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5 ways to make your small business bigger

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Small business is proving to be big business amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Somewhat surprisingly, the entrepreneurial spirit is thriving, despite the economic recession. There’s no time like the present to consider ways to make your small business bigger.

Startups reached a record high during the 16-month period from March 2020 to June 2021. Data from NPR’s The Indicator from Planet Money reveals that people started more than 440,000 businesses in June 2021. The Wall Street Journal also reported more than 3.2 million applications for employer identification numbers (EINs) were filed in 2020.

Small businesses already in existence have managed to get creative with their business models and quickly pivoted their offerings to meet customer needs in 2020.

 

Startups just launching are equally cognizant of what it means to pivot, innovate on the fly, and retain the need to be nimble and resilient during uncertain times.

Ready to make your small business bigger?

As I write this in August 2021, it’s a bit difficult for me to predict how Q3 and Q4 of this year will pan out. However, what I do know is that small businesses can ensure their companies continue growing in 2021 and beyond if they take these five steps now — if they haven’t already:

  1. Build a website.
  2. Review your business plan.
  3. Build a business support system.
  4. Consider B Corporation Certification.
  5. Listen to your customers.

Let’s get started building your business!

1. Build a website

Building a website in Websites + Marketing

One of the most valuable tools in a small business’s toolkit is its website. Websites help create visibility for small businesses. Customers, both existing and new, are looking for your business online.

How can building a website benefit your business? Having a basic website acts as a home base, especially if you have a brick-and-mortar storefront. It allows customers to find you, learn about your offerings and services, and contact you for more information.

More advanced websites may be optimized using keywords and relevant copy for SEO purposes. This allows the website to rank higher in search engines and to reach customers in local and national markets.

A well-designed website also may help create a seamless customer experience. Customers can make purchases through the site and businesses can use a website to accept payments and process orders. How else can you make your small business bigger by leveraging your website?

Showcase your offerings through high-resolution photography, establish a blog, link to social media platforms where your business maintains an active presence, and encourage customers to sign up for newsletters where they may learn more about new and exciting news about your business.

Surprisingly, statistics show that only 50% of small business owners have a website.

The good news is that it’s quite easy to get started creating a small business website. You may work alongside website building and hosting companies or hire a website developer to help build an impressive and functional website for your business.

Editor’s note: Want a beautiful website in no time? Try GoDaddy’s Websites + Marketing Website Builder. It’s easy to use, visually appealing, and easily integrates with social media platforms.

2. Review your business plan

Many entrepreneurs draft a business plan when they start a business.

This document details what the business does, analyzes its target audience and competitors, examines cash flow and what makes the business profitable, and sets timelines to reach business goals.

As time progresses, small business owners are encouraged to return to their business plan to review it and refine its components.

Here are a few questions that may help you begin the review process.

  • What milestones was your business able to achieve after a year like 2020?
  • How long did it take to reach these goals? Will you need to adjust timelines to reach future goals?
  • Have there been changes to your company’s offerings, such as new products, services or pricing?
  • Is your target market growing or shrinking? For example, you may find that while your business originally intended to reach millennials, it has caught the interest (and sales) of Gen Z as well.
  • Do you have new members of management or staff? If so, you may decide to update the About Us section of your site with their biographies.
  • How has cash flow changed over the last year for the business? If it has improved dramatically from one quarter to the next, what factors contributed to these changes?

Remember that reviewing your business plan does not mean focusing on making a perfect business plan. This is an ever-changing document that is meant to better understand how each area of your business — from its financials to its marketing strategy — is being built for growth and success.

3. Build a business support system

four people doing a fist bump

As an entrepreneur, you shouldn’t have to go it alone trying to make your small business bigger. There will be moments when you have questions you’d like to get answered, need a shoulder to lean on when moving through the ouch spots or simply want good people to cheer you on when you succeed.

Build up a business support system. Aside from close family and friends, some of the people you may wish to add to this system include mentors and business coaches who can provide relevant insight.

You can find mentors for your business through platforms like SCORE and even take workshops that provide free business training to learn new skills and acquire the necessary knowledge it takes to run your business.

 

Another crucial part of your support system should include individuals with legal and accounting backgrounds. Legal professionals can help if you have questions about your business formation and accountants or CPAs can answer your tax and bookkeeping questions.

4. Consider B Corporation Certification

Amid a year of civil unrest and the ongoing impact of climate change on our planet, customers are expecting more from businesses. They want to spend their hard-earned dollars with companies that are honest, transparent and walk the walk when it comes to sustainability.

Do you want to truly make a difference with your business and allow your company to be the best for the world rather than in the world?

You may consider obtaining B Corporation Certification, which allows a business to balance purpose and profit and use business as a force for good. Becoming a Certified B Corporation is a voluntary process that is completed with the assistance of B Lab.

Think of it as an audit. Most entities that decide to designate their businesses as Certified B Corps start off as limited liability companies or corporations. The business must pass a test known as the B Impact Assessment (BIA). The company also must be able to meet legal requirements and meet with a B Lab Standards analyst for an assessment review before they are approved as a Certified B Corporation.

Before you begin the process, consider consulting a legal professional to determine if a Certified B Corp designation is the right decision for your business.

5. Listen to your customers

Earlier, I mentioned that having a website can be a helpful tool in creating a seamless customer experience. Whether you’re launching a new startup or growing your existing business, take the time to listen to your customers.

Listening to customers allows businesses to do more than just respond to their needs.

 

This is the time to get to know and understand your customers. Problems facing customers during COVID-19 might be different than they were before the pandemic.

Dine-in restaurants, for example, initially dealt with the issue of being able to serve customers. In the past, a customer would be able to enjoy a meal indoors, but that was not an option during the first few months of the pandemic. Many restaurants resolved this issue by listening to customers and providing take-out and delivery services. Some even installed drive-throughs to make it easier to place orders and help customers get exactly what they needed.

Listen to customers and pay attention to the needs of your target market. Identify their problems and pain points.

How can your offerings act as a solution? Is it possible to develop new products if your existing services are unable to help solve these problems?

Study and plan how you will best be able to serve customers in calm and challenging times alike. Reach out for customer feedback on a year-round basis and keep a sharp eye on customer behavior changes and audience interests. The bigger the business, the more investors will take interest in your startup — and its loyal customer base!

The above content should not be construed as legal or tax advice. Always consult an attorney or tax professional regarding your specific legal or tax situation.

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The Benefits of LinkedIn Ads

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LinkedIn wouldn’t necessarily be the first platform that comes to mind when considering social media advertising. However, if you are a B2B organisation, the platform can allow you to reach professionals across the globe. LinkedIn allows you to generate brand awareness across targeted professional sectors and reach out to decision makers directly.

Advertising is all about targeting the right people. Users of LinkedIn tend to be older, professional and have a higher income than the average user of other social media platforms. So if that is your target market, LinkedIn offers a great opportunity to reach them. Professionals use LinkedIn for business networking purposes so users are generally in work mode so engaging with them should be easier than on other platforms.

Here we outline the six main advantages that LinkedIn Ads have over other social media platforms.

1. Variety of ad formats

LinkedIn offers a number of options for advertising:

  • Sponsored content – this type of ad appears in people’s feeds, it is the least personal form but good for promoting content from your business page and encouraging people onto it.
  • Text ads – these are only viewable by people using a desktop. With these you can choose the audience you want to target and you only pay per click.
  • Message ads – these appear in users’ inboxes and are proven to be good for conversion.
  • Video ads – great for storytelling, you can also retarget users who have watched the video, aiding conversion rates.
  • Dynamic ads – these allow you to fully personalise your ad by showing user’s photo, name and title within the advert.

2. Generate high quality leads

The ability to target professionals and gain good quality leads is the primary benefit of LinkedIn ads. Users are looking at work-related content so will be more open to solutions for their business needs.

With more than 800 million users in over 220 countries and territories, LinkedIn is the biggest social network for professionals and businesses alike. 4 out of 5 LinkedIn members drive business decisions and the platform has been rated the best for lead generation by marketers.

By using LinkedIn advertising, you can access their Lead Accelerator feature. This feature allows businesses to follow their best prospects and offer more targeted ads directly to them. This includes remarketing to website visitors, which helps nurture leads, making them more likely to become customers.

3. Targeting

LinkedIn allows you to target specific demographics, enabling you to create much more personal advertising campaigns. Facebook lets you target interest and behaviour based factors however LinkedIn is the right medium to use if you want to target individuals based on their industry and job. You can filter your audience by:

  • Age
  • Location
  • Company name
  • Company size
  • Degree subject
  • Job title
  • Seniority
  • Industry
  • Member skills

These variables make the platform the ideal choice for B2B organisations wanting to target decision-makers.

Entrepreneurs executing on a business idea
photo credit: LinkedIn Sales Navigator / Unsplash

4. Remarketing

LinkedIn allows you to specifically target people who have shown an interest in your products. Matched audiences show you which users have visited your website and the pages that they went on. This allows you to target them with specific ads in the hope that they will return to your website and convert to a customer.

Matched audiences can be created with:

  • Account Targeting – Uploading a CSV of company names to LinkedIn allows you to target decision-makers.
  • Website Retargeting – Target the users who have visited your website and re-engage them to aid conversions.
  • Contact Targeting – Uploading a CSV of email addresses of your contacts to LinkedIn enables you to nurture your leads and prospects even further.

5. Increased conversion rates

The ability to target specific groups, nurture them and remarket to them will increase your conversion rates.

A year-long study by HubSpot found that on average, LinkedIn ads convert users to leads at a 6.1 per cent conversion rate. This compares to 2.58 per cent for Google search ads.

MD of exhibition stand contractor Black Robin Exhibits, Alan Jenkins, managed to achieve a conversion rate of 8.2% with a LinkedIn campaign earlier this year, he said “We were delighted with the results, it wasn’t a huge investment, we could set the budget and the conversion rate was fantastic”.

6. High control

A big benefit of LinkedIn advertising is the high degree of control that you can have. You can set a specific start time for your advert and specify when it will end. As well as this, you can set daily budgets to ensure your advertising costs are kept at the right level for your business.

Businessman using LinkedIn app

Conclusion

Setting up a LinkedIn campaign is not straight-forward due to the variety of advert types and different ways of targeting. But the platform has a number of advantages over other social media sites if your target market is professional businesspeople.

B2B organisations will be able to target specific demographics with personal ads, nurture and remarket to them. All this will increase conversion rates, making LinkedIn a valuable marketing tool.

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Beginners’ guide to Instagram Reels

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Get ‘Reel’ results

If you haven’t already heard the news, according to Instagram, they’re no longer a photo-sharing app. Shocking, right? The company announced they want to start focusing more on video content, like that offered through Instagram Reels, as opposed to being the original square photo-sharing app they’re known for being.

“At Instagram, we’re always trying to build new features that help you get the most out of your experience. Right now we’re focused on four key areas: Creators, Video, Shopping and Messaging.” — Adam Mosseri, Instagram CEO

This makes total sense because short, engaging videos (shown to us by hyper-accurate algorithms) have proven to keep our attention more effectively than ever before. So effectively that 93% of marketers who use video say it’s an important part of their marketing strategy. Additionally, users are twice as likely to share video content with their friends and family than any other type of content, including social media posts, blog posts/articles and product pages.

So if you’ve been hesitant to start making Instagram Reels or just needed a little encouragement, we’ll cover the basics, give you some ideas on what content to create for your business or brand, and help you understand the data behind it all.

But, before we do, let’s talk about why Instagram Reels needs to be included in your marketing strategy.
What are Reels and why should you start using them?

Person recording elephants on smartphone

Instagram Reels rolled out in late 2020 and the feature has continued to increase in popularity. Reels provide creators with a way to produce and share short, engaging videos using a collection of mainstream music and user-generated audio.

With more advanced editing tools, such as speed controls, filters and transitions, you can effortlessly edit multi-clip Reels up to 30 seconds long, entirely within the Instagram app, which is amazing if you don’t want to use multiple apps and extra equipment to film, edit and post to social media.

Reels are definitely a useful feature of the platform as a whole that is worth exploring. When it comes to metrics, Reels receive 22% more engagement than videos posted directly to a feed. In addition to IGTV, Live and Stories, Instagram Reels are another great tool for you to use to get noticed on the platform and reach potential customers.

Nearly two-thirds of Instagram users are between 18 and 29, with 18- to 34-year-olds the most active age group. That means there’s a ton of opportunity for businesses to be discovered by your target audience on this platform. So, if your Instagram strategy needs a boost to stay top-of-mind and ahead of the competition, Reels could be your solution.

Related: How to plan an Instagram marketing strategy to attract business

Instagram Reels small business content ideas

If your business is active on Instagram but hasn’t posted a Reel just yet, don’t worry, it’s not too late to start. Accounts that don’t follow you can find your content while scrolling on the Explore page, which is why it’s so important for brands to be active where their target audience is.

Don’t let lack of inspiration hold you back, here are some simple and effective video ideas:

Educational content‍

The best way to increase your reach and engagement is to give your viewers value. If you can create something that is helpful, users are more likely to like it, share it with their friends and follow you for more. That ultimately, tells the algorithm your content is worth being promoted to others on the app.

For example, you can create shareable workout, cooking or crafting videos just by showing your step-by-step process.

Showcase your products‍ or services

Highlight what makes your business unique with Reels dedicated to each product or service you offer. This could be a tutorial on how to best use your products or a way to update customers on new offerings.

Create original content‍

Easier said than done, but I know that behind-the-scenes content, user-generated content and FAQs are always a big hit with loyal audiences.

You also have a few different ways to get trending and possibly even viral. You can use trending hashtags, popular audio clips or filters and get discovered among other videos with those elements.

Re-creating a popular trend while highlighting your brand is one of the quickest (but not the easiest) ways for business growth with Instagram Reels.

How to optimize your Instagram Reels

Improvised video recording setup

Improvised video recording setup

Like with any social media platform, there are always hidden steps you can take to increase the likelihood your content gets seen and please the almighty algorithm.

For example, many users who create content for TikTok have started uploading those same videos as Reels. Seems like a logical time saver, right? Well, Instagram has not only clearly advised against re-posting content that’s “visibly recycled from other apps,” it has also updated its algorithm to recognize and prevent it from performing well on their platform.

That being said, here are some tips on how to optimize your Reels for the best results:

  1. Try to record (vertically), edit and add effects to your reels from within the app, rather than uploading a video you’ve created elsewhere.
  2. It’s also important to use text overlays, hashtags, audio, and descriptive captions to let Instagram add you to an algorithm relevant to the content.
  3. @ other accounts, when appropriate. Just like hashtags, you’ll get more reach by including their name in your content.
  4. Use custom thumbnails. Doing so will make it easier for users to find videos they want to watch when scrolling on your account. It’s also a great way to incorporate your branding and help your feed look cohesive.
  5. Sharing your Reels to your Stories and even on your feed will get more people to see it. You can share it when you post it or, if you have posted enough that day, share on a day when you don’t have anything else to post.

Algorithms are constantly changing, and not always for the better. Doing just a little bit of research to stay on top of current trends and best practices will pay off in the long run.

Related: 3 ways to use Instagram Stories for digital storytelling

Understanding Instagram Reels Insights

Bodybuilder recording workout

Bodybuilder recording workout

Finally, you’ll need a way of knowing if your hard work is paying off.

Instagram has included a dedicated tab, which is similar to the Insights tab on your static posts and videos, that details the metrics relating to your Reels. With the Instagram Reels Insights, business owners can see important metrics like accounts reached, plays, likes, comments, saves and shares.

By knowing what type of accounts you’re reaching with your Reels and which content formats are most engaging with your audience, you’ll be able to adjust your content to better serve your target audience and grow your account.

Measuring these stats is the best way to make sure all the efforts you’re putting in to engage your fans is actually working.

Once you have a good idea of where your metrics are on average, try experimenting with the time of day, type of content and hashtags you use when posting your Reels. Start thinking of ways to get in front of new users with videos like tutorials, bloopers or more user-generated content. You could even share customer testimonials or success stories for added social proof.

Final thoughts on Instagram Reels

I know I personally struggled with the idea of including yet another item on my content creation checklist, but I’ve found that even just repurposing a few old clips from videos on my YouTube channel into Reels has proved effective in increasing my engagement and reach on Instagram.

Exploring a new feature of social media can be intimidating and overwhelming at times, but Reels seems to be a fun new way to expand your social media presence through the use of short videos. I recommend testing it out and seeing how well it works for you and your audience. You might find it to be your new favorite tool in your social media strategy.



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5 Strategies to Drive Customer Engagement

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Engaging with your customers is the key to driving sales and growing your company. However, some businesses are not sure how to do this effectively. It means that when they finally manage to engage with their customers, they are not entirely sure what worked. Knowing how to drive customer engagement is all about knowing your customers.

Here are 5 strategies that you can use to drive customer engagement.

Customer engagement
photo credit: Edmond Dantès / Pexels

Communication is the Key

Communication between your company and your customers is fundamental to engagement. If your customers are trying to talk to you about your products or services, then you should listen to them. Avoiding contact will simply drive them to another company.

Here are some tips you should follow.

1. Listen to Your Customers and Never Assume

If you have a customer that approaches you on social media or any other channel, it is vital that you engage them in a conversation. Their initial message might not be the complete story, so you need to work with them to find the right answer.

Once you have found out what the customer wants, go through your products with them and pinpoint what works for them. Your sales team must never assume that they know what their customers want, or they might find the customer goes elsewhere.

2. Seek Help with Engagement

Sometimes no matter what you try, you are unable to engage with your customers or retain them. It may be that there are strategies that you haven’t considered or lack the knowledge to implement.

This is where companies such as TCC Global can help. By helping you and your marketing team to engage with your customers and create brand loyalty, you can start to grow your business.

3. Respond Quickly to Questions

There is nothing more frustrating for customers than asking a question on social media and not getting a reply. Even a delay of a few hours can be enough to cause someone to look elsewhere.

If your business has a presence on social media, then it is vital that it is monitored at least during business hours.

Selling to existing customers

4. Chat to Your Customers

There is a temptation to use your means of communication to just sell products. While this is an important part, there should also be more customer engagement through conversation.

If you find something interesting, tell your customers on social media. Reply to them if they answer you and keep the conversation going.

5. Blog About the Popular Questions

If you are seeing a trend in questions your customers are asking, then it may be a good idea to write a blog post about it.

Blog posts will drive visitors and potential customers to your website and from there they may go to your products. Answering these popular questions will also save time for your customers and build loyalty.

Conclusion

So, there you have it – 5 strategies to drive customer engagement. These are just a few of the ways your company can build a relationship with its customers and build a loyal following.

It is important to remember to stay engaged with your customers even after they make a purchase.

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