small business misconceptions

5 Small Business Misconceptions

If you own your own small business, you know it’s nothing easy. While the freedom and opportunities that come with owning your own business are wonderful, there are challenges as well. In this blog post, we will debunk five of the most common misconceptions about small businesses. Whether you’re just starting out or still growing your business, read on!

“Build It and They’ll Come”

Many people start their own businesses because they see a need that isn’t being fulfilled. They have a brilliant idea, or believe they can create a niche product or service that others want and need. Most of the time, they’re right! The problem, however, is that customers won’t come just because you create the product. Instead, success is largely dependent on your marketing practices. As a small business owner, it is up to you to make others aware of your product and tell them why they need it. Your brilliant idea is only the beginning. Make sure you have a detailed marketing plan that helps get the word out – you’ll be glad you do.

“You Have to Spend a Lot of Money to Make Money”

Sometimes, this is the case, but not always! No matter how good your idea is, there’s always the chance that you’ll run into unexpected problems or obstacles. When you start your business (or when you decide to expand), make a list of your needs, the things your business must have to function, and your wants, those things that would be helpful, but aren’t absolutely necessary. Start out by buying all of your needs, then be frugal with your wants. It always pays to spend your money wisely and track all of your investments. Then, the making-money part will begin.

Small Business Owners Work at Home in Their Pajamas

If you’re anything like me, you might take offense to this misconception. Many small business owners have offices, often with other employees that work for them. Even if a small business owner doesn’t need a brick and mortar building, he or she often has a home office or another area dedicated to work. While small business owners have advantages that include the opportunity to sometimes work at home, in their pajamas if they choose to do so, this isn’t always the case. Small business owners are often on-the-go. They sometimes work random hours and are always “on call” for their business. But on those days when they want to wear their pajamas while they do some work, well that’s one of the perks of being a small business owner.

Small Businesses Don’t Need to Use Social Media

Wrong! Small businesses arguably need social media even more than large corporations. Small businesses are built upon customer service and personal relationships, and social media is the ideal method to develop those relationships that will help your business thrive. If your small business doesn’t use social media, you are missing out on potential customers that could easily be reached through an Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook page. Don’t get left behind – consider creating a few social media profiles and getting in the game. Your business (and your bottom line) will thank you!

“I Don’t Need a Business Plan!”

Big mistake! Even if you don’t have a board of trustees or a boss breathing down your neck about every decision you make, you still need an in-depth business plan, and it should be the very first thing you do as a new business owner. Writing a business plan will help you in so many ways. It will give you long-term perspective, will force you to do research on competitors, will help you set targets and goals, and more importantly, will give you a detailed plan to follow every step of the way.

Even if your business has been around for years but you’ve never gotten around to writing a business plan, now’s the time to do it. It will help you in the long run and it’s never too late to get organized and develop a long-term plan for your small business.

Small businesses are the backbone of America. There are almost 28 million small businesses in the US and over 50% of the working population (over 120 million people) work for a small business (Forbes 2013). Whether you’re a new small business owner or an old pro, keeping these five misconceptions in mind will help your business continue to grow successfully.

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email marketing engagement

How to Increase E-mail Marketing Engagement

As content marketing becomes increasingly technologically-savvy, email marketing is an easy and efficient way to reach current and potential customers. Whether small business sends out a monthly newsletter or new updates weekly, these tips will help make your emails more effective and beneficial for business.

1. Mobile-Friendly Emails

I can’t stress this one enough! Many customers will open your email on their phone or tablet, and if they can’t easily read it on that device, into the trash it will go! Make sure that any pictures or videos are easy to view on a phone and that your email layout is conducive to a mobile device as well. You don’t want to alienate customers before they even have a chance to read your email. It might sound small, but this will make a huge difference.

2. Take advantage of Holidays/Seasons/Relevant News

Is Father’s Day coming up? Use this as a chance to target your customers with a product or service that might be especially applicable for men! Send an email reminding them that Father’s Day is only a week away and that the product you’re offering might be just what they need. Next week is July 4th? Send a patriotic email celebrating the holiday while also reminding them of your red, white, and blue themed products. Emails like these will keep customers interested, up-to-date, and remind them of the practical reasons they should buy your products or services.

3. Target Your Audience

If possible, try to target your emails to specific demographics, such as gender, age, or location. These emails tend to be much more productive than “batch and blast” messages, where one generic message is sent to everyone. If this isn’t possible, consider creating separate emails for potential customers, one-time customers, and frequent customers. This will help you in giving the basic information to new customers without boring those who already know about you. Keeping customers interested is the first step in getting them to read your emails and take action.

4. Include Sharing Links

Include links at the bottom of the page for customers to forward your email to friends, as well as share it on their social media platforms. While it’s great if they personally receive and read your email, it’s even better if they share it with friends. Friends who receive a personal recommendation for a product or service from someone they know are much more likely to purchase. Make it easy for your clients to let others know about what you have to offer.

5. Show Appreciation

Customers want to feel valued and appreciated. Consider sending an email to first-time customers after they make their first purchase, telling them how much you appreciate your business. Maybe you could send a promotion/discount code to frequent customers, thanking them for their loyalty and long-time support of your business. Let them know that you’re glad they support your small business and you’re thankful to have them as customers. It really will make a huge difference.

6. Create Great Subject Lines

Customers are much more likely to open your email when you have a catchy subject line, or even better, an offer or incentive. Hubspot Blog explains that by including an incentive (like “Free Shipping when you spend $50!”) in your subject line, you’ll increase open rates by as much as 50%. Subject lines should be short and to the point, but they should also convince people that it’s worth taking the time to open and read your email.

7. Include Your Logo (on the top-left corner)

This might sound a little bit specific, and it is, but with good reason. Studies show that people instinctively look to the upper left-hand side of emails for the company’s logo. Give them what they want! By including your logo here, you’ll make sure that it gets the most visibility. If you want to be super thorough, you can include it in other places as well to make sure that it’s seen several times.

8. Conduct a 5 Second Test

Your customers should be able to get the message from your email in 5 seconds, whether it’s through the subject line, heading, pictures, etc. This is also known as the Call to Action. Do the people who receive your email know what you want them to do less than 5 seconds after opening the email? Test it out! Try sending your email to a friend or colleague to see if they can figure it out. If not, keep working until you’re able to get your message across quickly. It’s worth the extra effort to make sure that your customers will understand what you want them to know.

9. Ask for Feedback

Email marketing is a great way to get feedback from consumers, but you have to be careful. Above all, DON’T be pushy. You don’t want to annoy your customers to the point that they don’t even read your emails. Maybe include a line thanking customers for their consideration of filling out your survey and explaining how the results will benefit them. Don’t go overboard and ask for feedback all the time, but every once in a while is perfectly fine and useful to you and your customers.

10. Engage with Customers After the Purchase

Don’t forget about a customer after they’ve purchased a product from you. More importantly, don’t forget about that product and instead try to start selling them on something else. Follow up! Consider sending re-engagement emails 7 days, 30 days, or 90 days post-purchase. Thank them again for purchasing your product and reiterate that you’re always available if there’s anything else you can do for them. Turning one-time customers into loyal customers is the easiest way to ensure the success of your business!

If you’ve already established an email marketing strategy, you’re on the right track. However, there are rules of etiquette that should always be followed when communicating with customers. Follow these tips and get the most out of your email efforts.

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How to Conquer Writer’s Block

Every writer, whether corporate or freelance, faces periods of a creative dry-spell. No matter what it is you write, whether an article, blog, or full-length novel, everyone has experienced writer’s block. While frustrating, it is inevitable. However, there are some steps that can be taken to minimize the struggle.

  • Take a Break This is a simple, and obvious, tip. The majority of the time, writer’s face a creative block because they have been working for too long on one thing. Stepping back for a breather can help you clear your mind and refocus on the task at hand. Do something that takes minimal effort, such as listening to your favorite artist or watching your favorite TV show. The break will let your brain rest and refresh before getting back to work.
  • Change Location Sometimes, changing up the scenery is all it takes. Writers often stick themselves in a small room that is quiet and secluded. Instead, seek out somewhere new to work, maybe even outside; a place that can help you begin thinking in a new way. Overall, you know the best environment for you to get work done in, but know it’s not wise to keep doing the same thing and hope for a different outcome.
  • Exercise Get up and do something that is good for your mind and body. Writer’s block can be supper stressful, so working off that anger can really clear your mind. You can go on a walk, a run, a bike ride, do some yoga, anything that your heart desires.
  • Nap Time People often have really good ideas or notes that come to mind when lying in bed trying to fall asleep, so keeping a journal nearby is handy for jotting down ideas for the next day. If facing writer’s block, lay down for a power nap; you’ll be surprised how many things pop into your head when you’re actually trying to shut your mind off.
  • Eat Who doesn’t like having an excuse to stuff their face? Try to find a recipe that you haven’t tried before and then take some time to cook it. After having a delicious, healthy meal, it’ll be easier to focus on your work.
  • Call Up a Friend Calling a friend can help distract you from the task at hand, and they can also be inspiration for new ideas. Make a list of three people to call every time you feel stuck. This is also a great excuse to catch up, especially with those who live far away.
  • Ask for Help This suggestion can go hand-in-hand with the previous tip. Asking for help should never be viewed in a negative way; everyone needs a little help once in a while. The ideas and work of others may give you inspiration for work of your own. Remember, two heads are better than one; everyone has their own way of thinking, so having a different perspective is useful.
  • Review Old Writing Examples If you’re not lucky enough to have people to help you out, then lean on yourself. There’s no better way than going through your past to inspire yourself. Re-read some of your old and favorite pieces of work. It will get you excited and help stimulate creative thinking skills. And if you’re at the beginning of your writing career, go read something of your favorite author or blogger. Their work can be just as helpful as your own.
  • Write About Something Else This is especially useful if you’re writing about something that you are disinterested in. Writer’s block is common, but is less common when writing about something you’re passionate about. Take a step back and write about something that interests you. This is just an excuse to get out everything on your mind that is keeping you from getting your job done. This is another reason a journal is valuable, as it can help you express your feelings and thoughts.

Remember, fighting writer’s block is an everyday struggle, and one that every writer will face. Engage in one or more of these recommendations to kick your writer’s block to the curb.

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green beans creative blog hootsuite 101

HootSuite 101

Coined as one of the “most comprehensive social media management tools out there,” HootSuite has assisted businesses in building their social media with ease. In a survey from monitoring tool Pingdom, HootSuite came out as the top Social Media Management System. Over 20% of companies use it to manage their social media empires. HootsSuite allows users to manage and organize content for multiple accounts on a wide variety of networks, to name a few:

  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn Profiles, Pages, and Groups
  • Twitter
  • Google+ Pages
  • Foursquare
  • WordPress blogs
  • Instagram
  • Tumblr
  • Myspace

With Hootsuite, managing multiple accounts becomes simple because it is all viewable on one page. Here are the top three benefits of using HootSuite for your business!

URL SHORTENING and ANALYTICS

Hootsuite provides a “URL shortener”, which is extremely efficient for those sites with character limitations.  A shorter url will make your post easy on the eyes as well, drawing attention to the words in your post, rather than a lengthy hyperlink. When using the shortener, HootSuite tracks all clicks your hyperlink receives, and presents an analysis of your performance. The results are emailed to you weekly, which is a great way to track which posts create the most traffic. The analysis includes: the number of clicks per day, geographical information on viewers, top referrers, and your most popular links.

SCHEDULE NOW, POST LATER

HootSuite also allows you to schedule posts for later. You can even specify the time posts are sent out, which is helpful for staying consistent during the highest-trafficking hours of each day. You can even schedule up to 3 accounts right from your phone for free. However, using HootSuite online requires no downloading, no installation, and no loading. It’s easy to pull up and start scheduling right away!

SIMPLE COLLABORATION

If you have multiple people collaborating on social media, you can provide them with one password to one HootSuite account and make working together a breeze. This slashes the need for multiple accounts and passwords, and everyone can see everything all in one place.

With social media marketing, it is very important to stay organized and consistent. HootSuite is one of a few extremely efficient tools to help your business run its social media, especially if you have multiple accounts on a variety of networks. So what are you waiting for? Go sign up now for free!

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green beans creative blog

Top 10 Productivity Hacks

Do you ever have those days when you just can’t seem to stay on track and get anything done? Do you find yourself getting easily distracted, or have trouble motivating yourself to keep going? Then this blog post is for you! Keep reading to learn ten productivity hacks that will keep you motivated and help you accomplish your goals!

1. Turn off your cell phone notifications

In today’s world, it’s easy to get dozens of notifications within just an hour. Our phones beep constantly for texts, calls, Twitter updates, LinkedIn requests, even news regarding our favorite sports team! In order to be productive, it’s important to limit the notifications we receive while working. Put your phone on silent and check for notifications once an hour or so, but don’t let yourself keep getting interrupted every two minutes.

2. Start with the tasks you’re dreading the most

If you leave the work you hate the most until last thing, you’ll spend all day dreading it. Instead, get it out of the way first thing! You’ll feel so productive and will be able to spend the rest of the day focusing on the tasks you enjoy doing. It’s a win/win!

3. Take advantage of your lost hours

There are so many small chunks of time in the day that you could be using productively. Do you drive to work? Download the latest industry podcasts and listen to them as you go. Spend 30 minutes in line waiting to pick up your kids from carpool? Catch up on your email or read the latest industry news. Take advantage of small windows of time to catch up on the little things; it makes a big difference!

4. Don’t check your email first thing in the morning

It’s easy to come into work in the morning with a list of tasks to accomplish, only to get sidetracked by your email. By the time the afternoon rolls around, you still may not have gotten to your list of tasks. Instead, get started as soon as you arrive! Those emails can wait an hour or two. You’ll feel so productive and will get the important things accomplished without getting distracted.

5. Get out of the office

Don’t be afraid to take a break! Walk around outside on your lunch break if you work in an office, or take your dog for a walk if you work from home. Fresh air will actually make you more productive. If you feel yourself getting stressed about a project or issue, step away, refresh, and then start again. A new perspective might be just what you need to get the job done!

6. Do some planning on Sunday nights

Enjoy your weekend, but don’t be afraid to spend an hour on Sunday night getting your schedule together for the week. If you come in on Monday morning with a plan, you’ll save the time that you would have spent getting things in order. Cheers to starting the week off on a productive note!

7. Create a personal email

Don’t get distracted by emails from your favorite stores, vacation offers, newsletters, and other promotions. Create a separate email that you use to sign up for anything non-work related. Check this email as a break or in the evenings so that you can keep on top of things, but don’t let it interfere with your productivity by distracting you during the day.

8. Get some exercise

Research proves that exercise makes you more productive. If you have a busy day, consider getting up early and exercising before you get started, or working out at the end of the day. If your schedule is more flexible, take an exercise break mid-morning or go on a walk during your lunch break. Every little bit helps and getting exercise will help you feel better and more productive throughout the entire day,

9. Clean off your desk

A messy desk can hurt anyone’s productivity. Spend a few minutes straightening up your desk, organizing and filing papers, and getting everything in order. It will make you less cluttered and help you stay organized, but it will also save time when you’re looking for something you need! Hello, productivity!

10. Set realistic goals

Set clear, but achievable goals for yourself. Write them down and check them off when you achieve them. Share them with friends or coworkers to keep you accountable and celebrate with them when you hit a milestone! By setting achievable goals that you can actually reach, you keep yourself feeling productive and don’t get bogged down. Celebrating even the little things will keep you motivated and on the right track!

At the end of the day, looking back on what you’ve accomplished can really help or harm your confidence and overall satisfaction. The more productive you are , the prouder you’ll be when you clock out. Being more productive can boost your overall happiness in the long run, as it’ll reduce stress and allow you to celebrate every small achievement.

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