Stop Making These 5 Lead Gen Mistakes

Stop Making These 5 Lead Gen Mistakes

Published in Uncategorized on 24th October 2016

Leads are the lifeblood of any business. After all, without leads, there can be no sales. Lead generation is the act of establishing interest in your products or services among a target market. Lead gen is a tricky business because leads can be at different stages in the buyer journey and therefore require different levels of nurturing.

Here are 5 lead gen mistakes that you have to stop making if you want to increase sales.

1. You’re too general

We’ve all heard the saying, “Jack of all trades, master of none,” this is not how you want customers to see you. However, it is exactly how they will see you if your message is too general.

You may think that creating generalized content will allow you to appeal to a wider audience, and so give you a better chance of generating leads. But when people search for content online, they are looking to solve a specific problem, not a general problem.

You need to pick a niche — a specific part of the market that you can dominate. Surprisingly, the smaller your niche, the stronger the impact of your lead gen efforts. This is because fewer brands will be competing for the attention of your customers.

So, to solve this problem, simply decide upon your niche in your industry. If you’re in marketing, maybe your niche is ‘video marketing’. From there, you may then find an even smaller niche to market to, such as: ‘animated video marketing’, ‘live-action video marketing’, and so on.

2. You ask for too much

How would you feel if you were on a first date, and the person asked you for your hand in marriage? Chances are, you’d be really freaked out and answer them with a firm “no.”  

Potential customers will feel the same way if they get to your landing page and you ask for all of their personal details in exchange for a short content piece. Lead forms should reflect the content available for download. For example, if you’re offering a small, fun piece like an infographic, then you should just ask for a few details, like:

  • Name
  • How did you find us?

If you’re offering a more comprehensive piece like an eBook, then perhaps ask for a few more details, such as:

  • Name
  • Email Address
  • Phone Number
  • How did you find us?

The best way to generate leads is to start slow. Ask for a few details first, and then nurture the lead with more content, tailored to their needs. From there, you can build a relationship and hopefully convert them into a loyal customer.

3. Your form is below the fold

Web users spend 80 percent of their time looking at information above the page fold. Although users do scroll, they allocate only 20 percent of their attention below the fold. When we talk about “the fold,” it’s everything that is visible in a browser window when the page first loads.

Forms that are above the fold are more likely to generate leads because they require less effort from the user. When working on your lead generation efforts, you should always think about how you can make things easier for your ideal customers.

The solution for this one is easy: position your most important text above the fold or better yet, place everything above the fold. Giving users the option to scroll is just one more thing that could distract them from filling in your lead capture form.

4. You don’t have a dedicated landing page

You could have created an amazing ad with an incredible call to action that gets lots of people clicking, but if that CTA takes users to an unrelated landing page, then what’s the point?

When people click a call to action, it’s because they want what you’re offering, whether that’s an eBook, whitepaper, or anything else. They don’t want to be sent to your homepage, or your ‘contact us’ page. If your CTA does happen to send users to a general page on your site, it’s likely that they won’t bother wasting the time trying to find what they were after in the first place. They’ll just get it elsewhere.

You need to ensure that each promotional campaign you run has a specific objective that is clear to prospective customers. Within this, you need to ensure that your CTA directs users to the specific landing page needed to complete the conversion process.

5. Your CTA isn’t good enough (or doesn’t exist)

If you don’t ask, you don’t get. Your call to action is, without a doubt, the most important feature in your entire lead generation campaign. Without a CTA, you can’t hope to get any leads, let alone sales. If you do have a call to action, it must be prominent and clear. The copy must be persuasive and stand out to the user, encouraging them to click.

Your content needs to be gated. You’ve no doubt put a lot of effort into creating your content, your reward should be an awesome lead. The only way to get an awesome lead is to have an amazing call to action.

Ensure your CTA stands out on the page, make the button large and in a different color to the rest of your content.

Lead gen mistakes, no matter how small, can cause critical damage to your business. To increase your sales, you need to make sure you do everything you can to generate leads and nurture them accordingly.

See related: From Lead Generation to Lead Engagement

Photo credit: one photo/Shutterstock

Foster an Innovative Company Culture for a Positive Workplace

Foster an Innovative Company Culture for a Positive Workplace

Published in Uncategorized on 23rd October 2016

Each year, Forbes magazine ranks the most innovative companies in the world on their potential for innovation. Tesla Motors was the top-ranked business on this year’s list, released in August.  

The entrepreneurial force behind the company is co-founder and CEO Elon Musk who believes innovation-such as the creation of new products, services or processes-is essential for companies that want to profitable and recognized as trailblazers in their industry. 

Successful innovators like Musk approach innovation as an essential part of their business. And not just for company leaders. Ideas for innovation can come from anyone in an organization. In fact, it’s often employees working on the front lines who come up with the most innovative ideas-often based on their own life experiences and customer feedback. 

The key is to create a company culture and workspace that inspires creativity, productivity and collaboration. 

Establishing a Culture of Innovation

The most successful companies support innovation by providing employees: 

  • Jobs and tasks that are challenging and interesting. Employees are often more creative when doing work that is strategic or problem-solving in nature.

  • The freedom and autonomy to decide how to solve problems and create opportunities for new products and services. Employees need to have the opportunity to take risks, such as experimenting with new ways of doing things, without worrying about job security or fear of failure.

  • Trust and openness to express dissenting ideas, which can be a starting point for collaboration and innovation.

  • Unstructured time to develop ideas that solve problems or create new products or services. This is hard for many companies because not all innovation will be profitable, and it may be seen as the time that could be spent doing something more tangible.

  • Opportunities for collaboration between people with different expertise and perspectives. When you get people to openly discuss their ideas and work together, creativity happens.

  • Having supportive leadership. Creativity can be stifled when supervisors are opposed to change and view it as a threat to their authority. Supportive management will when an idea has merit and when to move forward or pull the plug.

Configuring an innovative workplace

Creating a work environment that supports outside-the-box thinking and inspires creativity can maximize your potential for innovation. Here are some suggestions from innovative companies that are designed to improve productivity, collaboration and growth.

  • Square, a financial services company, is experimenting with hot desking, which allows employees to work where they want when they want within the constraints of the office. No one has an assigned desk, but employees can work from tables and desks or on couches and chairs-whatever’s most comfortable. These types of non-traditional approaches can also boost productivity from an ergonomics standpoint, particularly for aging workers. Additionally, this idea allows for organic collaboration that might not occur in a static work environment.

  • Skullcandy uses movable desks that can be configured and reconfigured for individual or collaborative work-or as employees need a change.

  • Samsung recognizes that creativity does not come sitting in front of computer monitors. So the company built large outdoor areas between floors and encouraged people to hang out in the shared spaces. The model allows employees from different areas of the company-like engineers and salespeople-to “bump into” each other and spurs unexpected creativity and collaboration.

  • Salesforce is improving work-life balance and helping people de-stress with pets in the office. Having your pet at the office means you’re not worried about leaving them home alone or running home to let them out. They’re also good as a conversation starter for employees. Plus, they give their owners an excuse to take a break for walks, which can boost productivity in the long run.

  • SWA Group, a landscape architecture firm in San Francisco, has a culture wall in its office, which includes photos of people and work samples that employees use to draw inspiration. The culture wall can be used for brainstorming new ideas or collaborating on projects.

  • Google incorporates indoor green spaces into its office layout, including an indoor orange grove in its Tel Aviv office. Space helps employees disconnect from work by making them feel like they’re sitting outside on a park bench.

Building a company culture and physical workspace that inspires innovation is a matter of finding the right formula for your organization. Diversity has also proven to be a large driver of innovation, so make sure that you have procedures in place to promote the hiring and successful management of a diverse workforce.

To discover what works for you, it’s important to talk to your employees about what inspires them to be creative. And consider hiring employees with an entrepreneurial spirit-also known as intrapreneurs. They’re a natural fit for companies that want to innovate because they are willing to take initiative and risks for the benefit of the organization. In fact, many intrapreneurs are just as committed to your company’s success as your owners. 

Companies need to see innovation as an integral part of their corporate culture and recognize their employees who make contributions to efforts that will increase company profitability and chances for success. While there may be barriers to innovation along the way, working past these and knowing that not all ideas will come to fruition will allow you to be a more open and creative organization in long run. 



Photo credit: SFIO CRACHO/Shutterstock

Optimize Payments for Your Online Store

Optimize Payments for Your Online Store

Published in Uncategorized on 22nd October 2016

If you own an e-commerce business you should have two things on your mind: how can to drive more traffic to your store and the easiest way to can get customers through the payment flow.

The checkout experience is a game within itself. Nobody really knows what the ideal checkout experience entails, and with new innovations in payments surfacing daily we’re probably far from determining what that is. Nonetheless, there are methods that have proven to be successful when optimizing payments for your online store. Here are a few ways to get your customers “through the line” and paid. 

Implement Strong Risk Management Practices

According to the Global Fraud Index, a PYMNTS/Forter collaboration, the fraud attack rate for digital goods has tripled since Q1 of 2016. The takeaway? More innovations in payments means more opportunities for online scammers to weasel their way into your pocketbook. So, whether you’re shopping on Amazon or the new online shoe store nobody has heard about, odds are you’ll approach the checkout with some level of caution. Ideally, you want to mitigate that caution as much as possible, and here’s how:

  • Do your research. There is an ample amount of data out there that points to common practices used by fraudsters and online scammers as well as how to avoid them. 
  • Eliminate false positives. A false positive is essentially when a legitimate payment is declined. If you can identify and eliminate these occurrences you will surely increase customer conversion rates and pinpoint truly illegitimate payments.  
  • Only store necessary information. The less customer information you store the more you’ll reduce risk. Often times, online stores like to offer a “one-click checkout” experience that allows returning customers to checkout with ease. This is a great practice as it simplifies the checkout experience tenfold, however if you choose to do this make sure you have strong security measure or store customer data on a third party server.

See related: Stop E commerce Fraud in Its Tracks: Arm Your Business with These 10 Practices

Choose the Right Payment Processor

The payments world is a very complex one. The average person probably couldn’t tell you all the steps involved in a credit card transaction. Long story short, there are a lot. Choosing the right payment processor for your online store is one of the most important steps in optimizing your overall payment experience. There are hundreds if not thousands of payment processing companies out there, here’s how to pick the right one: 

  • Rates: Credit card processing rates vary quite a bit when you compare various companies. Some offer flat fees, some have monthly fees, and some have a combination of both. 
  • Documentation: Any legitimate payment processor is going to offer documentation that allows you to seamlessly integrate their processing solution. Some companies even offer their APIs and documentation to the public, so have your development team check it out before contacting them. 
  • Security and Compliance: PCI compliance is a set of security standards that ensures secure transactions. PCI compliance is tiered 1-3, so make sure you understand the implications of each. The more risk you can alleviate from yourself, the better. Make sure you go with a processor that is highly secure and compliant. 

See related: Top 101 Payments Companies for Businesses of All Sizes

Streamline your Checkout Flow

It’s no secret that user experience can really make or break a business. As an online store owner, your job is to get your customer from the “add-to cart” button to the “pay now” button quickly and efficiently. Here’s what to do:

  • Get inspiration: You don’t need to be a world-class UX designer to implement this strategy. Go through at least 10 checkout flows of online companies you like to shop at. Take detailed notes of what you like and what you think needs improvement. This is an excellent practice to help get the ball rolling.
  • A/B testing: If you’re deciding between a few different checkout experiences try them out with some A/B testing. Make sure you have proper analytics set up so you can track conversation rates, traffic, and other relevant data points. 
  • One-click payments: This was mentioned above as a common practice used by online retailers. Companies like Amazon use this practice to simplify the buying experience for recurring customers. This is great for customer retention and overall traffic. However you must be very disciplined in regards to security and storing consumer data. 


Photo credit: Roman Dementyev/Shutterstock

9 Must-Use Cold Calling Tactics

9 Must-Use Cold Calling Tactics

Published in Uncategorized on 22nd October 2016

There are plenty of cold calling techniques that can facilitate the sales process, but there are only a few which can guarantee a purchase. With many cold calling techniques stuck in the nineties, it’s no surprise that new approaches were created to make each cold call worthwhile. So if you’re looking to turn cold call recipients into regular customers, feel free to continue reading.

1. Use talking points, not scripts

Buyers know when they are being read a sales script, and even if the salesperson is delivering a persuasive speech, prospects may automatically tune out the message. It’s critical that you have key talking points prepared for things you can say if a customer asks a particular question. When you cold call customers, develop a list of their frequently asked questions and then craft consistent answers that you and your colleagues could share with future cold call recipients.

2. Practice handling objections

Sales representatives tend to fear objections as they can derail a sales pitch. But if the sales representative is prepared they can anticipate the objections with prompt answers and continue moving forward with their sales pitch. Managers should train their reps to avoid stumbling when faced with buyer hesitancy. That way, conversations can be more fluid and salespeople can approach objections more confidently rather than with surprise.

3. Stop premature pitching

Premature pitching can end a cold call before it even begins. If a prospect doesn’t know what he/she wants, they certainly don’t want a product/service forced under their nose against their will. Be mindful of what your customer is saying so once you have fully understood their business problems and their anticipated goals, you may be able to execute your sales pitch at the exact time when it is most appealing.

4. Never multitask during a sale

A cold call requires undivided attention and there should be no distractions during the conversation. Although the pitching process can become mundane when repeating the same answers to the same questions, each call requires attention as the customer (believe it or not) knows when you’re not listening.

5. Captivate your prospect

Natural showmanship and charisma can go a long way when it comes to cold calls. Salespeople need to understand these mechanics so that their words are almost hypnotic and they can mesmerize during their cold calls.

6. Highlight value first, price last

Under no circumstances should a representative mention their product or service’s price before explaining its value. However, never give the customer a solid “no” if they ask for the price. To avoid this conundrum, explain what they’re getting and why it’s worth it.

7. Combating common rejections

Common rejections usually include the product or service being too expensive or the product or service not being an exact match for what the potential customer is looking for. To bounce back from these common rejections, make sure you explain the value of the product or service you’re offering to justify its cost and illustrate how it solves at least one of your prospect’s biggest business problems.

8. Responding to “I don’t have the time” 

“I don’t have the time” is a common excuse cold callers face that kills a sales pitch before it can begin. Although this excuse usually means the cold call recipient doesn’t want to talk to you anymore or isn’t interested in your product or service, the conversation would have already ended if they didn’t have the time to respond.

Most salespeople throw in the towel when a customer utters this statement, but a great salesperson finesses the objection without stammering as they continue their sales pitch. If anything, the salesperson would throw in the core values of their available product or service to keep the customer on the line.

9. Turn fear into fearlessness

When entrepreneurs begin cold calling, they often struggle. Drumming up business with a stranger isn’t easy and it’s a skill that usually comes with time. In addition to this, the initial approaches can begin rather timid and resistance to the offers can be very unsettling for the salesperson.

To turn this fear into fearlessness, approach potential customers with the same confidence as with someone you’ve already been acquainted with and initiate the call with the assumption that your prospect would like to know more about your company’s product or service. If the cold call recipient genuinely isn’t interested, don’t take it personally and simply move on; there are plenty of other buyers out there who are ready to commit to a purchase.

See related: Staying Motivated: 10 Quotes to Inspire Your Sales Team

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5 Tips to Achieve Your 2016 Resolutions Before 2017

5 Tips to Achieve Your 2016 Resolutions Before 2017

Published in Uncategorized on 21st October 2016

Fall is here which means the end of the year is near. For many of us, this means additional stress in our professional and personal lives as we scramble to achieve the goals we set at the beginning of 2016.

If you find that as you get busier, you also get less productive and more stressed out, achieving goals under pressure can be incredibly frustrating. Fortunately, there are several simple ways you can facilitate the process of completing your goals by reducing your stress and boosting your ability to be productive.

Here are six tips to try out as you work to achieve your goals before 2017.

1. Clear out the clutter

Studies show that the amount of clutter in your life can significantly impact the amount of stress you feel each day. This is why getting organized and decluttering your home and your workspace is a fantastic way to reduce stress. Although the process of cleaning up and getting organized can seem a bit daunting, there are plenty of online resources that provide helpful tips and hacks to help you simplify the process. 

2. Take regular breaks

Experts have long touted the positive effects of taking breaks. Taking a simple five-to 10-minute break each hour throughout your workday can help you boost productivity and reduce the stress you feel from working on your current projects. Not to mention, getting up and stretching out your legs also helps you get out of the hunched position most of us tend to assume as we sit at our desks, which can help you relieve some stress-inducing neck and upper back pain.

3. Quit multitasking

Most of us are guilty of multitasking as we work to complete multiple projects each day. Although it might seem like you’re able to get more done this way at the moment, the truth is that multitasking seriously decreases your productivity levels while increasing your stress levels.

To avoid multitasking, make a to-do list for each day. Allot a certain amount of time for each project based on how much time you think each will take to reach completion then set a timer as you work on each project. While the timer is running, keep your attention focused on the single task at hand. It might take a bit of practice to get to a point where you can focus on your project for the full time, but the more you attempt this strategy, the easier it will get to implement it.

4. Delegate tasks

For those of us who err on the side of perfectionism, it can be a bit difficult to trust others with the work we need to get done. Although you might be the type who prefers to complete everything on your own to ensure quality, the unfortunate truth is that this approach to project completion often leads to you taking on too many projects which only hinders your ability to perform at your fullest potential.

Identify the areas at home and at the office where you could (and probably should) delegate responsibilities to others. Is there a specialist in mind who could potentially pull your weekly reports? Could you split your chore list with you wife, husband, or children to alleviate some of your responsibilities at home?

5. Rest up

Research shows that those who wake early and rise early are more productive and less tired throughout the day. Set a goal to get to bed a little earlier than usual so that you can wake up refreshed and ready-to-go at an earlier hour. If you find that you have trouble getting to bed earlier, I recommend trying out a few simple hacks to encourage healthy sleep habits. If you have trouble rising early, there are a variety of cool alarm clock apps that provide innovative ways to help you wake up if you’re not a morning person.

 See related: Get SMART: How to Set Achievable Goals for a Business


Photo credit: dolphfyn/Shutterstock

Security Awareness Training Can Prevent Disaster

Security Awareness Training Can Prevent Disaster

Published in Uncategorized on 21st October 2016

According to numerous studies, employees are responsible for about 80 percent of all data leaks. It only takes one worker who is a bit careless to mess everything up. Let’s look at this example:

Your employee, Mary, receives an email on her personal account with the subject line, “Lose 10 Pounds in One Weekend.” She clicks on the link in the email to get more information, and unknowingly unleashes a virus onto her work computer. This virus is not only infecting her computer, it is now working through infiltrating the network, and accessing data that the company has stored in these devices.

As you can see, this could happen to anyone. It could also happen to a member of your staff, which is why it is so important for small business owners to educate their teams about the tricks that cyber criminals employ to get their victims. How do you know that they have gotten the message? Try the following:

Phishing simulation. After giving employees information about not clicking any email links, you can test their knowledge and resolve by setting up a situation where they have the opportunity to click on an email link. Of course, the link will take the worker to a page that is safe, and these pages should have a message indicating they had engaged with phishing, followed by education and awareness to show them what they did wrong or could have done right. If you are going to give this test, make sure that these emails contain a clue that they are actually a phishing email, such as a misspelling or two. Or when hovering over the link, the URL is sketchy.

Pop quiz. Those who fall for these emails should be given a test later, too. This way, you will know if they have or have not learned anything.Make sure when you give these tests that they are unpredictable. For instance, don’t always send them in the morning. Also, make sure that the nature of the test changes. You also might consider hiring a person to attempt to lure your staff over the phone or in person to fork over sensitive information about your business. This could be invaluable, as you will know who would fall for these tricks.

Don’t quiz the staff once, give your staff quizzes throughout the year, which will allow you to see who is on the ball. Remember, this is about educating your employees, not disciplining them or making them feel bad about themselves for failing the test.

Properly educate. Do what you can to make employees aware that a breach of data could result in potential financial, criminal, or legal repercussions. Schedule unpredictable workstation checks to see if any employee is doing anything that might be compromising your company’s data, such as leaving a computer logged into a sensitive program. Explain to your staff that security is important for them, and the future of the company. You should encourage your staff to report suspicious actions of the right person. In this case, they should all be snitches.

When you have given the tests and trained your staff, create a full list of all that they should have learned. Examine this list and re-evaluate it to see if it requires any revisions.

Remember, there is no such thing as too much security awareness training, as long as it’s fun and interesting. Take these tips, post them around the office, and do things such as brief security seminars or workshops to keep the information fresh. Also, recognize those staff members who are repeatedly committed to network security.

See related: Security Breach: 4 Disturbing Stories About Getting Hacked


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5 Ways Businesses Can Attract Inbound Links Immediately

5 Ways Businesses Can Attract Inbound Links Immediately

Published in Uncategorized on 20th October 2016

Regardless of the niche or industry you operate in, it’s possible to avoid wasted time and effort by heeding the following five tips to practically guarantee that your website’s inbound link strategy will start moving forward immediately:

1. Create shareworthy content

Publishing fresh content that readers will be inclined to share is perhaps the fastest way to see an influx of inbound links [literally] overnight. When a reader encounters a piece of content that they’re tempted to share, they’re not going to put it off until the next day – they typically share the link to their friends or followers while they’re reading it. Thus, the primary focus should be creating content that basically screams “share this now.” Here are a few elements you can incorporate into your posts to maximize the chances of someone sharing it immediately:

  • Shock/surprise factor – Any headline that contains exciting and interesting fact(s)or opinions(s) not seen elsewhere.
  • Enriching information – Try to make your content genuinely useful and unique with the goal of enriching the reader’s lives or business efforts.
  • Humour and novelty – People love to share things that make them laugh, so don’t be afraid to insert some comical commentary.

2. Blog about current events and trends

When a blogger is writing a post about a specific trending topic, they usually insert links from the most recently published pieces. If your business blog is regularly posting content that touches current affairs in your industry, there’s a good chance that bloggers will link to the page as a resource or reference in their own work. Again, this isn’t something that takes a while to come to fruition – oftentimes it happens within 1-7 days of the page being put online.

Furthermore, when a blogger is writing a post on current events and your page manages to gain page one visibility in Google for keywords and phrases related to that topic, you’ll instantly be in an ideal position to see a rapid stream of inbound links appearing within 24-72 hours of reaching the top results.

3. Build a strong social media presence

Once you’ve started perfecting the art of developing and publishing posts that are shareable and relevant to current events, it’s time to use social sites like Facebook and Twitter to gain same-day exposure for your new content. Businesses with popular social accounts and plenty of followers almost never have a problem attracting steady traffic and inbound links naturally.

Plus, taking this approach will ensure that your site’s social signals are performing well, eventually enhancing the overall authority and search engine rankings.

4. Increase post visibility via bookmarking sites and social media

With a solid understanding of content creation and social networking in your corner, the next step is to become active on bookmarking and directory sites like Reddit. There are literally dozens of these sites that you can join, and once you’re a member all you have to do is post a link to your site and watch the visitors and inbound links pile up.

While logic seems to indicate that more listings would be better, it’s possible to have your site viewed as spammy if you’re showing up in too many places at once, so pick no more than five of the most popular directories or social media platforms and focus on them exclusively. Here are some sites you might want to start sharing your posts on:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Pinterest
  • Google Plus+
  • Tumblr
  • Instagram
  • Reddit
  • Flickr

5. Publish videos and infographics

Finally, marketing studies have repeatedly proven that videos and infographics are shared more often than standard blog posts. Although media production is typically more difficult and costly than writing a simple post, the results definitely justify the extra expense in most cases. Fortunately, you don’t have to go overboard and blow your budget on a professional production service, as it’s doable for most businesses to start out with a DIY approach on a simple YouTube channel.

Why wait for “organic” results?

Although it’s true that organic search traffic and linking are best for building site authority over a long period of time, when you’re yearning for immediate results, it may be better to consider a more aggressive approach. By combining the five tips given above, you can be fairly confident that your company’s website will start seeing progress at the fastest possible rate.

Once you’ve built some initial momentum and have developed a regimen that covers all of the above, it would then be wise to start putting effort into long-term methods that will generate residual results on autopilot for months or years to come.


See related: Types of Content That Generate the Most Natural Links



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Here’s Why Every Successful E-Commerce Site Has an Active Blog

Here’s Why Every Successful E-Commerce Site Has an Active Blog

Published in Uncategorized on 19th October 2016

We’ve all seen blogs – both personal and business – launch with great imagination and aspirations, only to eventually fade away and fail. 

A company blog is a tremendous asset for e-commerce companies and the benefits are numerous.

Four Reasons E-commerce Sites Need Blogs

If you’ve yet to start a blog for your e-commerce website, then it’s probably because you don’t understand the value it could provide your brand. Let’s take a look at a few of the top reasons why thousands of e-commerce sites have made the plunge and the investment.

1. Blogs give your brand a voice

Today’s marketplace is filled with noise, but the reality is that you control very little of it. Customers go to social media to voice their opinions in an extremely public fashion. Internet message boards pick apart your products and services. Competitors can make claims against you and distribute these ideas via their own channels. 

While it’s not all negative, it’s a little scary to know that other people control your brand’s story.

When you launch a blog, you’re in total control and can express thoughts and ideas without having to go through another channel.

This does a few things for your brand:

  • Establishes trust. Imagine that a new customer lands on your site. What type of experience do they have? Are they greeted by cold product pages and commercialized sales tactics, or do they feel at home? If you don’t have a blog, it’s possible that your website lacks a personal feel. A blog builds trust with your visitors by humanizing your brand and breathing life into the onsite experience.

  • Builds thought leadership. Think about the different thought leaders in your niche and then consider what it is that fuels this perception. In almost every case, they maintain active blogging presences and consistently publish content under their name. Well, the same is true for e-commerce brands. If you want to build thought leadership, a branded blog is the best way to do so. Over time, a regular commitment will give you a chance to become labeled an “industry expert.”

  • Clarifies your beliefs. Your story will get told. And as previously mentioned, you tell your story or someone else will tell it for you. We can all agree that the former is preferred. Should someone attack your brand , your blog is a space where you can safely and quickly respond.

2. Blogs generate traffic

Website traffic is obviously important in e-commerce, right? Well, blogging is one of the best ways to generate targeted traffic and monetizable leads.

Here’s a little visual to help you understand just how helpful blogging is for generating traffic. Pretend you just built a massive department store in downtown Manhattan. It’s a beautiful building right in the middle of the hustle and bustle of New York City. But there’s one problem: The building only has a single door on the side. It has no signage, windows, or anything. The only way someone would find the door is if they were looking for it.

See the problem? There are people all around you, but there’s nothing welcoming them inside. In fact, even if they want to come in, they have to work hard to find the entry point. If you have an e-commerce site without a blog, this is essentially what your website looks like on the internet. Sure, they can find their way in via the homepage or an individual product page, but it’s nearly impossible.

Now, let’s assume that you realize that your department store in Manhattan has a problem and decide to add a total of two more entrances with windows, branded signage, and lights. Suddenly, more customers start shopping at your store. Then you add two more entrances, complete with an escalator that goes directly to the second floor. Now you have more shoppers than you know what to do with.

This is what it’s like to add a blog to an e-commerce site. With each new post, you’re creating an additional portal to your site. Blogs increase your site’s visibility and generate traffic – it’s that simple.

3. Blogs help you with SEO 

A blog is your way of telling Google and other search engines that your website is active and relevant. This tells them to crawl your site more frequently and ultimately enhances your chances of ranking for particular keywords and search terms related to your niche.

While many e-commerce companies focus on plugging keywords into their site copy and product pages, the efficacy of these actions pales in comparison to the value that can be extracted from consistent blogging over a long period of time. Naturally incorporating long tail keywords into quality blog posts does far more for SEO than blatant keyword stuffing.

4. Blogs are cost effective

It would be incorrect to say that blogging is free. There’s a huge opportunity cost associated with blogging – and you may eventually have to hire a team of writers to handle things in the future – but it’s comparatively cost effective.

In order to get the kind of exposure and lead generation benefits that you’re afforded with blogging, you’d have to spend thousands of dollars on sponsored posts, PPC advertisements, or social media. Depending on the “stickiness” of your topics, you can continue to generate a return on individual blog posts weeks, months, and even years after publishing. And the more you post, the more your traffic compounds and you begin to see tangible monetary benefits.  

What are you waiting for?

Blogging isn’t something you can just put on cruise control and step away from. It’s either going to require a lot of your personal time, or you’ll have to allocate a percentage of your monthly budget towards hiring a writer. Regardless, it’s going to take a commitment on your part. With that being said, the benefits of launching, growing and maintaining a thriving e-commerce blog far supersede the work that goes into the process.

If your e-commerce site is still sitting on the sidelines, then it’s time that you make a decision. Are you going to continue watching other brands surpass you, or will you get your hands dirty and start working?

The benefits are clear, but the decision is ultimately yours.

See related: 10 Do’s and Don’ts of Corporate Blogging


Photo credit: Undrey/Shutterstock

10 Common Tax Mistakes to Avoid

10 Common Tax Mistakes to Avoid

Published in Uncategorized on 18th October 2016

There are almost 1,000 different IRS tax forms, add that to filing taxes for the first time as a small business owner, and you have a recipe for serious stress. 

Keep these common mistakes in mind all year long so when tax season comes around you’re less stressed and better prepared. 

1. Math mistakes

Arithmetic errors are one of the leading causes for filing an amended tax return and the first thing that the IRS will check. The long rows of numbers can mind-numbing, not to mention confusing, making it very easy for you to mess up a number or two. Unfortunately, these innocent errors can result in owing more money than you should or a reduced refund. Check your numbers and check them twice.

2. Not knowing your tax year

In order to calculate your taxable business income, you must know your tax year. A tax year is the annual accounting period kept for reporting your income and any expenses you incur-either calendar year or fiscal year. There are specifics for adopting each and filing your taxes every spring.

Note: This important to know because once your tax year is set, you have to get IRS approval to change it.

3. Forgetting your signature

You’re running a small business; it’s easy to forget the smallest, yet most important details. When it comes to taxes, this could mean forgetting to sign the form when you’re done. It’s an easy step to forget, especially in the event that you’re close to the deadline. ,Make sure you sign on the dotted line before submitting the form. If you don’t, you’ll need to re-file, because an unsigned form is not considered valid.

4. Combining your business and personal expenses

This mistake will make tax season a lot more complicated than it needs to be. Running your personal expenses-like medical bills, groceries, etc.-through your business is a major red flag for the IRS. In addition, deducting for leisure travel as a business expense is not permitted and can trigger an audit. 

It’s best you have a totally separate business account and refrain from using your business card for any personal matters. If you haven’t yet, do this now, or as soon as possible. 

5. The wrong business structure 

There are specific legal and tax implications depending on the business structure you chose. For example, if you’ve filed as a C corporation, you could essentially be paying taxes twice. Other tax-friendly structures, such as the S corporation or LLC, will be better for your small business in terms of taxes and finances.

If you’re not sure which one to choose, consult with a CPA or other financial expert before tax season rolls around. 

6. Forgetting about state taxes

State and local taxes apply to small business owners in addition to federal taxes. Each state is different and having knowledge of the requirements can actually save your business money. In addition to income taxes required by the state, businesses with employees are required to pay state workers’ compensation insurance and unemployment insurance taxes. Visit the U.S. Small Business Association to determine your state’s tax obligation. 

7. Not current with tax changes

It’s hard to stay in-the-know regarding tax modifications and new procedures each year, but that extra effort will pay off in the long run. New tax and deduction options open up every year, so check to see if you can take advantage of any of them. The best way to do this is by checking the IRS’s website. It will have all of the information you’ll need to know before filing. 

8. Incorrectly deducting

Startups costs, such as computers, equipment and renting office space, seem like quick and easy deductions, but they can’t be deducted until your business has its first sale. After that, they’re deducted over the next 15 years. There are different options available for businesses with startup costs both over and under $50,000, so make sure you keep all of your receipts for purchases and check with the latest IRS laws for deductions. 

9. Filing late

Taxes are due on April 15 for Sole Proprietors and single-member LLCs. March 16 is the big tax date for corporations and S Corporations. Speak with your financial advisor about submitting quarterly taxes, which is a “pay-as-you-go” system for small businesses. This is an easy way to avoid being overwhelmed when the main tax day comes around.

10. Not filing for an extension or payment plan

If it’s already April 10 and you’ve completely forgotten to file your business taxes, it’s much better to file for a tax extension. It does require you to estimate how much you owe and send in that amount by the due date or risk invalidation of your extension. In addition, if you know you can’t afford to pay your tax bill before it’s due, contact the IRS to set up a payment plan-there will be a flat-rate fee but it’ll be lower than the monthly fee if you don’t.

See related: Accountant or Do It Yourself: How Should Entrepreneurs File Taxes?

Photo credit: Devrim PINAR/Shutterstock

How Having a Bargain Pricing Strategy Could Hurt Your Business

How Having a Bargain Pricing Strategy Could Hurt Your Business

Published in Uncategorized on 18th May 2016

Walk down an aisle in Walmart and you’ll be met with blue signs and yellow smiling faces showing off their “everyday low price” items. 

It’s a pricing strategy that’s at the core of their brand. They built their entire business around a bargain pricing strategy.

Looking at the Walmart business model alone, it would make sense to assume low prices are what customers want. After all, cheap products have enabled the retailer to open 10,000 retail stores, employ millions of people, and gross $476 billion in sales in 2014.

The strategy, according to Sam Walton, founder of Walmart, was to make up for slim margins through the volume of sales.

This is known as promotional pricing.

What is Promotional Pricing?

Promotional pricing involves selling products at a steeply discounted price. The price reduction is most often unsustainable for business growth. The goal is to use the low prices to allure customers through the door.

Walmart uses the everyday low price options to get people in their stores in the hopes they’ll buy other, higher priced items. They aren’t alone in adopting the promotional pricing strategy.

Costco uses a similar approach by selling bulk items for a reduced price. They inflate the value of each item by selling in large quantities.

Related Article: The Game of Pricing: How The Number 9 Affects Purchase Behavior

Is This Strategy Right for You?

Not necessarily. Look at one of Walmart’s big competitors for proof; Amazon.

Walmart’s stock prices are starting to take a dip, dropping 30 percent in the last part of 2015. This comes on the heels of an increase for Amazon with a steady growth rate of approximately 20 percent every year.

Although Amazon is known for also having low-priced items, they haven’t built their brand around a bargain pricing strategy. As a result, they’re coming out ahead with new projects in the works (they’re looking at building a retail site in the near future) and higher profits.

If your business is still in a price war with the competition, you are hurting your company. Here are a few reasons why the bargain pricing strategy is starting to fail, and why it could be damaging your brand.

You’re Losing Money

Sure, the everyday low pricing might sound like a smart strategy. It helps you lower inventory costs, coordinate better with supply chains and sell more, more, more. But, even if you’re pushing product off your shelves faster than the competition, you’re still losing money.

Promotional pricing on products yields an average of $6.2 million more per year in revenues than the everyday low price strategy, according to a recent Stanford study. The study also showed that everyday low pricing cost businesses more on the front end with Walmart experiencing a $1.7 million loss in annual revenues compared to the $690,000 loss by companies using a promotional pricing strategy.

Related Article: Fashion Forward: Top 10 Retail Trends for 2016

You’re Locking Yourself Into a Particular Market

Once you have a bargain pricing strategy locked in, you’re stuck there for the long haul. Changing from low pricing to mid-level pricing down the road is expensive. You’ll lose your customer base who has come to rely on you for the best deals in town, causing you to have to spend a good chunk of money to promote your business to a new demographic, the type of people who don’t mind spending some extra money for higher quality goods.

Before you get too far into a low-price strategy, think about how you will scale and grow. Are you focusing on moving products off your shelves, or are you bringing in the right type of customers to buy from you long-term?

Loyalty often times means more to long-term revenues. Bargain price shoppers tend to migrate to whomever is offering the best deal.

You’re Diluting Your Brand

If you’ve already locked yourself into a bargain pricing strategy, beware. Keeping that pricing is essential if you want to keep the trust of your customers. Walmart ultimately tried to compete with the promotional pricing models (their competition) and lost. They introduced “rollback” pricing, which caused customers to stop seeing them as the best deal in town.

Related Article: Beacons are Beckoning: How Mobile Technology is Changing Retail

What’s Right for You?

The answer is, it depends. If you’re currently using a promotional pricing strategy, you’re much better off sticking to that strategy than trying to cheapen your prices. If you’re currently known as the low cost store among your competition, changing your pricing now could mean hurting your brand even further.

Understand what the market perceives your business as and then use that to find out what pricing strategy is right for you.