<![CDATA[Smith ​Entrepreneurship​ Group <br />248-553-7000 - Smith Entrepreneurship Group-Blog]]>Thu, 08 Feb 2018 21:11:49 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[Solopreneurship]]>Tue, 30 Jan 2018 08:00:00 GMThttp://smithentrepreneurshipgroup.com/smith-entrepreneurship-group-blog/solopreneurship
A quick search on Google will tell you that the term solopreneur has been around for quite some time.

Macmillan dictionary defines a solopreneur as a business owner who works and runs their business alone. Going by this definition of solopreneur, about a third of the American workforce comprising freelancers and consultants fit under category.

Solopreneurs have an inherently entrepreneurial mindset, and they prefer single-handedly managing their business.

Solopreneurs are often criticized for not generating jobs for others. What critics do not take into account is that while solopreneurs may work alone, it doesn’t mean they don’t collaborate with other entrepreneurs. To give an example, a freelance writer may work closely with a designer on various projects. In this way, solopreneurs generate work for others.

Pros and Cons of Being a Solopreneur
Solopreneurship as a career is tempting for several reasons. To begin with, solopreneurs have the flexibility and freedom to choose their work. The work-life balance that solopreneurship offers is, in fact, one of the key factors behind its growing popularity.

Solopreneurship also works for those who want to be their own boss. By choosing to run their businesses single-handedly, solopreneurs avoid boardroom politics and other hassles that come with dealing with too many people. Solopreneurs call their own shots and are accountable for the business decisions they make.

In the present market scenario, solopreneurship is an idea worth exploring because demand for self-driven, skilled specialists is on the rise. There are plenty of opportunities that solopreneurs can consider to achieve success.

On the flip side however, solopreneurship is not for those averse to taking risks. While working alone as an entrepreneur, you may face challenging situations that demand patience and quick decision-making.

It’s also important to remember that as a solopreneur you will be on your own, without the support of your team members. You may face situations where you need to multi-task and do many jobs all at once.

Plus, a growing number of people are jumping on the solopreneurship bandwagon today, making it a really competitive place to be. To get business, you have to find new ways to set yourself apart and communicate your unique brand story. What special value do you bring? Why should your customers choose you over your competition? These are some questions you need to answer before you choose a career in this domain.

Solopreneurship is an exciting opportunity to consider also because there are some really fun ideas you can explore. With the right strategy and vision, you can get started in no time. 
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<![CDATA[Employee Motivation]]>Mon, 15 Jan 2018 08:00:00 GMThttp://smithentrepreneurshipgroup.com/smith-entrepreneurship-group-blog/employee-motivation

Motivating employees seems like it should be easy. And it is — in theory. But while the concept of motivation may be straightforward, motivating employees in real-life situations is far more challenging. As leaders, we’re asked to understand what motivates each individual on our team and manage them accordingly. What a challenging ask of leaders, particularly those with large or dispersed teams and those who are already overwhelmed by their own workloads.

Leaders are also encouraged to rely on the carrot versus stick approach for motivation, where the carrot is a reward for compliance and the stick is a consequence for noncompliance. But when our sole task as leaders becomes compliance, trying to compel others to do something, chances are we’re the only ones who will be motivated.
Why not consider another way to motivate employees? I’d like to suggest a new dialogue that embraces the key concept that motivation is less about employees doing great work and more about employees feeling great about their work. The better employees feel about their work, the more motivated they remain over time. When we step away from the traditional carrot or stick to motivate employees, we can engage in a new and meaningful dialogue about the work instead. Here’s how:

Share context and provide relevance. There is no stronger motivation for employees than an understanding that their work matters and is relevant to someone or something other than a financial statement. To motivate your employees, start by sharing context about the work you’re asking them to do. What are we doing as an organization and as a team? Why are we doing it? Who benefits from our work and how? What does success look like for our team and for each employee? What role does each employee play in delivering on that promise? Employees are motivated when their work has relevance.

Anticipate roadblocks to enable progress. When you ask anything significant of team members, they will undoubtedly encounter roadblocks and challenges along the path to success. Recognize that challenges can materially impact motivation. Be proactive in identifying and addressing them. What might make an employee’s work difficult or cumbersome? What can you do to ease the burden? What roadblocks might surface? 

How can you knock them down? How can you remain engaged just enough to see trouble coming and pave the way for success? Employees are motivated when they can make progress without unnecessary interruption and undue burdens.

Recognize contributions and show appreciation. As tempting as it is to try to influence employee satisfaction with the use of carrots and sticks, it isn’t necessary for sustained motivation. Far more powerful is your commitment to recognizing and acknowledging contributions so that employees feel appreciated and valued. Leaders consistently underestimate the power of acknowledgment to bring forth employees’ best efforts. What milestones have been achieved? What unexpected or exceptional results have been realized? Who has gone beyond the call of duty to help a colleague or meet a deadline? Who has provided great service or support to a customer in crisis? Who “walked the talk” on your values in a way that sets an example for others and warrants recognition? Employees are motivated when they feel appreciated and recognized for their contributions.

Check in to assess your own motivation. What if you’ve done all of the above but are still struggling to motivate others? You may need to assess your own motivation. Employees are very attuned to whether leaders have a genuine connection to the work. If you’re not engaged and enthusiastic about your company, your team, or the work you do, it’s unlikely that you’ll be a great motivator of others. What aspects of your role do you enjoy? What makes you proud to lead your team? What impact can you and your team have on others both inside and outside the organization? How can you adapt your role to increase your energy and enthusiasm? Employees feel motivated when their leaders are motivated.

The bottom line is: Don’t rely on outdated methods and tricks to motivate employees. Talk with your team about the relevance of the work they do every day. Be proactive in identifying and solving problems for your employees. Recognize employee contributions in specific, meaningful ways on a regular basis. Connect with your own motivation, and share it freely with your team. Put away the carrots and sticks and have meaningful conversations instead. You’ll be well on your way to leading a highly motivated team.


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<![CDATA[Tuning Up Your Small Business For The New Year]]>Sat, 30 Dec 2017 08:00:00 GMThttp://smithentrepreneurshipgroup.com/smith-entrepreneurship-group-blog/tuning-up-your-small-business-for-the-new-year

  • Product/Service – Review everything associated with your product or service. Is it priced accordingly? How were sales this year? Did you meet or exceed expectations so far? Are there any scheduled updates or newer versions? If your business is the car itself, your products and services are the engine. Get feedback on how you can improve your products and services from employees, partners, vendors and customers.

  • Cash Flow – Cash flow is the fuel for your business. Without it, you are stuck on the side of the road and going nowhere. Are there any signs of problems with cash flow? In the last six months, did you have any issues with paying bills or receivables? Don’t wait for disaster to strike (e.g. a customer who owes you money goes out of business or several of your customers are affected by a natural disaster and can’t pay you for an extended period of time). Someone on your team needs to be the squeaky wheel in the event you aren’t getting paid in a timely manner by your customers.

  • Customers – Are you growing your base of customers or are you barely replacing lost business with new customers? Does one customer represent a large percentage of your business (more than 20-25%)? If so, how is your relationship with that customer? Customers or clients represent the gas pump at the station. Their revenue is responsible for the gas in your car. It’s imperative to know your customers (and your relationship with them) inside and out.

  • Marketplace – What’s happening in your industry or category of business? Is it growing or declining? What innovative products or services are being introduced to the marketplace? Sticking with the car analogy, the marketplace represents the weather and road conditions. You need to watch out for bad weather, potholes and detours along the way. Use your business plan as a GPS system to find the most efficient route from where you are now to where you want to go.

  • Employees – Your employees are your pit crew. They maintain your car and keep it running and in good condition. They are also passengers and sometimes drivers. Do you have the best team in place? Are they able to handle whatever weather conditions, potholes and detours come your way? In some cases, all it takes is one person who doesn’t know what they are doing to really mess up a good business.

  • Competition – How much do you know about your competition? If you were to enter your car into a road race, the other businesses in your category would be your competitors. Ask yourself these questions–how fast are their cars? Who’s driving those? Who do they have in their pit crews? Too many small business owners don’t know a thing about their competition. If that’s you, take time to figure out who is trying to take business away from you and who you need to beat in order to win new business.

  • You – The final step in tuning up your business is to examine yourself. You are the driver. Are you prepared to drive your business to the destination you’ve selected as your goal? Do you have the tools, resources, right team and enough fuel to get you there? Can you beat the other drivers to the finish line?

  • Most business owners will actively review and follow 3-4 of the seven steps listed above. They then wonder why their businesses break down, run out of fuel and never make it to the finish line. In order to be successful, don’t cut corners and skip steps. Make time (that you say you don’t have) and tune up your business so that you are running it on all cylinders. Best of luck!
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<![CDATA[Guerrilla Marketing]]>Fri, 15 Dec 2017 08:00:00 GMThttp://smithentrepreneurshipgroup.com/smith-entrepreneurship-group-blog/guerrilla-marketing

Guerrilla Marketing
 is an advertising strategy that focuses on low-cost unconventional marketing tactics that yield maximum results.

The original term was coined by Jay Conrad Levinson in his 1984 book ‘Guerrilla Advertising’. The term guerrilla marketing was inspired by guerrilla warfare which is a form of irregular warfare and relates to the small tactic strategies used by armed civilians. Many of these tactics includes ambushes, sabotage, raids and elements of surprise. Much like guerrilla warfare, guerrilla marketing uses the same sort of tactics in the marketing industry.

This alternative advertising style relies heavily on unconventional marketing strategy, high energy and imagination. Guerrilla Marketing is about taking the consumer by surprise, make an indelible impression and create copious amounts of social buzz. Guerrilla marketing is said to make a far more valuable impression with consumers in comparison to more traditional forms of advertising and marketing. This is due to the fact that most guerrilla marketing campaigns aim to strike the consumer at a more personal and memorable level.

Guerrilla marketing is often ideal for small businesses that need to reach a large audience without breaking the bank. It also is used by big companies in grassroots campaigns to compliment on-going mass media campaigns. Individuals have also adopted this marketing style as a way to find a job or more work.

Successfully pulling off a guerrilla marketing plan requires the right mix of surprise, delight, and a unique twist.

Public Art, Graffiti, and Urban Art
Graffiti has come along way since its Philadelphia beginnings in the late 60’s. What used to be a rebellious way for urban youth to gain attention or mark territory has now grown into a full-fledged movement as artists like Shepard Fairey and Banksy earn international fame and recognition with their socially- and politically-charged messages.

In 2008, the Obama presidential campaign recognized the power of street art to grab the attention of young voters. Shepard Fairey had already started to gain attention with his Andre the Giant/Obey art when Barack Obama’s message captured his interest. Fairey’s original portrait of President Obama read “Progress,” but he changed it to “Hope” when the campaign reached out to commission the piece as a fundraising tool. This a great example of sharing momentum to promote your message.

If you’re a little wary of the risk factor associated with true graffiti art, consider reverse-graffiti—a process that uses cleaning products to create an image by removing dirt and debris from the walls or sidewalk to display an image.

In this genius low cost move, Green Works created a 140-foot mural in a San Francisco underpass using their plant-derived, eco-friendly cleaning products to remove the accumulated grime from the city. That means no need to buy advertising space, and it’s certainly not a crime to clean public space!

Sidewalk chalk is another great guerrilla marketing option for temporary public art. Writing your website, company name, or slogan on the sidewalks of an industry event is a cheap and easy way to grab free attention. This is also a fun way to lead people to a business that might be slightly off the beaten path, or just guide people to a sale or grand opening.

Unique Storefront Displays
Don’t think that a street art approach means you’ll have to be sneaking around at night with stencils, paints, posters, and glue. For a less stealthy approach, you can use your storefront or other space on your building to display a clever image. Having an artist paint a mural on your building or designing a unique window display is a great opportunity to catch the eye of foot traffic and stand out to local customers.

If making your businesses location an eye-catching piece of art appeals to you, consider hiring a local artist to paint your name on the building instead of the more traditional signage. You don’t have to stop at just your name: using more building space is just more opportunity to pique the interest of passersby. You’ll stand out from your neighbors and win nearby fans by supporting local art.

Stickers Out in the Wild
Creative street art doesn’t have to stay close to home. If you don’t have a storefront or want to look beyond foot traffic to earn new patrons, enhancing the everyday fixtures of life can have a big impact. Stickers are less risky than paint, but more versatile than traditional ad placements. They can be designed in all different shapes and sizes, even on the tightest budget, and are good for modifying an existing message.

In the wake of Banksy’s popularity and impact, Ikea paid street artists to to graffiti their existing ads and placed similarly styled ads in unconventional unconventional places. Ikea’s bright, modern, reasonably-priced furniture makes young people a big part of their target market. Using the popularity of stenciled street art is a perfect fit to catch they eye of the right demographic.

If you like the idea of using the streets and sidewalks as fun advertising space—but aren’t sold on the permanence of spray paint—then carefully placed decals and stickers might be just the thing for you. Procter and Gamble used the white stripes of crosswalks to remind pedestrians of Mr. Clean’s power over grit. This wins points for reversibility, humor, and defying language barriers.

Another good use of strategically placed images is Folgers’ steaming cup of coffee. Why let that steam go to waste when it can sell some coffee? Keeping your message simple and visually based helps to convey your message to a diverse audience.

If you’re thinking of using guerrilla marketing on a smaller scale, consider smaller decals strategically placed for a captive audience. Guinness narrowed in on their exact audience by wrapping small and simple stickers around the ends of pool cues. Even a simple strategy of having your logo stickers visible in places your target customers frequent can increase brand recognition. Pixar knew that their target audience has a lower line of vision, so they put their mouse hole flyers closer to the ground where children were more likely to spot them.

The Salvation Army got really creative with their “This Ad Cost Nothing Campaign” and canvassed the northeastern U.S. with their free ads. Stamps in pizza boxes, on coffee cup sleeves, chalk on walls and sidewalks, even dirty windshields served as perfect advertising space to bring in new donations.

Performance-Based Guerrilla Marketing
Even with safe and reversible options, maybe (literally) making your mark through public art doesn’t really interest you. If that’s the case, consider integrating public performances into your guerrilla marketing plan. Performances take a lot of time to plan, but can be repeated to maximize exposure. Documenting performances and sharing them over social media will also help you expand the reach of your message beyond your immediate audience.

The term “flash mob” could also sound a bit menacing, but it’s actually nothing to be afraid of. In a nutshell, a flash mob is a group of people gathering suddenly in public to do an unusual act or performance, and then quickly disperse. They should be quick, attention grabbing, and fun. Flash mobs can be very complex, too, like T-Mobile’s dance at a train station. Dozens of dancers assembled and performed choreography for a few minutes to a fun mash-up soundtrack, then quickly dispersed. This particular performance was not only well-planned and rehearsed, but also very well-documented to reach a wider internet audience.

A step down in complexity but not in impact is the famous Grand Central Freezeorganized by comedian Charlie Todd and Improv Everywhere. In this stunt, more than 200 voluntary participants froze in place at the same time while walking through Grand Central Station, for five minutes. Again, this was well documented with video from several angles, broadening the audience beyond passing commuters.

While at the opposite end of the scale in complexity of performance, both do require a lot of people and planning. Molo Nation took a smaller scale plan to the streets with their Jedi Battle Prank. The idea was equally simple and delightful: get a group of people to don Star Wars Costumes and challenge pedestrians to lightsaber battles. This guerrilla marketing performance engaged passersby to draw attention to a local fitness business.
Notice that all of these performances, regardless of complexity, were filmed and shared online to extend the reach of the guerrilla marketing campaign. We really can’t say this enough—if you execute a guerrilla marketing plan but only a few people see it, you’re severely limiting the reach of your campaign!

Sabotage!
Put away your cat-burglar uniform, folks… There will be no breaking and entering here.
In guerrilla marketing terms, sabotage is when a brand uses momentum, popularity, or the message of a competing brand to draw attention to their own campaign.

Marc Benioff, CEO and co-founder of Salesforce, has earned himself quite the reputation for using sabotage as a guerrilla marketing technique. At competitor Siebel Systems’ annual conference, Benioff rented all of the taxis from the closest airport, using the 45 minute ride to pitch Salesforce before their rivals could even get guests checked in! Not only did this anger and frazzle his competition, journalists couldn’t resist writing about this bold stunt. Benioff let Siebel spend the energy and money of gathering the industry together, then just borrowed the audience for a bit.

Gett, a ride sharing app, capitalized upon the common complaints around Uber’s surge pricing with their new ad campaign to poach some already savvy customers. Uber has done a lot the heavy lifting of building a customer base for their ride sharing app—Gett simply just needed to highlight the benefits of their competing service.

Brewing giant New Castle combined the sabotage concept with more traditional outdoor marketing through hilarious hilarious billboard placements that competitor Stella Artois could not have seen coming.
The notable connection between all these sabotage campaigns is the use of humor and focus on the saboteur’s own products. This guerrilla marketing tactic isn’t just about bashing the competition. The savviest saboteur will always bring the message back to the superiority of their own product.

Web Campaigns
So far we’ve focused on live, physical guerrilla marketing campaigns that are documented and shared online—but don’t underestimate the power of campaigns that are born and live on the internet. Web campaigns offer huge potential for a wide impact at a very low cost.

The student filmmakers that made The Blair Witch Project did so on a $50k budget—about equivalent to the craft services budget for a major Marvel action movie.

To create this level of buzz for such a low budget movie, the filmmakers created a website for the film documenting the legend of the Blair Witch. They wisely focused on college-aged audiences and only showed ads on college campuses. On IMDB, the actors were listed as “Missing, Presumed Dead” prior to the film’s release. To further the authenticity of the story, “Missing” fliers were passed out around college campuses for the three film stars, and the filmmakers created and encouraged rumors about the “facts” surrounding the case on websites and message boards.

Even with such a small investment, The Blair Witch Project went on to gross $250 million worldwide—earning $1.5 million on only 27 screens opening weekend. That’s the very definition of guerrilla marketing success!

The Dollar Shave Club took a counter approach to brand name appeal with their wildly successful YouTube commercial. Founder Michael Dubin used his improv background from studying at New York City’s famed Upright Citizen’s Brigade Theatre to appeal to men tired of the ever-rising prices of name brand razor blades. It worked. Orders started rolling in and the Dollar Shave Club eventually expanded their line into men’s bath products and women’s essentials as well.

The common thread of successful web-based guerrilla marketing campaigns lies in the brand’s ability to control the content. With Instagram and Twitter commanding a huge influence on buyers, it can be very tempting to try to generate some buzz by creating a fun new hashtag. But be very careful when you are counting on the Twitter-verse to follow the spirit of your intent: there are countless examples of hashtag campaigns being hijacked or just hilariously and disastrously misinterpreted. Before launching any web-based campaign, be sure to test it out with a smaller focus group to check for any misunderstandings you may have missed.


Guerrilla Marketing Rules to Live By
Now that your mind is abuzz with all kinds of great guerrilla marketing ideas you can adapt to your business, there are a few guidelines worth keeping in mind when you launch your campaign. After all, while you want to stand out, you don’t want to be polarizing or negative. Your aim is to gain positive favor, so avoid ideas that could scare your audience or put them on the defense.


Catch Them Off Guard…
In today’s world of screen-based technology, consumers have developed an immunity against being advertised to. We automatically tune out, change channels, or mute devices when commercials come on. Closing pop-up windows and sidebars has become so automatic, we don’t even see things that are relevant.

Finding a way to get your message to a consumer when they’re not on high alert to reflexively ignore or shut out advertising is an important part of any guerrilla marketing approach. This is why street art, flash mobs, product modifications, and even simple stickers can be so effective.

…But Avoid Scary Associations
In the fall of 2007, Turner Broadcasting placed several blinking robot machines around Boston to promote the new season of their show, Aqua Teen Hunger Force, and the much-loved Mooninite characters on the show. Unfortunately, this guerrilla marketing plan turned out to be too vague, and many passers-by mistook the flashy machines for potential terrorist threats. This led public officials to shut down mass transit and call in the bomb squad for investigation.
 

Not quite the positive buzz marketers were looking for!

Lesson Learned: Before launching any guerrilla marketing campaign, test it out with a few people who have little to know knowledge of the product—or at least try to think of it from their perspective. If your plan risks causing genuine public concern, look for ways to either alter the plan or swiftly relieve the concerns of your audience.

Creativity Is Key
Once you catch customers’ attention, you’d better have something to say that will hold their interest. Writing “Our widgets are the best widgets” on the side of a building won’t do you much good. Your message needs to be as unique as your delivery.

Don’t Annoy Your Audience
Organizing a water fight to advertise your jet ski rentals? Great idea! Soaking innocent bystanders on their walk to work? Not so much.
Take pains to make sure that audience participation in your guerrilla marketing event is voluntary and that the public won’t be inconvenienced by your plan. You’re doing this to create new customers, not enemies.

Make Sure Displays Are Temporary
If your guerrilla marketing plan involves any type of public art, make sure that your work is easily reversed. Reverse graffiti, chalk spray, hydrophobic spray, and stickers are great options to make your mark—just not forever.

And even when choosing a non-permanent art option, be sure to test your method in an approved space first. IBM’s “Peace, Love & Linux” chalk stencils turned out to be much harder to remove than anticipated, costing the company tens of thousands of dollars in fines and clean up fees. Costing the city or a building owner time and money to fix their property is not the brand message you want to send.

Stay On Brand
You definitely want to be creative, but you also don’t want to create an image of something you aren’t. Staying on brand is important, so that when your newly-interested customers finds you, they’re not disappointed or baffled by the connection to your campaign.

Share, Share, Share!
No matter how creative and exciting your guerrilla marketing plan is, it can only be effective if your potential customers actually get to see it. So make sure to document your plan—not just the final product, but also the process of putting it together. Then plan to share those nuggets in the lead up, during your campaign, and after your launch in order to spread the reach of your stunt as far as possible.
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<![CDATA[Basic Finance 101 For Entrepreneurs]]>Thu, 30 Nov 2017 08:00:00 GMThttp://smithentrepreneurshipgroup.com/smith-entrepreneurship-group-blog/basic-finance-101-for-entrepreneurs

​To help get all you new and hoping-to-be CEOs started on the right financial footing to ensure confidence from your team and your investors, here are some basic finance terms that every good entrepreneur should know. 

Bottom Line:
Net earnings and net income both fall under the “bottom line” description. You may hear people talk about “affecting the bottom line” of the company and this is simply any action that may increase or decrease the company’s net earnings, or overall profit. The term “bottom” is in reference to the typical location of the number on a company’s income statement, below both revenues (top line) and expenses. Needless to say, this is an important term to know.

Gross Margin:
Gross margin is expressed as a percentage and represents the percent of total sales revenue that a company keeps after subtracting the cost of producing its goods or services. The higher the percentage, the more the company keeps on each dollar of sales (that will eventually go toward paying its other costs and obligations). In simple terms, if a company’s gross margins are 25 percent, for every dollar of revenue that is generated, the company will retain $0.25 before paying its overhead, which includes salaries, rent, and more.

Fixed versus Variable Costs:
A fixed cost is exactly what is sounds like, a cost that does not change with increases or decreases in the volume of goods or services that are produced by your company. These costs are obviously the easiest to predict and plan for. Rent, salaries, and utilities all usually fall into this category.

Variable cost are just the opposite. They can vary depending on a what a company is producing and as a result are much harder to forecast.

Equity versus Debt:
The “equity versus debt” comparison may seem silly to some, but you would be surprised at how many people I have come across who have no idea what either really means. Equity is simply money obtained from investors in exchange for ownership of a company, while debt comes in the form of loans from banks that must be repaid over time. Both are necessary for growth, with their own pros and cons. Equity versus debt is a critical decision for any entrepreneur and it is important to know the difference as the future of your business may depend on it.

Leverage:
Leverage can be interpreted a couple different ways. In the financial world, leverage is most commonly known as the amount of debt that can be used to finance your business’ assets. In simple terms, the amount of money you borrowed to run your business. The balance you want to strike as an entrepreneur is that of your debt and equity. If you have way more debt than equity, you will be considered “highly leveraged” aka “very risky” to potential investors.

Capital Expenditures (CapEx):
Capital expenditures are any items purchased by your business that create future benefits. Basically, if something you bought is going to be useful to your business beyond the taxable year in which you purchased it, capitalize the item(s) as assets in your accounting. Examples include computers, property, or acquisitions.

Concentration: 
Concentration is simply the measure (usually a percentage) of how much business you are doing with a specific client or partner. Relying on one or a couple of clients and partners to do business is a prime example of over-concentration. This is a losing strategy for any business because if something goes wrong with those limited relationships your business will be in serious trouble. Focus on keeping low concentrations for your accounts and investors will be impressed.
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<![CDATA[Digital Marketing Trends]]>Wed, 15 Nov 2017 08:00:00 GMThttp://smithentrepreneurshipgroup.com/smith-entrepreneurship-group-blog/digital-marketing-trends

Authenticity Rules
The number one, single most important thing you must do - on social media, on your website, just everywhere – is be yourself. Customers of every generation are looking for reality. Your real personality, conveyed through genuine, unique content helps you appeal to customers. Authenticity is consistently ranked among a brand’s most important qualities by Gen Xers, Millennial and Gen Z customers.

Platform Awareness
Consumers expect content to be appropriate to the platform it appears on. A fantastic Instagram post may fall flat on Facebook, and vice versa. Most small business owners who are doing their own marketing don’t have the available time or resources to shine on more than one platform: it’s better to choose the one most relevant to your customers and focus your energies there. With that in mind, take the time to make sure you know the best practices for posting content and engaging with other users – things like having the right number of hashtags can make a meaningful difference.

Social Selling
Social selling continues to grow, as companies learn how to convert interest into sales via social media and messaging apps. Selling is the third most important thing you can do on social media: the first is to maintain an authentic presence, and the second is to listen to and engage with your customers. Keeping everything in proportion will ensure you’re not seen as too pushy or overly commercial on social media.

Influencer Marketing
Influencers are those individuals people listen to online: they tend to have large followings on at least one social media platform, and they may have their own YouTube channel. In influence marketing, you pay an influencer to talk about your company, and they do so as part of their regular content. Choose an influencer to work with based on the size of their reach as well as their relevance to your customers. Top influencers command top dollar, but you don’t necessarily have to spend a lot of money to cash in on the influencer marketing trend: particularly for those businesses that depend on local traffic, look for up-and-coming aspiring influencers in your market – just make sure to check out their content prior to signing any deals!

Livestreaming & Video
Facebook has made livestreaming video absolutely mainstream: users have broadcast everything from surprise marriage proposals to natural disasters in real time. Look for ways to use livestreaming to promote your business: retailers who have livestreamed crowds waiting for the doors to open for a sales event have seen traffic spikes as a result. Not all video needs to be live, either: for service companies and B2B firms, informative, instructional video will continue to be a very powerful marketing tool.

Voice Search
The popularity of Alexa, Google Home and other digital assistants makes it crystal clear that every website must be optimized for voice search. Google tells us a full 50% of all searches happen on mobile devices, and of those searches, 20% are voice searches. Think about how a customer would ask Siri to find a business like yours, and make sure those terms are featured strategically throughout your content.

Data Driven Marketing
Almost every major digital platform has increased the number and robustness of their analytical tools over the course of 2016. Take advantage of these tools to deepen your understanding of who your customers are. Data is valuable, but it also has its limitations: as a business owner, you have to apply your own perspective and insight to the numbers. For best results, you want to look at your data regularly. This will allow you to spot trends faster, making you more responsive to your customers.

Automation and Chatbots
The last trend is one that will actually make small business owners’ lives a little easier. Automation allows you to schedule content, advertising and other digital assets to appear specifically when and where you’d like it to. Dynamic advertising will show customers the specific products they’d been browsing on your website while they’re on other platforms: it’s often the extra nudge they need to buy. Chatbots are basically pre-recorded messages you can set up to reply to common questions that may come in through a messaging app, such as what time your business opens or a returns policy.

Ready to Rock? Reading the trends list can make digital marketing seem a little overwhelming. The key is to remember to be yourself, pay attention to how the tools you’re using work, and let data guide your decision making process.
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<![CDATA[Motivating Your Employees]]>Mon, 30 Oct 2017 07:00:00 GMThttp://smithentrepreneurshipgroup.com/smith-entrepreneurship-group-blog/motivating-your-employees

​Employees may not need a pay raise as much as they do personal thanks for a job well done. Show your workers that you support them, and encourage better performance by motivating them in the following ways:

  • Personally thank employees for doing a good job — one on one, in writing, or both. Do it promptly, often, and sincerely.
  • Be willing to take time to meet with and listen to employees. Give them as much time as they need or want.
  • Provide specific feedback about the performance of the employee, the department, and the organization.
  • Strive to create a work environment that is open, trusting, and fun. Encourage new ideas and initiative.
  • Provide information about upcoming products and strategies, how the company makes and loses money, and how each employee fits into the overall plan.
  • Involve employees in decisions, especially those decisions that directly affect them.
  • Encourage employees to have a sense of ownership in their work and their work environment.
  • Create a partnership with each employee, giving them a chance to grow and learn new skills. Show them how you can help them meet their goals within the context of meeting the organization’s goals.
  • Celebrate successes of the company, the department, and the individuals in it. Take time for team- and morale-building meetings and activities.
  • Use performance as the basis for recognizing, rewarding, and promoting people. Deal with low and marginal performers so that they improve their performance or leave the organization.
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<![CDATA[How To Come Up With A Business Idea]]>Sun, 15 Oct 2017 07:00:00 GMThttp://smithentrepreneurshipgroup.com/smith-entrepreneurship-group-blog/how-to-come-up-with-a-businessentrepreneurial-idea

​Meet a need
Develop a lifestyle of responsibility and hopefully profit by doing what no one else wants to do. Always be the first to take up the challenge and never stop asking yourself, ‘Can I make money from this?’ Several businesses have been developed from doing what people will rather delegate. Typical cases include the laundry and dry cleaning business, and the delivery business.
 
Examine your passion
The best business is the one you build around your passion. Because only passion can get you through the lean days when all the business has is prospects. There is always a way to commercialize your passion, you only need to figure it out.

Meet people and visit places
Invest some time with quality people from whom you can bounce ideas. This helps give form to the seeming business ideas you might be considering. Also, different businesses have been developed in different countries. A visit to these countries will open your eyes to opportunities that are yet to be explored in your own country.
 
Document your ‘what-coulda-shoulda-beens’
We all have those moments when we criticize existing products and services. We are full of ideas for improvements. You should document these ideas, moments and emotions. And when the opportunity presents itself, develop the business ideas of the century from them.
 
Above all, never stop dreaming!


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<![CDATA[Businesses To Start Now!]]>Sat, 30 Sep 2017 07:00:00 GMThttp://smithentrepreneurshipgroup.com/smith-entrepreneurship-group-blog/businesses-to-start-now

Home elder care I.  Thanks to the miracle of modern medicine, members of the so-called “greatest generation” are able to live independently, but frequently not without help. Businesses that provide personal services to the elderly -- grocery shopping, chauffeuring, physical therapy -- are good bets for the sole operator.

Home elder care II.  Because of temporary or permanent illnesses and disabilities, part-time assistance may not be sufficient to allow the elderly to remain in their own homes. Sometimes round-the-clock skilled nursing care is required, and agencies that supply competent and honest help are and will be much in demand.
(It’s worth noting that businesses catering to the "greatest generation" will be well-positioned to serve their children, the baby boomers, who constitute the largest, wealthiest generation in U.S. history. Of course, before the boomers require living assistance, they’ll be spending plenty of loot as active retirees. Members of the generation’s leading cohort turn 59 in 2005 and their impending retirement represents a huge market opportunity.)

Retirement real estate. The elderly like it hot, and boomers will be no exception.  Properties in temperate climates, particularly those within easy striking distance of the coast, have begun to go through the roof. (This would explain why in recent years West Palm Beach, Fla., emerged from urban decay to become the nation’s fastest appreciating single-family home market.)  Selling retirement real estate, or providing services to firms that do, figures to be a growth industry.

Trust and investment services. Helping boomers manage the vast wealth they collectively possess will provide plenty of work for accountants, investment advisers, insurance agents, lawyers specializing in trusts and estates and everyone in between. Count on the government to keep the tax code so convoluted that professional advice is always needed.

Personal improvement. Long obsessed with how they look and feel,boomers won’t hesitate to spend retirement dollars on regimens and treatments that let them cling to at least the illusion of youth. Entrepreneurs who effectively deliver such nostrums as Pilates and yoga, Botox and other beauty treatments and nutritional counseling will tap into a gold mine.

Retirement recreation. One of the benefits of good health is the ability to remain active, and boomers will pursue vigorous activities in retirement as no generation before. Golf, fly fishing, hiking, bicycling are just a few of the pursuits on which retirees will drop lots of money. As with real estate, the watchword in this entrepreneurial market is location, location, location.

Resort services. Active boomers and younger enthusiasts will fuel a development boom in the most scenic parts of the country. Overcrowding in the national parks and the rapid development of the inter-mountain West are two signs of this. With more residents comes the need for more services: restaurants, dry cleaners, copy centers -- name it.

Outsourcing I. Not all of the jobs being outsourced by U.S. corporations are heading overseas. Plenty of the work is staying at home in the hands of independent contractors in the areas of accounting, law, human resources. An entrepreneur with in-demand expertise would do well to explore the corporate market.

Outsourcing II. Not all outsourcing takes place beyond the corporate walls. Often the work is performed by temps supplied to companies by agencies. An agency with a particular “hook” -- in other words the ability to provide competent workers a demonstrated sought-after skill -- figure to do well in the current and future business environment.

IT consulting.  During the 2000-2010 decade, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts, eight of the 10 fastest growing jobs will involve computer technology. Clearly, the world is becoming more wired and consultants who can help users adopt new hardware and software products and resolve problems will not have a difficult time finding work.
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<![CDATA[Defining Small Business Trends]]>Fri, 15 Sep 2017 07:00:00 GMThttp://smithentrepreneurshipgroup.com/smith-entrepreneurship-group-blog/defining-small-business-trends
Customer relationship management innovation
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) can be a millstone around the neck of small businesses. No business owner wants customers to feel like they can’t get a straightforward answer, or to lose business over their customers’ frustrations. Employing round-the-clock customer support staff is expensive, inefficient—and unavoidable.
Until now, that is. Small businesses are quickly gaining access to tools that put artificial intelligence and machine learning to work for them. CRM is one place these tools have started to make a huge difference.

Rather than staffing a support line, businesses are turning to a format more familiar to many of their millennial customers. The chat window. Customers can get answers to their questions in real time. By typing messages to an artificially intelligent “chatbot” that supplies the information they need. Machine learning algorithms allow these chatbots to become more effective over time. They learn what kinds of words and phrases are most often associated with different issues.
Large companies like Apple have built these bots from the ground up. They’re rapidly becoming available to small businesses as well.
It doesn’t take an A.I. to understand that the future of CRM is not a call center.

Small Business Trends: Subject matter expertise
Small businesses in the retail space have taken a pummeling in in the past from big box retailers, and many brick-and-mortar stores have been on deathwatch for a long time. But new research suggests that this trend may be changing.

Big box stores like Walmart and KMart continue to take their licks from online retailers like Amazon, which have them beat on price and convenience.
As big retailers flail against e-commerce giants, smaller retailers with local expertise, curated selections, and great customer engagement and education suddenly have more breathing roomA growing slice of the consumer market is hungry for information about the products they buy and especially for sustainable products. Big box retailers are nearly unbeatable when it comes to price, but have never been great at providing either of those things. Smaller retailers have stepped in to supply what Millennial customers want are rewarded with growing repeat business.

Enterprise technology for small business
A smorgasbord of powerful business programs has empowered small business owners to grow. All this at a rate much faster and smarter than ever before.
Once limited to only the largest firms (ones that could afford to dedicate an entire division to data management), enterprise technology services are democratizing big data and lowering the barriers to entry for the global market.

SaaS companies like Salesforce, Marketo, and Quickbooks can provide business infrastructures quickly and at scalable cost. This is a game-changer for small businesses. Businesses no longer have to rely on a large infusion of capital for technology investments.These types of SaaS platforms, termed “plug and play” technologies by Emergent Research, allow small businesses to raise their game almost overnight.

Many of 2017’s small business triumphs have come as leaders put these tools to work to leapfrog the growing pains of scaling up and joining the global economy.

Mobile payment platforms
As smartphones continue to dominate consumers’ waking lives, smart small businesses are following the money to the small screen.
One of 2017’s defining trends is the proliferation of mobile payment options. TechCrunch estimates that by 2020, 90 percent of mobile device users will have made a mobile payment. It makes perfect sense. If a company’s advertising and consumer engagement strategies are all geared toward mobile compatibility, why shouldn’t checkout and payment be just as seamless?

For all businesses, but especially those that target younger demographics, smooth integration with services like Square and Apple Pay is essential for increasing conversions.

Mobile payment applications have shown how willing customers are to part with conventional methods of payment. If your business hasn’t yet figured out how to get prospective customers to open up their wallets on the move, you’ve got options.
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