At Lending Club, we provide access to affordable, easy business loans for small businesses. We are America’s #1 credit marketplace, transforming banking to make it more efficient, transparent and consumer friendly. We operate fully online with no branch infrastructure and use technology to lower cost and deliver an amazing experience.
Having a good business credit score is key to getting business loans on favorable terms today.
Yet, a surprising number of small business owners don’t think about business credit scores — until it comes time to get financing to expand the business or address some other need.
According to Tom Green, Vice President of New Business Initiatives at Lending Club, poor credit scores are one of the top reasons that entrepreneurs get turned down for business loans.
Here are seven steps to improve your business credit score, so you can get the most favorable business loan decisions possible:
Step 1. Establish a (Separate) Business EntityAccording to U.S. government figures, over 70 percent of small businesses operate as sole proprietorships. The owners don’t incorporate the business or register a limited liability company.
The result? In a lender’s eyes, the business may not appear to be separate and apart from the owner.
Make sure your business is perceived as having a separate identity. Also make sure your business information can be publicly validated.
Experian, one of the largest credit reporting agencies, recommends actions such as incorporating or forming an LLC (limited liability company), obtaining a Federal Employer Identification Number, opening a bank account in the business name, and setting up a business phone line and listing it publicly.
Step 2. Develop a Credit History for the BusinessNext you need to establish a credit history for your business.
Experts suggest starting with applying for a business credit card.
“It’s much easier to get a business credit card than a six-figure business loan out of the gate. Think of the credit card as laying the foundation for establishing a positive payment history, enabling you to qualify for more credit down the road,” says Lending Club’s Green.
Once you get the business credit card, use it. And pay promptly. “Paying your credit card bills on time, or better yet ahead of time, is essential to building a good business credit history,” he adds.
Establishing a positive record with companies you do business with, such as suppliers and leasing companies, may also help. Your history with them counts toward your credit score, provided they report the information to credit agencies.
Step 3. Don’t Neglect Your Personal Credit ScoreFor most small businesses with under 20 employees, a lender will look at both the business credit and personal credit scores, notes Experian.
That’s because a business of this size is closely aligned with the business owner’s financial situation, as Professor Scott Shane writes.
Use one of the many credit score analyzer tools available today to see how lenders view your personal creditworthiness. Follow any recommendations to improve your score.
Step 4. Choose Lenders StrategicallyThe right kind of credit can help you build a better credit history so you can qualify for future loans on better terms such as a lower interest rate.
Certain types of financing won’t help with that.
For example, merchant cash advance providers and other alternative lenders typically do not report to credit bureaus. So they do not help your business become more qualified for lower-cost financing in the future.
Borrow from a lender that can help you achieve your business’s strategic goals — not just meet your near-term money needs.
Luckily, with today’s online lending platforms, you have access to one-stop shops for applying to multiple lenders.
“When choosing a lending marketplace online, be sure to also look at the level of personal service available,” advises Green. “For instance, at our company, Lending Club, every business loan client is assigned a dedicated Client Advisor. That’s because we know that while technology saves you time, it also helps to have a human being who can deeply understand your financing reasons and make recommendations to achieve your goals.”
Step 5. Keep Credit Card Balances LowDon’t max out your credit cards, experts recommend.
The higher your outstanding balances owed on credit cards or lines of credit, the lower your credit score is likely to be.
Credit Karma recommends keeping the amount of credit you’ve used to around 30 percent or less. You can figure out this percentage by dividing your total credit card balances by your total card limits. For example, if your total credit card limits are $27,000, and you owe balances of $7,300, the amount of credit you’ve used would be at 27 percent:
$7,300 divided by $27,000 equals 27 percent
While the above guideline was based on consumer accounts, remember, for most small businesses, your consumer credit score is a factor in business credit decisions.
And according to Experian, this measurement is also a factor in business credit scores.
Step 6. Monitor Your Business Credit — And Fix MistakesMistakes happen — and they seem to happen more frequently on business credit reports than on personal credit reports. “Something as simple as an incorrect SIC code (used to classify your business industry-type) can lower your credit score,” writes Levi King, founder of Creditera, a credit monitoring service. (SIC is now called NAICS.)
Be sure to check for mistakes and get them fixed before applying for financing. Check these major business-credit reporting sources: Experian, Equifax, TransUnion and Dun & Bradstreet.
To start one of these home-based businesses, you don't need a lot of funding -- just energy, passion and the drive to succeed.
The Staff of Entrepreneur Media, Inc.
The Staff of Entrepreneur Media, Inc.
This article has been excerpted from 55 Surefire Home Based Businesses You Can Start for Under $5,000 and other great resource books published by Entrepreneur Press.
Today, tens of thousands of people are considering starting their own business, and for good reasons. On average, people can expect to have two and three careers during their work life. Those leaving one career often think about their second or third career move being one they can run out of their own home. The good news: Starting a home-based business is within the reach of almost anyone who wants to take a risk and work hard, as are a plethora of other low-cost ideas.
Experience, training or licensing may be needed
Create a flier outlining your services. Before you do that, you need to know what those services will be. Do you want to simply do bookkeeping for a small business? A more involved level of accounting would be to work up balance sheets, income statements, and other financial reports on a monthly, quarterly, and/or annual basis, depending on the needs of the business. Other specializations can include tax accounting, a huge area of potential work.
2. BICYCLE REPAIR
In many parts of the country, this business tends to be seasonal, but you can find ways around that. Rent a storage unit and offer to store people's bicycles over the winter after you do a tune-up and any needed repairs on them. If you want to cater to the Lance Armstrong wannabes, you can have business all year round. These road race riders are training through snow, sleet and dark of night. Some of them work on their own bicycles, but many of them don't, so you can get their business all year. And if you keep Saturday shop hours, you can be sure you will have a group of enthusiasts coming by to talk all things cycling.
3. BOAT CLEANING
Experience, training or licensing may be needed
Boats that are hauled out of the water for the winter or even just for mid-season repairs will need the hull cleaned. And depending on the type of boat, it is a good time to give a major cleaning everything else too--the decks, the sleeping quarters, the head, and the holds. Start by approaching homes that have a boat sitting in the yard. Or you could market your services to the marina to contract you to do the boat cleaning it offers to customers.
4. BUSINESS PLAN SERVICE
Has expansion possibilities
Offer a soup-to-nuts business plan, including market research, the business plan narrative and the financial statements. Plan your fee around the main one that the client will want and offer the others as add-on services. You can give clients an electronic file and allow them to take it from there, or you can keep the business plan on file and offer the service of tweaking it whenever necessary. Have business plan samples to show clients--and make sure to include your own!
Read This: Write Your Business Plan by The Staff at Entrepreneur Media | Amazon | eBooks.com | Barnes & Noble
5. RIDE-SHARING DRIVER
Getting paid to drive during your free time is a great way to make extra money. It won't likely replace a full-time paycheck but can be a lucrative extra revenue stream. According to Nerd Wallet, here is a break down of the income you can expect: “To make an annual income of $50,000, the average Uber driver needs to provide 60.21 rides each week, while those working for Lyft need to give 83.76 rides a week, and Sidecar drivers would have had to provide 72.03 rides in a week.”
6. CLEANING SERVICE
There are many directions you can take this business. If you want to work during hours when no one else does, you can focus on office clients. You can focus on retail businesses and keep your customers clumped into one or two blocks. Restaurants are in great need of daily thorough cleaning and can be a great source of steady clients. Perhaps you would be more interested in house cleaning. Many times with cleaning services you don't have to spend lots of money on advertising or marketing because your customers will come by word of mouth.
Read This: Start Your Own Cleaning Service by Entrepreneur Press and Jacquelyn Lynn | Amazon | eBooks.com | Barnes & Noble
7. CHILDREN'S PARTY PLANNER
The children’s birthday party business is a multiple-million dollar industry, with the average American spending $500 per party. The book Start Your Own Kid-Focused Business tells you everything you need to know to get your own kid biz off the ground: from insurance costs to food and beverage selection to arranging unforgettable entertainment that gets lots of smiles and lots of referrals from happy customers.
Has expansion possibilities
To be a consultant, you need to have expertise in something so you can market yourself as an advisor to others looking to work in that area. Perhaps you managed several large warehouses in your career with a drugstore company, you did all the marketing for many years for a large shoe manufacturer or you set up a chain of beauty supply shops or take-out restaurants. You can use this experience to help others do similar things without making the same mistakes that you made along the way. A good calendar app will likely come in handy as time tracking is crucial to accurate billing.
Read This: Start Your Own Consulting Business by Entrepreneur Press and Eileen F. Sandlin | Amazon | eBooks.com | Barnes & Noble
9. DOG WALKING
Experience, training, or licensing may be needed
Dog walkers take pooches out for their daily constitutional one or more times a day, either individually or in small groups. In some cities across the United States, like New York, dog walking alone can be a booming business. But it's actually more common for dog walkers to offer additional services, including playing with and feeding pets, bringing in newspapers and mail, and turning lights on and off.
Read This: Start Your Own Pet Business and More by Entrepreneur Press and Eileen F. Sandlin | Amazon | eBooks.com | Barnes & Noble
10. EBAY ASSISTANT
Do you have items lurking around your household that you could sell on eBay? Figure out your asking price and decide whether to auction it or put it in your eBay store. Then decide if you want a minimum bid and how long you want the auction to last. You will want to establish a PayPal account to use for transactions. The eBay website provides all the information you need to know to get up and running with an eBay business. Chatbots are offering creative new ways to help businesses with these functions.
READ ON... 45 MORE IDEAS
By DARWIN GRAY
Franchising is an increasingly popular way of growing a business. However, before even thinking about selling franchises, it is important to take professional advice at an early stage to make sure that your business is suitable for franchising – not all businesses are.
It is also worthwhile doing some due diligence yourself to work out whether there are fundamental reasons why your business many not be suitable for franchising. Here are a number of potential hurdles and how they can potentially be overcome.
1. Market penetration
Typically, franchisors will need a strong brand to be able to successfully franchise. Your franchise marketing plan should provide for the growth of your brand in the marketplace, both to customers and also prospective franchisees.
2. A growing market
Businesses that are suitable for franchising are usually either in a growing or at least stable market. It would be unwise to franchise a business whose market is dwindling, unless you can make changes to the business model that is likely to turn this around.
3. A seasonal business
Seasonal businesses are not always regarded as being suitable for franchising. However, it may be possible to market your franchise to particular franchisees to whom it is entirely suitable. For instance, a business in the outdoor Christmas decoration market may well be ideal for someone involved in outdoor seasonal work that tends to dry up during the winter months, such as gardening.
4. Your business is specialist and can only be run by professionally qualified individuals
Many successful franchises can be easily run by anyone, subject to the usual franchise training. However, it may be that your business will require the franchisee to employ people with professional qualifications e.g. an opticians. Such businesses are potentially suitable for franchising, but are likely to be more of an investment opportunity rather than owner managed.
5. Trading history
Many start-up franchises do not have much in the way of trading history. However, provided that the business concept is proven, you can still run a pilot operation and then roll out a franchise network.
Learn how the founder of a children's learning brand leaned on the reputation and resources of national business services provider, Office Depot, to unleash her business potential.
By Entrepreneur Partner Studio Staff
Sponsored by Office Depot, Inc.
Elinor Huang is on a mission to inspire kids’ lifelong love of self and knew she could not do it alone. After a career in healthcare, Elinor observed firsthand the growing diagnosable mental health problems in young kids. “More kids are having difficulties in tackling uncertainties as they journey through life,” Elinor says.
“Many times, play and learning are seen as separate, arch-rivals forever separated and locked in a battle for a child’s well-being,” she adds. “Our children are growing up in a world where performance is king. Over-stimulus is starting at a younger age, oftentimes with overwhelming performance-based expectations.”
As a mother of two, Elinor decided to do something about it and looked to her local community for support. She founded MEandMine, a STEAM-powered, story-based hands-on adventure that integrates human body and social/emotional development into everyday fun for kids.
Starting a company is quite an adventure and an overwhelming task in itself, and equally as daunting, is finding the right balance of ideas, investment, infrastructure and support services to get started. To navigate the ins and outs and ups and downs associated with launching a business, Elinor decided to base MEandMine from the Office Depot® coworking facility in Los Gatos, Calif. Office Depot offers coworking spaces as part of its wide-array of business services in select markets around the U.S. where entrepreneurs can take advantage of all types of vital solutions to help pursue their passion and grow their businesses including printing and copying, shipping, tech support and repair and more.
Here, Elinor shares three ways Office Depot assisted in getting her startup off the ground and set up for success.
1. Leaning on a proven support system.Within the Office Depot coworking space, Elinor says she found everything she needed to start her business. “This inclusive and flexible coworking space has everything from private offices to conference rooms, making for the perfect environment to network and also meet with potential investors and customers,” she says. “It’s a beautiful, professional space.”
Elinor notes that Office Depot’s coworking spaces have everything from private offices to conference rooms, creating the perfect environment to network and meet with customers.
Running a self-funded company is far from glamorous. This entrepreneur shares some of the biggest lessons she has learned and how she pushed through when the times get tough.
BY JACLYN JOHNSON
We’re living in the era of VC-backed everything. These days, it can feel like every new startup is raising seven figures, or working toward a seed, A, B, or C round. To make a cheesy analogy, investors are the new black, and everyone is getting in on the million-dollar action and billion-dollar evaluations.
As a business owner, I can tell you that those million-dollar investments aren’t the norm. For most of us (82%, according to a 2012 Global Entrepreneurship Report), that money comes from our family and friends, or out of our own pockets. And while some entrepreneurs might have access to million-dollar funding outside of venture capital, the majority of us don’t fit into that bucket.
I’ve started two self-funded companies–one of which was eventually acquired–and one of the things I realized is that we don’t often get the notoriety of venture-backed companies. As a result, it’s easy to feel alone–even though we’re technically the majority. In my entrepreneurial journey, I’ve learned a few lessons that kept me sane during the uncertain (and lonely) times that come with starting something from scratch.
1) I EMBRACED GETTING MY HANDS DIRTY When you’re a founder of a self-funded business (and your business is running on a not-so-large budget) you need to be an operator–at least at the beginning. It’s usually not wise to hire a large executive team and throw money at every problem. At various points, I’ve been the HR, finance, account manager, the coffee maker, and the deal-closer.
Of course, when my company got to a point when we had the necessary momentum (and I needed to focus on scaling and growing the business rather than on entry-level, time consuming tasks), I started hiring. But I waited until my business saw more money coming in than what it was bleeding out. After all, I didn’t have the luxury of relying on a third-party for cash injection–it was all up to me to bring money to the company.
Related: Your 90-day plan to becoming an entrepreneur
2) I HIRED EMPLOYEES WHO WERE ENTREPRENEURIALLY MINDED I discovered early on just how much of a roller-coaster starting a business can be. This means that you need to have a team around you to lean on. But you can’t have just anyone. You need to identify what kind of roles you need to fill to move your business forward, and be brutally honest about the kind of individuals who can fill those spots. Often, this requires you to look beyond pedigree and resumes.
by Gerri Detweiler
FICO has announced a new suite of credit scoring models, Fico Score 10 and 10 T, that could result in credit score drops, especially for consumers whose credit scores are already low. Should you be worried?
The short answer is “not yet.” But it is a reminder to monitor your credit scores and look for opportunities to build stronger credit. Doing so will position both consumers and small business owners for opportunities to borrow on better terms. (There are over 138 places to monitor your credit scores for free.)
What’s Changing FICO Score 10 T is a new scoring model that uses “trended credit bureau data,” which looks at how credit information has changed over the previous 24 months. Traditionally, credit scores have been based on a credit report that is a snapshot of credit information at a moment in time. This means the credit score doesn’t always take into account changes in balances, for example. With this new model, FICO will better be able to evaluate how the borrower’s balances and payment histories have changed over time.
The Wall Street Journal reports that FICO says the new model “will create a bigger gap between consumers deemed to be good and bad credit risks.” Reportedly consumers with higher credit scores (680 or above) may get higher credit scores as long as they continue to pay on time and manage debt well.
But consumers with lower credit scores (below 600) who continue to struggle with payments or debt may see their credit scores go down.
Reportedly, this model may also affect consumers who have refinanced high credit card balances with unsecured personal loans. Refinancing high balance credit card debt with personal loans has been one way that some consumers have tried to manage their debt, and this can often result in better credit scores. That’s because these loans (which are installment loans) do not impact their credit scores in the way that high credit card balances (revolving debt) in comparison to the limits have.
It’s important to understand that:
by Annie Pilon
SEO and content marketing are always changing. So you need to make constant adjustments in order to be successful long term. In SEO and in other areas of business, some of these small changes can help you make a big impact. Here’s more from members of the online small business community.
Bookmark These Free Stock Photography SitesVisuals can help your business get people’s attention and make your content more effective. If you don’t have the time or ability to take quality photos on your own, you might consider stock photography. The sites in this Crowdspring post by Katie Lundin may be able to help.
Do Your Research Before Hiring an SEO CompanyHiring an SEO company can help your business gain visibility online. But many businesses have had negative SEO experiences because they didn’t take the necessary steps before making this move. Gary Shouldis explains in this blog post and video from 3Bug Media.
Appear in Local Search Listings on Google Assistant and Google HomeTons of consumers are using Google Assistant and Google Home to find relevant service providers and other businesses. So if your company isn’t included, you could really be missing out. In this Search Engine Land post, Greg Sterling details how Google selects these businesses and how to get yours included.
In recent times, the number of women stepping into the entrepreneurial domain has increased tremendously
By Saroja Yeramilli
CEO and founder, Melorra
Women are evolving in every part of the world—and this evolution is gradually lifting the so-called bias that society has held for centuries. Women have always been thrust into situations where they need to take on a variety of roles as a daughter, wife or mother. So it’s no surprise that today, many uphold the title of ‘entrepreneur’ with aplomb. It can easily be said that if a woman tries, she can surely succeed in building something of an empire for herself. In recent times, the number of women stepping into the entrepreneurial domain has increased tremendously. In the US, more than 24% of all businesses are either female-led or have more than 50% ownership by women. India is not far behind. With the country being home to the maximum number of start-ups, second only to China, it is not surprising to see that 11% of all these enterprises are headed by women. Even though this means there are only 550 women-led start-ups in the country out of a total of more than 5,000, the number is certainly encouraging.
Beyond policy changes
Times have changed for women who climb the corporate ladder. The government, known for its pro-entrepreneurial vision, has once again exhibited its confidence and support for the start-up community by offering them a bouquet of promises in the 2019 budget. This year’s Union budget has introduced many new provisions for the MSME sector and brought a fresh lease of life for the start-up ecosystem. Experts are happy with the new interest subvention scheme and the provisions of the Mudra loan aimed particularly at women entrepreneurs. However, contemporary women business owners and visionaries want not just policy changes but also a change in the mindset of people. While they have been limited by rigidity and stereotypes in the past, women are now rewriting the rules by not only breaking the glass ceiling but also traditional notions of what is expected of them.
Many leaders are of the belief that in order to unleash the true potential of women in business, common prejudices that still exist across homes and workplaces must leave. It is time to take a leap of faith and fight our apprehensions of having an equal number of women in the board room. An important point here is that we must stop judging women for everything from whether having children will affect the investment in her business to the level of competency she will bring to work. We must draw inspiration from the many successful women entrepreneurs who have proven their mettle. It is now up to families to drop their pungent attitude towards their career-oriented daughters and other women.
Why women-led businesses are more successful
Sooner or later, all businesses, even the most successful, run out of room to grow. Faced with this unpleasant reality, they are compelled to reinvent themselves periodically. The ability to pull off this difficult feat—to jump from the maturity stage of one business to the growth stage of the next—is what separates high performers from those whose time at the top is all too brief.
The potential consequences are dire for any organization that fails to reinvent itself in time. As Matthew S. Olson and Derek van Bever demonstrate in their book Stall Points, once a company runs up against a major stall in its growth, it has less than a 10% chance of ever fully recovering. Those odds are certainly daunting, and they do much to explain why two-thirds of stalled companies are later acquired, taken private, or forced into bankruptcy.
There’s no shortage of explanations for this stalling—from failure to stick with the core (or sticking with it for too long) to problems with execution, misreading of consumer tastes, or an unhealthy focus on scale for scale’s sake. What those theories have in common is the notion that stalling results from a failure to fix what is clearly broken in a company.
Having spent the better part of a decade researching the nature of high performance in business, we realized that those explanations missed something crucial.
Companies fail to reinvent themselves not necessarily because they are bad at fixing what’s broken, but because they wait much too long before repairing the deteriorating bulwarks of the company. That is, they invest most of their energy managing to the contours of their existing operations—the financial S curve in which sales of a successful new offering build slowly, then ascend rapidly, and finally taper off—and not nearly enough energy creating the foundations of successful new businesses. Because of that, they are left scrambling when their core markets begin to stagnate.
In our research, we’ve found that the companies that successfully reinvent themselves have one trait in common. They tend to broaden their focus beyond the financial S curve and manage to three much shorter but vitally important hidden S curves—tracking the basis of competition in their industry, renewing their capabilities, and nurturing a ready supply of talent. In essence, they turn conventional wisdom on its head and learn to focus on fixing what doesn’t yet appear to be broken.
Thrown a Curve Making a commitment to reinvention before the need is glaringly obvious doesn’t come naturally. Things often look rosiest just before a company heads into decline: Revenues from the current business model are surging, profits are robust, and the company stock commands a hefty premium. But that’s exactly when managers need to take action.
No matter how great your business strategies are, they’re going to need constant adjustments in order to stay relevant. Whether it’s your marketing methods or growth plan, there’s a good chance that your business could use a bit of a refresh. Here are some tips from members of the online small business community to help you stay up-to-date and continue to grow and thrive.
Redesign Your Small Business Website A great website can help you reach relevant consumers and make a great impression that keeps them coming back again and again. But in order for your website to remain effective, you may need to refresh it every once in awhile. In this Crowdspring post, Amanda Bowman explains some of the reasons why you should consider redesigning your site.
Recognize Failing Social Media Campaigns It’s always important to monitor the results of your marketing activities so you know what is working for you and what isn’t. The same is true for social media campaigns. In this GetResponse post, Aljaz Fajmut offers some signs you should look out for that might indicate your social campaigns aren’t working.
Use Social Media in Simple But Effective Ways Some businesses are still resistant to using social media for marketing due to concerns about the amount of time and energy it might take. But you can take a step forward in this area by just focusing on simple methods like the ones noted in this post by Anthony Williams of Onaplatterofgold.com. BizSugar members also shared thoughts on the post here.
Look Good Online with Google My Business Photos There’s a good chance you’ve already paid some attention to your Google My Business Listing. But have you updated the photos section? By adding images, you can make a better impression and potentially grab the attention of more customers. Learn more in this Bright Local post by Jamie Pitman.
Rethink Data, Privacy and Content The massive reach of social media has brought about some new concerns for brands and individuals alike — especially in the realm of privacy. In this Content Marketing Institute post, Jodi Harris discusses some of the current issues that your brand might want to consider or create policies around regarding data, privacy and online content.
Liven Up Your Written Marketing Content Once you have a solid blogging or content marketing strategy for your business, it’s a good idea to go back over that copy every once in awhile to find ways to improve. There are some visual tools and concepts you can use to make your marketing materials a bit more compelling, as Nick Nelson shares in this TopRank Marketing post.
Take the Next Step in Your Business’s Development Growing a business involves a series of steps. You can’t just jump to the last step right away, but it is important that you keep moving forward. You can see more discussion on this topic along with some tips for creating and executing a growth strategy in this Biz Epic post by Ivan Widjaya.
Get Your Instagram Stories to the Top of Your Followers’ Feeds Getting results from your Instagram strategy isn’t just about posting great content. You also have to make sure that your content actually gets seen. So it’s in your best interest to get your stories to the top of people’s feeds. Check out this AMA Consulting Services blog post by Andrew Adderley for some quick tips.
READ ON ...
Customer experience is the lynchpin of any customer-facing business. Chatbots and virtual agents have helped businesses improve their customer experience by making the organization more responsive and contactable 24/7. This availability is welcomed by customers, and now often even expected, but businesses can use conversational AI beyond mere availability.
Many organizations have implemented conversational AI and chatbots as part of a business strategy to improve the customer experience, but what they may not have realized is that by doing so they have opened up the organization to a much bigger potential to optimize — this is what we are demonstrating in our infographic, see below. Customer experience runs through the core of a customer-facing business, conversational AI and chatbots can help you understand how your customers are interacting and what is driving their behavior. As businesses gain insight into different use cases, it is possible to adapt and develop new ones, becoming more intuitive and responsive based on the customer experience.
Let’s take an example. A company may decide that outsourcing to an offshore call center will save money. But until the chatbots are in place, the organization is missing a clear view of the whole picture. Information may be stored in emails, some on CRM, some not recorded, some not accessible….using chatbots and working to optimize with the customer experience in mind, will give more data and a clearer picture of use cases. In reality, the organization may discover that low-level queries are effectively dealt with by the chatbots and actually instead of outsourcing, investment needs to be made in higher quality, better-trained staff to deal with more complex, more valuable cases.
With every customer touchpoint, an organization gains valuable data about a customer, but in the past, this information was difficult to sift through and to analyze. By combining existing customer data streams with the data collected through conversational AI, this information can be collated, filtered, and analyzed, and businesses can gain new and meaningful insight into each individual customer, the types of customer and overall trends.
Not only are chatbots available 24/7, they remember every conversation they have. The data recorded can be analyzed to gain a view of the customer; from the chatbot history and logs we can enter a data analysis loop, which when combined with other data sources will give deeper insight into what is driving each customer, and from there we can optimize in a way that is relevant to the customer. Without this insight, we may make changes that are in fact irrelevant, or even damaging, to the customer experience and thus to the business.
When using conversational AI, improving the customer experience as the main objective can drive further organizational performance. Chatbots are implemented with a view to improve responsiveness, and almost as a side product, valuable data is collected through these interactions. But, as our infographic shows, this data can be put into the traditional AI loop of: Data->Insights->Action->Adapt, to provide a better customer experience. Then, within the organization, sub-processes can be driven for improvement within their own AI loops. And ultimately, customer-focused changes that really matter can feed into the heart of the business.
Here is a list of some of the best sites to know. They range from project management to motivation to e-commerce.
READ ON...If you're in the process of launching a startup, you'll be happy to know the internet offers you a wealth of resources that will make your job as an entrepreneur much easier. One of the best ways to boost your productivity and chances of success is to bookmark and review sites that will help you excel as a business owner.
Here is a list of some of the best sites to know. They range from project management to motivation to e-commerce. The sites are in no particular order.
1. IdeatorSo you've got a great idea that you'd like to turn into a business? Start with Ideator. It's a platform specifically designed for entrepreneurs like you who want to bring their million-dollar visions to life.
2. Tony RobbinsIf you want to succeed as a business owner, you're going to have to unlock your potential. To do that, learn from the best: Tony Robbins. No better person to follow and learn from as you grow.
3. EcwidIf you'd like to create an e-commerce site in just five minutes, stop by Ecwid.com. Currently, more than 900,000 sellers from around the world use Ecwid to sell products.
4. QuickSproutAs the name implies, QuickSprout is all about growth. It is quite possibly the best site on the internet for learning about digital marketing.
5. LinkedInIf you want to be successful in business, you're going to have to forge alliances and create professional relationships with other people. There's no better online site for business networking than LinkedIn.
6. Healthcare.govYou're going to need health insurance after you quit your job and launch your own business. Also, if you have employees, they'll need health insurance as well. Be sure to visit Healthcare.gov for your coverage options.
7. Inc.You are on Inc.com now, so you know its great. But you can never learn too much about being an entrepreneur. There's always something more to know about the latest in marketing, financing options, management, and professional development. That's why you should bookmark Inc.
8 & 9. HipDial & Google + Hangouts To succeed in your entrepreneurial efforts, you'll almost certainly need to schedule group conference calls on occasion. For that, you should use HipDial. It is so simple and easy, which is why startups love it. An alternative option that incorporates video conferencing is Google + Hangouts.
10. SBAUncle Sam has an organization that exists to help entrepreneurs just like you. It's called the Small Business Administration (SBA). The SBA's website is packed with helpful resources.
11. DueIf you want to streamline your invoicing and time tracking processes, you can't go wrong with Due.
12. WordPressTo create a successful online presence, you'll need a blog. Simply put, there is no better blog platform on the market than WordPress. But do not use Wordpress.com; instead, install the Wordpress content management system on your site.
13. TradeAwayIf you're bootstrapping your way to success with limited resources, you might be able to get some professional assistance from somebody else who will ask for your assistance in return. Check out TradeAway for a place to barter your services in exchange for somebody else's.
14. SquareIt's tough to make it in business these days if you don't take credit cards. Square gives you the opportunity to swipe cards from virtually anywhere.
15. KayakYou're likely going to be doing some traveling as an entrepreneur. If you want to find the best flight and hotel deals, check out Kayak.
16. FreshBooksOnce upon a time, QuickBooks was the only "go to" solution for accounting. Nowadays, some entrepreneurs are flocking to the cloud-based solution offered by FreshBooks. Both are great solutions. Take your pick.
17. BaseCampIf your team is widely distributed across the continent, or even the world, you'll need an online hangout where you all can communicate, collaborate, and coordinate. For that, use BaseCamp.
18 & 19. Dropbox & Google DriveIf you're looking for a cloud-based solution for file storage, Dropbox and Google Drive are your two best bets. Both are free until you hit a certain limit.
20. LanguageTranslationIt's a global economy. You might want to translate your website into another language (in fact, I recommend it). For document translation services, enlist the aid of a company like LanguageTranslation.com.
21. StartupGrindStartupGrind is a website where you can rub shoulders with like-minded business owners. There are over 400,000 active members in 85 countries.
22. forEntrepreneursThe name "forEntrepreneurs" is fairly descriptive. It's a blog run by David Skok, a five-time entrepreneur turned venture capitalist. It's a great site to visit from time to time for sage business advice.
23. A Smart BearA Smart Bear is a blog run by Jason Cohen, who offers advice for entrepreneurs. As of this writing, more than 40,000 people subscribe to Cohen's lessons.
24. Rocket LawyerYou are going to have legal issues. For that, use Rocket Lawyer. I've used this on more than one occasion and saved thousands of dollars.
25. The Startups SubredditYou might think of Reddit as a great place to check out funny cat photos or participate in an "Ask Me Anything" exchange with a famous celebrity. It's also a great place for gleaning information. Specifically, check out the Startups subreddit.
26. CopybloggerContent marketing is an important part of online marketing. To that end, make sure you visit Copyblogger regularly.
27. CrunchBaseFor practical purposes, everything you need to know about startup funding can be found at CrunchBase.
Janice GassamSenior Contributor
Diversity & Inclusion
I help create strategies for more diversity, equity, and inclusion.
New research from Boston Consulting Group (BCG) found that if female entrepreneurs received as much support as male entrepreneurs, the global economy could experience up to a $5 trillion boost. It is well-documented that women-led businesses are underfunded, with data revealing that in 2017 only 2.2% of venture capital (VC) funding going to women-led companies. Women received only $1.9 billion in funding compared to the $83.1 billion that men received. In addition, research found that only 2% of female-led businesses earn $1 million or more in revenue. Research has also determined that women-led businesses experience more positive outcomes and even outperform their peers. Given all the potential benefits that accompany female-led businesses, it’s imperative to uncover impediments to their growth. What are the causes of these barriers and how can they be overcome so that women-led businesses experience more support and success, thus stimulating the global economy?
POST WRITTEN BY
Vice President, Marketing at Vivial, responsible for go-to-market product strategy, brand management and corporate sponsorship.
When it comes to marketing, brands always want to know what’s new and what’s next. One of the questions I’m asked most frequently is: "What should we be doing (or thinking about doing) to reach our customers?"
As the vice president of marketing for a marketing technology company, I’ve spent the better part of two decades helping brands use online, social and mobile marketing tools to grow their business. Looking ahead and understanding where the marketing industry is headed is not just part of my daily grind — it’s what fuels me.
For the majority of organizations — from corporations to startups to nonprofit groups to local businesses — one answer is to explore the benefits of mobile marketing (also known as SMS marketing) as part of an integrated marketing strategy that may also include more traditional channels.
We’ve entered a new era of communication in America. When taking a closer look at consumer behavior and preferences, it appears that the future lies in text messaging over email to enhance business-to-consumer interactions. According to Gartner, text message open and response rates are "as high as 98% and 45%, respectively — in contrast to corresponding figures of 20% and 6% for email." This makes text messaging an effective way to get through to a defined audience.
Texting is how many people prefer to communicate these days — and there are a couple of compelling reasons behind this shift:
• People are on their phones more than ever. As reported by VentureBeat, Americans send 2.27 trillion texts every year. What’s more, one study found that people look at their phones an average of 80 times per day. Mobile marketing is a way to reach consumers, quite literally, exactly where they are.
By Pratik Dholakiya, business.com writer
Every business, no matter how small, can reap the returns of social media. Here's how.You'd think that having a social media strategy for your business – large or small – would be a no-brainer. While business owners and marketing professionals undoubtedly agree that social media is important for business, it's surprising that quarter of small businesses still have no social media presence at all!
Excuses like not having enough time to devote to creating a social media strategy are frankly invalid. With such great tools available, as well as increasing measurability of the returns of social media marketing, it is critical that your business has a bulletproof social media plan in place.
Here's how to do it.
1. Learn what's trendingIf there's one word that can be used to describe social media, it's "fast-paced." What is "in" one day could very well be gone the next. Staying up to date with trends, while not being overly trendy, can be difficult.
If you are running social media for your business, you need to be in tune with the news, language and culture of each platform as it develops. Consistently monitor hashtags and widely shared content. Additionally, be sure you are regularly reading social media blogs to stay informed: Social Media Today and Social Media Examiner are two that will always keep you on top of your game.
For inspiration on the types of posts that would be best for your business, start by getting a feel for trending topics across the web. Using a social media listening tool like Brandwatch, you can search brand names or competitors. You can also find conversations taking place in your industry about your brand and your competitors.
Following social media influencers also helps you keep a finger on the pulse, too. These individuals are influential for a reason, so follow their example and learn from them. See what types of content they share and how they engage with their audience. Observing these leaders will give you an example of how to run your social media account successfully, and it will hopefully help you avoid common mistakes.
2. Keep a bank of timeless posts
The new year is fast approaching, and for many, that means that it’s time to take a good hard look at your business and what changes you need to make to take it to the next level over the next 12 months. I have said this time and time again to my business coaching clients. And as we enter 2020, the advice still holds true. So today, I want to share with you the 1 thing you must at least consider doing as a business owner in 2020.
Raise Prices (Or At Least Think About It)When was the last time you took a good hard look at your pricing structure? Too many businesses base prices on their costs, or even worse, they price based on their costs way back when they started their business years earlier. Now some owners have implemented small, incremental increases over the years but it often isn’t in sync with their true cost of doing business.
Rarely does the average business owner sit down and fundamentally rethink their pricing model. Yet, you are constantly being bombarded with increasing material costs, higher wages and increased benefits costs all which have a profound effect on your profit margin.
Other Factors to ConsiderYou certainly want to cover your costs, but there is more to pricing than just breaking event.
What about your competitors?
The most successful companies take both their own costs and their competition into consideration, but they also price in relationship to the cost of the status quo for their customers.
For that you want to think about how much is the problem that your product or service solves already costing them?
What is the real value of your product or service?
What is the “frame of reference” you could give your customers that would help them immediately see your product or service as both logically sound and emotionally satisfying solution? The more you are able to provide your market with solutions that other companies can’t, the greater your ability to price in relationship to the true value of your solution instead of the race-to-the-bottom commoditization that so many businesses suffer from.
How To Get Started
By The Oracles A mastermind group for top entrepreneurs
'Wantrepreneurs' have Swiss-cheese mindsets with too many holes in their thinking.
What separates the entrepreneurs who make it from those who don’t? These uber-successful business founders and Advisors in The Oracles share the most common mistakes they see from aspiring entrepreneurs and explain how to overcome those mistakes. Here’s why some will never make it — and how you can.
1. They believe everyone’s advice.
Image credit: The Oracles Entrepreneurs often struggle because they listen to others’ advice instead of their instincts. Everyone has opinions. When you’re getting started, you’re going to hear a lot of people tell you no because “That’s a bad idea,” “You’re going in the wrong direction,” or “You should do this instead.”
For example, when we started Bluemercury, I wanted to create retail stores to complement the online business. Everyone said we were crazy, that pure e-commerce was the only way to go. But we became the first omnichannel retailer to go from clicks to bricks in the late 1990s. Today, we have almost 200 specialty stores as well as a thriving digital business. To succeed requires your own opinions and vision, along with the fortitude and persistence to act on what you think is right. —Marla Beck, co-founder and CEO of Bluemercury, which was acquired by Macy’s for $210 million; creator of M-61 Skincare and Lune+Aster cosmetics
2. They don’t put in the ‘work after the work.’
Choosing the right business credit card isn’t so different from picking the right personal credit card. However, business owners need to do even more thorough research to understand exactly how this financial tool can be used to help their business and to make sure it doesn’t backfire on their personal finances. In the 2019 Federal Reserve Small Business Credit Survey, the majority of business owners in the U.S. — regardless of size — used their own personal credit to access capital for their business. "Whether you’re a new business or an established one, business credit cards are a vital tool for funding your business," says Gerri Detweiler, business credit and financing expert and Nav’s Education Director.
Portable, flexible and leveraging a tool most business owners have established already (a personal credit score), business credit cards are a must-have for business owners. But with dozens of options, how do you pick the right one for your business?
22% of business owners said that business credit cards were the top resources accessed the last time their small business needed funds.
According to the Nav's Small Business American Dream Gap Report. Methodology here.
No single business credit card will be the best choice for all business owners across the board. Just like the business financing options available to your business, the best credit card for your business will depend on the benefits crucial to your business, what you are likely to qualify for based on your income and personal credit score, and how much cost you’re willing to incur to access capital. In this in-depth guide, we’ll cover all of the essentials to choosing the right business credit card for your business, with insights and advice from our unbiased business & credit experts. Want to get straight to the point?
Here are the topics we'll cover:
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By Jessica Thiefels Small Business Writer
Part of the AMERICA’S ENTREPRENEURS SPECIAL REPORT
Transitioning from your nine-to-five career to becoming a business owner after 50 may sound enticing, with the freedom to set your own hours and profit from your passions. But midlife entrepreneurship comes with financial risks, too. Here’s how to manage them and set yourself up for success:
Be Mindful of Your Financial Commitment Since you’ll need to continue saving for retirement or live on your current fixed income in retirement, it’s crucial to establish a budget for how much you can, and will, invest in your business. Ask yourself these questions:
5 Funding Ideas for a Midlife BusinessOnce you’ve determined your monetary limits, consider the five funding ideas Business.com recommends: Bootstrapping, personal loans, government or venture capital, crowdsourcing and retirement accounts.
Bootstrapping If you own the right equipment and have the knowledge to launch your business without help, use your own capital for initial costs. Just bear in mind that doing so will likely limit your financial ability to hire employees or invest in marketing.
The Transformer’s Dilemma
In fall 2016, executives at Saubermacher — a waste management company headquartered in the quaint Austrian town of Graz — executed the first step of their digital transformation and ecosystem strategy. They had created “Wastebox,” an app-based waste disposal platform, connecting construction companies with waste disposal firms. As CMO Andreas Opelt told us, Wastebox garnered a significant valuation only two years after inception and led one of the global industry leaders, Veolia of France, to seek out a partnership with them.
But Saubermacher faced one core dilemma: how could they maintain profitability in their legacy business activities while reaping the full potential of this new digital ecosystem business?
This transformer’s dilemma is something that all incumbents face. (That’s if they manage to successfully implement such a transformation in the first place. After all, a McKinsey study finds that 83% of all transformations fail.)
How can companies survive this dilemma? We conducted interviews with almost 100 Chief Transformation Officers, Chief Digital Officers, and other top executives at over 80 global companies —all notably established firms with a long history, as opposed to startups — asking them about their best practices for tackling the digital transformer’s dilemma. We found that success requires five elements:
Leaders understand there’s a pressing need to pursue a dual business approach. Leaders first have to realize why their organizations must transform, in order to lay out a strategy for how to act. Companies may need to respond to newly emerging competition or changing customer preferences. They may need to play catch-up as they see their market share dwindling, or they may seek to proactively create novel value propositions for new customer profiles.
Companies have complementary strategies and business models for their legacy and new businesses. First, organizations need to focus on how digitization can help safeguard competitiveness of the core business. Second, organizations need a strategy for the inception of disruptive digital business to generate additional growth. Third, organizations need to consider interactions between the core and the new digital business.
Most existing strategy tools are ill-fitted to this exercise. The majority of them focus on within-industry competition and are of little help when organizations must execute strategies involving multiple players and industries. What is needed are new approaches to strategic portfolio management and digital initiatives. It can help to visualize the company’s entire portfolio of digital initiatives as a matrix of existing and new products, markets, and internal and external players. Such a visual can help leaders quickly grasp where digital transformation efforts are concentrated, allowing them to judge whether they are in line with the strategy that has been defined and what other stakeholders should be involved in executing initiatives going forward.
Companies have the right talent and mindset. Digital transformation is only possible with the right staff and leaders. Across both businesses, the most important levers in this respect are retraining and hiring. For instance, leaders of a steel company we spoke with built a dedicated digital academy to upskill employees in digital proficiency, investing in their employees’ as well as the company’s long-term development.
Thinking about starting an online business? It’s a good idea: e-commerce sales are expected to reach $3.45 trillion globally this year. Here are eight steps to take when launching your business, according to successful e-commerce entrepreneurs and advisors in The Oracles.
Bethenny Frankel, Gary Vaynerchuk, and other online sales experts explain how to be part of this trillion-dollar opportunity.
1. Play to your strengths and outsource the rest.
"I don’t even have a laptop or iPad, and I have no idea how to launch an e-commerce business — so I hired people who do. I live by one simple rule: If you don’t know what something means, ask immediately. Don’t pretend. My strengths are marketing, branding, identifying your target audience, and designing a narrative about the product, which are all crucial in e-commerce. Play to your strengths, and then outsource or learn whatever you don’t know."--Bethenny Frankel, entrepreneur and philanthropist; founder of the Skinnygirl lifestyle brand and the charity BStrong, New York Times bestselling author, and Shark on Shark Tank; follow Bethenny on Twitter and Instagram
2. Plan for future buying behavior."From a practical perspective, you need the right infrastructure, such as Magento or Shopify. But more importantly, you need to think about how we will buy in the future. Too many people focus on our current behavior versus the reality three years from now, which is where you want to play. For example, when I launched my e-commerce business, everyone told me they’d never buy something online. Now look at sites like Woot.com, which changed online retail with its flash sales and daily deals.
I believe mobile will become increasingly important for e-commerce businesses. The winners will be the ones who create the easiest, most native and natural way to buy something on a mobile device. But that’s just me. Ask yourself where the market will be in 36 months; then trust your intuition, plan accordingly, and be patient." --Gary Vaynerchuk, founder and CEO of VaynerX; five-time New York Times bestselling author of Crushing It!
3. Calculate this simple equation.
E-commerce is a simple equation: your profit on each order should exceed the cost to acquire a new customer. Whenever I start or consult with an e-commerce business, this is where we focus. First, break down your revenue and costs for an average order. Include the cost of the product, importing and shipping, packaging, and fees for the merchant and warehouse. To identify your customer acquisition cost, run a presale trial before committing to ordering your product in bulk. This will give you an idea of the cost to 'buy' a customer from advertising platforms like Facebook and Google.
Don’t give up if your cost to buy a customer is more than your profit per order. The last e-commerce business I co-founded, alphabetlegends.com, was in this situation. We pushed down costs by negotiating a bigger order with the supplier and increased our profit by improving our landing pages and upselling our customers. Start with confidence in your numbers and clarity on where to focus." —Jay Wright, founder and CEO of the Ecommerce Equation, co-founder of two multimillion-dollar e-commerce stores, and growth advisor to over 200 e-commerce businesses; connect with Jay on LinkedIn
By Edward Steven, Marketing Specialist at Healthcare Mailing
Marketing is the heart of any organization for its growth including the healthcare industry. Due to technology development, recent statistics proves that 70% of users look up health-related information through online.
Marketing is the heart of any organization for its growth including the healthcare industry. Due to technology development, recent statistics proves that 70% of users look up health-related information through online. This proves that, online presence is necessary for all marketers who aim to grow their healthcare business.
Let’s go through these top healthcare industry marketing strategies that you must use for your healthcare business to make it successful.
Email MarketingEveryone in the marketing space knows email marketing is one of the powerful and efficient marketing channels that most of the businesses rely on when it comes to reaching targeted prospects and generating more leads. Email marketing can be used for different objectives based on various needs, especially when marketer’s target industry is healthcare. Scenting email continually is a must and good practice to keep healthcare professionals engage with the business brand. Across various industries, email marketing has achieved UN-measurable success due to its cost-effectiveness and its reach. However, few businesses get mess up with their first email marketing campaign due to lack of experience and understanding. Here are the few important email marketing tips for every marketer who about to start an email campaign for healthcare business.
Content MarketingAlmost every marketer knows that content is one of the powerful ways to describe the product or service and make the key prospects to get engaged with the business. Here are the few tips that bring your content alive and make the key prospects to get engage with your business.
Social Media MarketingSocial media opens many opportunities for healthcare by its massive user engagement and also it allows businesses to built connections share and develop a business relationship with key prospects. Recent research proves that 70% to 75% of US consumers look over the internet for healthcare advice before visiting the hospital. Also, through social media, patients and manufacturers can develop a first impression of the hospital or physician before the meeting.
By engaging your business in the social media platform, a healthcare organization can help revitalize the word of mouth referrals and has the power to eliminate barriers by the lack of communication.