways to Improve Your Business, Online and Offline


 

To run a successful business in 2019, you need to incorporate both online and offline strategies. For everything from marketing to managing your team, it’s important to know the options and requirements to build a thriving business. Here are a wide array of tips from the online small business community to help you manage both the online and offline parts of your business.



Make Promos More Prominent with Google My Business Offers

Google My Business recently unveiled “Offers,” a new view for customers that could help local businesses make promotions a bit more prominent. To learn about this new feature and how to effectively take advantage of it, check out this Bright Local post by Jamie Pitman.

Create a Winning Profile, Online and Off

Most businesses today exist in both the online and offline world. Even if your customers only really interact with you online, there are some offline concepts that likely impact your day-to-day. If you want to create a winning profile in both of these worlds, read this Startup Professionals Musings post by Martin Zwilling.

Learn from Top Marketing Emails

Email marketing has been around for a long time and so many businesses use it as part of their strategy. But some companies have found unique ways through the years to make emails stand out. In this GetResponse post, Michal Leszczynski goes over some of these examples and talks about the lessons that other marketers can learn from them.

Read These Quotes About Risk Taking

Risk is a part of running any type of business. Whether you’re staying small with an online business or attempting to grow a brand with physical locations around the world, you may need some inspiration. Here, Joel Libava of The Franchise King has compiled some quotes that could help. And you can see thoughts from the BizSugar community here.

Write Marketing Copy That Gets Results

Whether you’re writing for a blog or traditional media, the strength of your marketing copy can have a major impact on your success. In this Crowdspring post, Katie Lundin offers some tips for creating marketing copy that can actually get results and help you grow your business.

Learn All About Payroll Processing

Whether you run a business that’s mainly online or off, you need to understand your legal and financial requirements. If you have a team, that means you have to know about payroll processing. Nellie Akalp of CorpNet dives into the concept here and shares all the details you need to know as a business owner.

Increase Engagement with Social Media Giveaways

People love getting free stuff. This was true before the rise of social media and it’s still true today. So if you’re looking to increase engagement on these platforms, why not utilize this concept. This Social Media HQ post by David Webb explores how you can most effectively use giveaways on social media.

Consider Current Mobile Trends

Mobile technology is making an impact on online businesses as well as brick and mortar shops. If you want to make use of this technology for your own business, it helps to look at what others in the industry are achieving. Here’s a rundown of the current trends from Vikas Gulati on the Marketing Land blog.

Know the Ups and Downs of Social Media

Whether you’re building a business around social media or just using it on a daily basis, being an entrepreneur requires a deep understanding of the tools and trends that surround these platforms. In this post, Rachel Strella of Strella Social Media details some of the best and worst things that come with working in the industry. And BizSugar members shared thoughts on the post here.

Grow Your Declining Google Traffic

Even if you experience a lull in online traffic, you can take that as an opportunity to learn and grow your business. To make the most of the situation and bring your online business back up to speed, you can learn some valuable lessons by diving into Neil Patel’s story.

If you’d like to suggest your favorite small business content to be considered for an upcoming community roundup, please send your news tips to: sbtips@gmail.com.

Image: Depositphotos.com


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Chicago Workshop Teaches Small Businesses about the Voice of the Customer


The Voice of the Customer (VOC) grows louder every day. Customers can now share a bad experience easily with the world. They can take to social media, a website, blog, review sites, or forums to voice their discontent. Handle the problem quickly. Otherwise your brand could take a big hit.

Applied Marketing Science (AMS) plans a workshop titled “Listening to the Voice of the Customer,” to teach how to accelerate your marketing efforts by using VOC research.

Attendees will participate with hands-on exercises and activities to build the necessary skills for executing VOC at their companies.

Some of the topics to be covered in the workshop include identifying the right customers to interview, choosing the right structure and asking the right questions — the right way. Then analyze customer interviews to extract customer needs and more.

The workshop puts you closer  to a higher goal. The two full days (16 hours) of credit count toward the Product Development and Management Association’s New Product Development Professional certification and re-certification.

The event occurs at the University Club of Chicago and runs October 16-17, 2019.

Click the button and enter Discount Code SMALLBIZ to get $100 off the course registration price.

Register Now





Featured Events, Contests and Awards

Elevate Your Digital InfluenceElevate Your Digital Influence
April 13, 2019, Issaquah, Wash.

Are you ready to grow your business? Join us and learn how to put together a PR plan and leverage what you are doing on social to grow your level of influence. Are you ready to be a leader in your marketplace? #ElevateYourDigitalInfluence


Listening to the Voice of the Customer WorkshopListening to the Voice of the Customer Workshop
April 23, 2019, Boston, Mass.

Join Applied Marketing Science (AMS) for the next open-enrollment session of “Listening to the Voice of the Customer,” our acclaimed training workshop, on April 23-24, 2019 at the Sheraton Boston Hotel located in the heart of downtown Boston. Led by veteran product development and market research experts, Gerry Katz (AMS Vice Chairman), and John Burns (AMS Principal), this course will introduce Voice of the Customer market research and teach you to use it to accelerate innovation in business-to-business markets.
Discount Code
SMALLBIZ ($100 Discount)


Beachpreneurs Beach Camp 5Beachpreneurs Beach Camp 5
April 26, 2019, Daytona Beach, Fla.

For starters, we’re for Women Entrepreneurs only. During Beach Camp, you’ll have plenty of opportunity to learn, apply and mastermind with warm successful women.
You’ll also have time to sleep in and you’ll get long breaks to relax and walk the beach or go for a swim. We didn’t create a conference at the beach just to lock you away in a conference room from dawn til dusk. Beach Camp is a lifestyle focused event so you’ll be spending as much time enjoying your life as you will be focusing on your business. Join us today!


Listening to the Voice of the Customer Listening to the Voice of the Customer
October 16, 2019, Chicago, Ill.

Led by veteran product development and market research experts, this course will introduce Voice of the Customer (VOC) market research and teach you to use it to accelerate innovation in business-to-business markets. The workshop uses a lively, interactive format with numerous hands-on activities and practice exercises to build skills and will also expose you to the latest applications of these techniques in areas such as machine learning and journey mapping.
Discount Code
SMALLBIZ ($100 Off)


More Events

  • Breaking Through: Taking Your Consulting Business to New Heights
    March 27, 2019, Burlingame, Calif.
  • The Trust Paradox: The Future of Privacy and Transparency in the Digital Economy
    March 28, 2019, Redwood City, Calif.
  • ICAP 2019
    April 15, 2019, Frankfurt, Germany
  • 10th Annual Women’s Success Summit
    April 18, 2019, Bellevue, Wash.
  • Transformational CISO Assembly in Nashville – April 2019
    April 23, 2019, Nashville, Tenn.
  • Advancing Construction Analytics 2019
    April 29, 2019, Lakewood, Colo.
  • CCB TechShowcase
    May 09, 2019, Milwaukee, Wis.
  • Circular Summit 2019
    May 09, 2019, Santa Rosa, Calif.
  • DigiMarCon East 2019 – Digital Marketing Conference & Exhibition
    May 09, 2019, Online
  • Experiential Marketing Summit 2019
    May 14, 2019, Las Vegas, Nev.
  • Fearless in Data
    May 14, 2019, Atlanta, Ga.
  • Kimberly Coates
    May 14, 2019, San Diego, Calif.
  • Chief Analytics Officers & Influencers, Spring
    May 15, 2019, San Diego, Calif.
  • 2019 Marketing Analytics Conference ? Atlanta, GA ? May 15 – 16, 2019
    May 15, 2019, Atlanta, Ga.
  • TECHSPO Toronto 2019
    May 16, 2019, Toronto, Ontario
  • DigiMarCon Canada 2019 – Digital Marketing Conference & Exhibition
    May 16, 2019, Toronto, Ontario
  • ComTech Forum on Network Automation
    May 16, 2019, Sunnyvale, Calif.
  • 21st Annual Top 10 Tech Trends
    May 16, 2019, Santa Clara, Calif.
  • Wall Street Journal Future Of Everything Festival, NYC
    May 20, 2019, New York, N.Y.
  • Advancing Preconstruction and Estimating 2019 Conference, Dallas, Texas
    May 20, 2019, Dallas, Texas

More Contests

This weekly listing of small business events, contests and awards is provided as a community service by Small Business Trends.

You can see a full list of events, contest and award listings or post your own events by visiting the Small Business Events Calendar.
Image: Shutterstock


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Ginger Conlon of The Drum: What is the Most Significant Moment in the 25 Year History of Digital Marketing?


Yesterday I had the opportunity to participate on a panel focused on the future of customer experience at Oracle’s MCX (Modern Customer Experience) event held in Vegas.  The panel was a lot of fun because I got to sit on the panel with a couple of old friends and CRM industry thought leaders — Beagle Research managing partner Denis Pombriant, and Ginger Conlon, US Editor of The Drum.

After the panel I spent some time with Ginger to discuss an intriguing question based on the upcoming 25th anniversary of the first digital display ads being run on websites — what has been the most significant moment in the 25 year history of digital marketing?

Ginger and I take a shot at answering that, but as you’ll see below it’s kind of hard to narrow it down to one moment or thing.  You can read our attempt at answering the question with the edited transcript below. To see the full conversation you can watch the video below or the play the embedded SoundCloud player.

Small Business Trends:  I’m here, still at Oracle MCX, with Ginger Conlon, the U.S. editor for The Drum, and a longtime friend. I knew her before she was playing with drums. Thanks for joining me.

Ginger Conlon:  Thank you, Brent. I love the on-the-fly interview.

Small Business Trends:  Yeah.

Ginger Conlon:  Or conversation. Because I’m going to ask you questions, too.

Small Business Trends:  Oh, so you’re going to turn the tables, okay. But that’s okay.

Ginger Conlon:  It’s what I do.

Small Business Trends:  That’s exactly what you do. Matter of fact, I have a big question that you are asking a few people around a really interesting digital marketing topic, because it’s kind of what you do, right?

Ginger Conlon:  It’s what I do, but also this October is the 25th anniversary of digital marketing, and basically kicking off in mid-October with that 25th anniversary of the first banner ad. There is one banner ad that is known to be the first, but there were actually a handful of about 12 I think launched that same day.

Small Business Trends:  Wait a minute. There hadn’t been any banner ads before this one day, and then just on this one day, 12 from different areas, from different people all on the same day?

Ginger Conlon:  Kicked off.

Small Business Trends:  That’s kind of strange.

Ginger Conlon:  Yeah. I’m not sure of the history of how it all worked, that’s one of the things I’m going to be looking further into this year, but we’re going to be carrying the theme throughout the year at The Drum, so you’ll see different articles; and so one of the questions I’m kicking off with is asking people from their point of view in the market, what do you think was the most significant moment in digital marketing over that past 25 years?

Small Business Trends:  So we’re going back to basically 1994? That was before Google too, right?

Ginger Conlon:  It was… The funny thing that the first banner ad is it says something like, “Click here, you may not yet, but you will.”

Small Business Trends:  Really? That’s kind of cool.

Ginger Conlon:  It was almost predictive.

Small Business Trends:  Way to work that in there. All right. I was thinking about a couple of things. I was thinking about the first email marketing campaign, and how that’s changed the world of marketing … and spam. Then, I mentioned Google, because I was thinking about search, and then I was thinking on top of search, there’s Google Ad Words, and that kind of changed everything too.

Ginger Conlon:  Yeah.

Small Business Trends:  If I were to pick one over the other, I would pick the … go off the board and go with the unsubscribe list. Only because all these other things have inundated us, and flooded us with ads, and emails, and spam, and from a consumer perspective I like having some choice and some power over the messaging that comes to me at this point.

But really, I’m going to go with actually I’m going to go with search.

Ginger Conlon:  Yeah.

Small Business Trends:  Because that … It changed so many things. It wasn’t even Google that started it, but it was Google that kind of perfected it and got our attention. Then on top of search, you do have Ad Words, and that really changed the game. So I’m going to have to say search.

Ginger Conlon:  Yeah, well that’s interesting too, because they’re searching Google, but then if you think about how searches evolved even within sites, within Amazon, or Facebook, or Instagram, and people are searching for things that may wind up in a purchase, and not necessarily starting at Google. It really has changed the game, and then as we were talking about in our panel yesterday, you’re going to have more and more voice search. So that’s going to change the game again in the future.

Small Business Trends:  It’s like continually changing the game. Search started out as one thing, and then we get a mobile search, and now we’re going to voice search, and like you said, it’s not even just Google, because I think over half of the product searches are done on Amazon.

Ginger Conlon: Yeah.

Small Business Trends:  It just seems like it’s foundational. Although, email marketing, I mean it’s kind of hard to ignore that one, too.

Ginger Conlon:  Yeah.

Small Business Trends:  Although I try, because I get so many of those emails …

Ginger Conlon:  Email is a workhorse. It definitely has staying power. Yes, there are some companies that over email, but other companies that focus more on personalization and sending the right messages to the right people at hopefully more optimum times. Sometimes on their schedule, but at least with more relevancy. It can really get some terrific engagement, and conversions.

Small Business Trends:  And you mentioned yesterday you had an opportunity to talk to the folks over at Mack Truck, and you would think it’s 2019, businesses have been doing this forever, all businesses have been doing this stuff forever now, but that’s not really the case.

Ginger Conlon:  Right. Mack Truck has really dived wholeheartedly into digital marketing really just the past year. I mean, they tested some things before but this past year they have done significantly more than they had in the past, and everything from social, they did influencer marketing. They gave trucks to two trucking influencers.

Small Business Trends:  They gave real Mack trucks to –

Ginger Conlon:  A Mack truck to each one of them, with a kit on how to do a diary of their journey of using this truck for a year. That’s been going really well, they have only a team of four in marketing, and one of them is a video expert, and they’ve done a whole series that they’re doing a second season of this coming year that’s been performing really well for them.

Small Business Trends:  Wow.

Ginger Conlon:  What the head of marketing there was saying is that he loves it because as much as he loves the traditional in print, and things like that, he can really see how digital goes right to the pipeline. He feels like he should be accountable for helping to sell Mack trucks by getting into the pipeline for them to give sales ready leads over to their dealers.

Small Business Trends:  Yeah, well that’s really cool. But I gotta ask you now, because you asked me which one did I pick. What did you pick?

Ginger Conlon:  Oh, I haven’t picked one yet. Now the pressure’s on. That’s a good one. That’s a good one, because you know, I –

Small Business Trends:  Yeah, didn’t you come up with the question?

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Ginger Conlon:  I did come up with the question. Yeah, you’re kind of spoiled for choice, because just the access to information that we have now, in real time has changed the game for business and put so much pressure on business as well, to keep up with consumer’s expectations. Again, from the panel yesterday, we were talking about there’s a book called The Entitled Consumer, and it talks about how so many of us, about three quarters, according to the study that’s the foundation of this book, feel some level of entitlement, which means that you expect special privileges.

Small Business Trends:  Right.

Ginger Conlon:  Part of that is because of this … the way digital marketing or digital in general has brought such a real-time nature to everything we do. I mean, if you want something you can probably find it and order it in seconds. If you … or maybe, you know, minutes, if you want information, if you want to teach yourself something you can find it and do it online. I actually fixed something in my car with an online video. It was a simple … It was a really not that mechanical of an issue. But still, I mean, it’s amazing what you can do today with the information, and because of that, the way marketers can reach out to you not just to sell, but also to help you.

Small Business Trends:  Yeah.

Ginger Conlon:  That’s really where it makes the difference.

Small Business Trends:  So you’re going over the whole 25 year mark, but I want to go look to the future. What do you see as a future game changer, whether it’s … You mentioned the word predictive, and one of the things that came out of the conference was around [Oracle’s new product] CX Unity, being able to take all this data, and aggregate it and then find insights, and do something with it. We just talked about video, mobile, augmented reality … I mean, there’s a ton of stuff that is out there, but which of any of those or maybe something else is going to be a big, big, big game changer over the next decade or 25 years or whatever.

Ginger Conlon:  I’m all about the data. I’m going to have to say machine learning/AI, right? Because what marketers can learn and predict using that technology, I mean it’s already established there are companies that use it and use it fairly well, but once more companies do more with it, especially as they weave it into their systems, I think what marketing will be capable of will be amazing on the one hand, and on the other hand marketers will really need to have policies in place to respect privacy and it’s going to be a situation of what you can do, versus what you should do, because of the amazing things that machine learning and AI can bring us.

Small Business Trends:  Mm-hmm (affirmative). You mentioned … I don’t know what the phrase was yesterday, but it was like creepiness to –

Ginger Conlon:  Oh, the cool creepy factor.

Small Business Trends:  Yeah, that’s it. Yeah. It’s good to be cool, but you don’t want to cross the line and be creepy.

Ginger Conlon:  Yes.

Small Business Trends:  It seems like it’s so easy and it’s getting easier to cross that line.

Ginger Conlon:  It is. Absolutely.

This is part of the One-on-One Interview series with thought leaders. The transcript has been edited for publication. If it’s an audio or video interview, click on the embedded player above, or subscribe via iTunes or via Stitcher.


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In The News: March Madness Distracts Workers, Raising Wages May Force You to Reduce Hours


Did it feel like everyone in your office this week was a little distracted?

Were you a little distracted?

There’s a reason for that. Monday was the first work day with the new NCAA March Madness bracket. That means workers everywhere — even in virtual offices these days — were really hard at work … picking random college basketball teams to win the big office pool.

That’s right. The most asked question around your office this week was probably: What’s a Wofford?

In new data from Monster this week, we learned that an incredible 31% of employees in American workplaces will spend half their time focused on March Madness. That’s watching games but also all the other hoopla.

If you have any questions about how organized your team is or if they’re working together, watch them put together a tournament pool. Presumably, a legal one, of course.

There were other headlines this week, of course. They’re included in our news roundup below.

Meanwhile, we’re watching VCU. We’ve got them going far.



Employment

Increased Minimum Wages Require Hour Cuts to Compensate, Whole Foods Example Shows

Amazon recently began a $15 minimum wage for its employees at Whole Foods, but then the grocery store began cutting workers’ hours, according to the Guardian. The multinational e-commerce company enacted the increased wage in November for all U.S. workers, in response to public pressure and criticism over its pay for employees.

39% of Small Business Hires This Year Will Be Sales and Marketing Staff

The latest report from Clutch says 39% of small businesses will add sales and marketing employees. This data point underscores the importance of sales and marketing in today’s digital commerce. You must optimize websites, social media channels and eCommerce to make it happen. And you need sales and marketing employees to do the heavy lifting.

Management

Survey Reveals 56% of Bloggers Get Better Results by Spending 6 Hours on a Post

Blogs have become one of the most effective ways of communicating with digital technology. And the maturation of the medium has resulted in bloggers spending more time to create high-quality posts which deliver better results. The latest blogger survey from Orbit Media has revealed 56% of bloggers who spend six-plus hours on a blog post get better results.

Retail Trends

Items Most Likely to be Returned to Your eCommerce Business

If you are in the business of selling a product, whether online or a physical store, customers will eventually return some of those items. A new infographic from Website Builder Expert has some interesting insights as to how this part of the retail industry affects the overall business.

Small Business Operations

The Next 4 Things You Should Do to Get your Business Ready for the Summer Slowdown

It’s that time of year again! Spring is around the corner. Following soon afterward that is summer, and summer (for some online businesses) is known for the summer slump. The summer slump is a when you may see a dip in website traffic and sales because people are out on vacation and enjoying the weather.

Startup

A Relentless Focus on the Customer Gives San Francisco’s 360 Payments a Winning Edge

Fintech sales can be tough, but Lisa Coyle of 360 Payments has found her stride. The aim of 360 Payments is to change the fabric of the payments industry by partnering with customers to provide honest and streamlined payment solutions. We chatted to Lisa Coyle, Co-CEO of 360 Payments, to find out how her customer-centric approach has helped to drive her success.

5 Life Lessons from “Wise Guy” Guy Kawasaki

In the entrepreneurship world, Guy Kawasaki is considered a motivational icon. There is a lot to learn from his new book which is appropriately named “Wise Guy”.

Technology Trends

Business Travelers Should Seek Rodeway Inn for Best Hotel WiFi, Research Says

The economically-priced hotel chain Rodeway Inn just won the title of the hotel with best WiFi in 2019. Research compiled by Highspeed Internet found Rodeway Inn possesses the fastest free WiFi speeds for guests at 7.66Mbps. This research used data from HotelWiFiTest.com to calculate average WiFi speeds for each hotel chain.

Only 3% of US Retail Sales Completed Via Mobile Wallet

A new infographic from Expert Market has mapped out mobile wallet usage in 36 countries around the world. In the US, only 3% of retail sales were completed through a mobile wallet. The global penetration rate of this technology is still very low topping at 6%, except for one country. The one outlier in this report is China, which has a staggering 36% of the population using mobile wallet.

Image: DepositPhotos.com


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SBA STEP Program Helps Small Businesses with Exporting


Small businesses earn trillions for the U.S. economy. And they employee tens of millions of people too. But when it comes to exports they face an uphill climb.

Luckily a government program seeks to help small businesses. The State Trade and Expansion Program (STEP) offers money and assistance to help small businesses become exporters.

Democratic Rep. Abby Finkenauer from Iowa held a recent hearing to try to tweak the program. Finkenauer now serves as Chairwoman of the Small Business Subcommittee on Rural Development, Agriculture, Trade, and Entrepreneurship.

Congress launched STEP after the global financial crisis.

Congress Seeks to Help Small Business Exporting

The hearing looked at the tough times small businesses face in the export market. It also focused on businesses in rural areas.

In a press release, Finkenauer said, “I … know that it is incredibly difficult for the small business in a town like Maquoketa in my district whose owner may want to do business overseas but lacks the staff capacity or doesn’t know where to start. Today’s hearing was a chance to hear how we as lawmakers can ensure our small businesses have these opportunities.”

The hearing looked at problems the program already faces. But officials also tried to seek ways to improve it. The Small Business Administration Inspector General made some suggestions for improvements. And the Government Accountability Office made suggestions too.

Recommendations from Kimberly Gianopoulos, Director of International Affairs and Trade for the Government Accountability Office include some of the following.

Gianopoulos urged the SBA to assess the risk to achieving program goals posed by some states’ low grant fund use rates.

And she recommended examining the challenges that states reported related to the program’s application, award processes, administrative burden, and communication.

Finally, Gianopoulos suggested the SBA enhance collection and sharing of best practices among states that receive STEP grant funds.

The SBA STEP Program

The Small Business Jobs Act of 2010 created STEP.  It began with a three-year pilot program. The success of the program led Congress to move forward. And the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act made STEP permanent in 2015.

Congress also authorized $30 million in funding through the Fiscal Year 2020. To date, the SBA has awarded around $139 million in funding to almost every state in the country.

STEP aims to increase the number of small businesses that export and the value of exports by the small business sector.

The Federal and state partnership competitively awards grants to the 50 states. Grants also go to the District of Columbia, Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, Guam, and American Samoa.

In addition to financial contribution, the program also supports small businesses with trade goals outside of the US. These include trade missions and market sales trips. But they also include export trade show exhibits, training and subscription to services provided by the Department of Commerce.

The Federal government provides 75% of the funding for the total project. And states provide 25% of the cost for operating.

Image: Small Business Subcommittee


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