The Importance of Online Transparency in Business

The Importance of Online Transparency in BusinessThere was a time when big brands had a lot of control over how they were perceived and how they were portrayed in the media. Consumers had limited options when it came to communicating with brands, and the companies themselves had the power to create demand for products simply through being good at PR. Those days ended with the advent of widespread internet access and the rise of social media. Today, the power is in the hands of the consumer.

People now expect to be able to have two-way conversations with brands. Bad products are ridiculed, and news of poor customer service or unethical business practices spreads quickly.  Good news travels fast too, and even small gestures can go viral and have a huge impact on your brand’s bottom line. There is also a new generation of influencers in the form of bloggers, YouTube users and internet celebrities – and any bad experiences they have with a brand will be shared with their followers and are sure to make a big impact there.

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Why Peer Recommendations Matter for Your Business

Why Peer Recommendations Matter for Your BusinessThere was a time when word of mouth was the best way to spread the buzz surrounding a service or a product to potential customers. Now more than ever, word of mouth advertising has come back into vogue through social media. By harnessing the power of tweets via Twitter and status updates on Facebook, you can inspire your current customers to make peer recommendations to their friends and neighbors, which increases the bottom line of your brand for the long term.

If your company has little or no money available for advertising or marketing, social media represents a powerful tool to get the word out about your product or service. A customer referral from a satisfied patron to his or her friends can carry far more weight than even the most persuasive or expensive advertising. Best of all, you can launch and manage highly effective social media campaigns without blowing your company’s budget.

By encouraging your present customers to spread the word about the great products and services you have to offer, you can save money on advertising, while generating trust among potential customers. As a result, you can concentrate your time, effort and money into producing the best possible products and services. With the winning combination of excellent offerings and trusted peer referrals, your company has a better chance of enjoying a healthy profit margin now and in the future.

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10 Best Apps for Entrepreneurs

10 Best Apps for EntrepreneursYou know what it’s like to start and run your own business.  After all, you’re an entrepreneur, and you’re in good company.

According to an recent article from Forbes, the ranks of entrepreneurs around the United States are continuing to grow.  As they change the face of the working world as we know it, they need the latest technical gadgets and gizmos to help them stay on track, provide great customer service and, most of all, keep those profit margins climbing.

This is where apps come into play.  Some are free, while others have nominal price tags.  Most are never used, or used just once, after they are downloaded. However, there are a few valuable apps out there that entrepreneurs around the country couldn’t imagine their lives without.  Those are the apps you need to have on your smartphone or tablet, especially if that’s what your competitors do.

Here are 10 of the hottest apps that men and women who have started their own companies wouldn’t leave home without.

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How to Integrate Social Media and SEO to Drive Brand Awareness

How to Integrate Social Media and SEO to Drive Brand AwarenessAs the owner of a small business, you know what it’s like to have a lot on your plate. Some days, it may feel as if you need a small army in place just to keep up with the way you need to market and brand yourself – not to mention making a profit and paying attention to your customers! Well, I’ve got a secret to share with you: you don’t need an army. All you need is a thirst for knowledge. The trick is to stay on top of trends and when things move, move with them!

Working in the marketing industry, I’ve come to understand that it is never about one thing or the other, it is about how all of the pieces of the puzzle come together to form the big picture. Ten years ago, your business might have gotten by with some television commercials and perhaps an advertisement or two in your local newspaper, but times have changed – how can you compete and stay on top today?

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5 Smart Decisions Small Businesses Need To Make for 2014

5 Smart Decisions Small Businesses Needs To Make for 2014With 2014 looming on the horizon, small businesses need to not only assess the past year’s success and failures, but also plot a path forward. Businesses that have survived a challenging 2013, or even experienced some growth, can take certain steps to ensure and improve growth in the rapidly approaching new year. Here are a few tips to help prepare your small business for success in the coming year.

1) Explore all the options your bank (and competing banks) offer small business owners. Save money and stretch your dollars by choosing the right bank for your business. End of the year is a good time to take a look at the competition and see what offers they might have that would benefit you. Look for low account and transaction fees, low or discounted loan rates, and free direct deposit, among other offers designed to help the small business owner.

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7 Tips for Promoting Environmental Action Through Social Media

7 Tips for Promoting Environmental Action through Social Media

Social media has changed the way we communicate and interact with one another. If you’re part of a movement and want to spread and share your message, social media gives you the platform to voice yourself while engaging millions of other people around the world. Whether it’s through Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube, there are plenty of platforms available to reach your target audience.

If you’re an activist, an entrepreneur, or a marketer, it’s time you take advantage of what social media has to offer and use it to advance your green agenda. Here are 7 tips on how to get started.

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How to Market With a Bang Minus the Bucks

Marketing on a budgetAs a small business owner, you understand the value great marketing has on your company overall. From positive brand recognition to customer loyalty, making the right marketing moves can launch your business in all of the right directions.

Unfortunately, you also understand that ultimately it’s the budget that rules the roost; and if you don’t have the money to market yourself, you’ll simply have to go without. But not so fast! There are some economical ways your promotions can go off with a bang, minus the upfront bucks.

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6 Marketing Mistakes You Need to Stop Making Now

6 Marketing Mistakes You Need to Stop Making NowWith the myriad of available resources online full of advice on how you should run and market your business, it wouldn’t be surprising if you tried most, if not all of them, on for size. While doing so isn’t wrong necessarily, there are pieces of marketing advice that can contradict with your business’ principles. When this happens, these kinds of tips can be counterproductive instead of advantageous especially if something goes wrong with your business despite following that particular piece of advice exactly. Watch out for these six big marketing mistakes – you may be committing them without even realizing it.

1) You assume that your customers think just like you.

If you’re the kind of entrepreneur who is able to pull brilliant ideas out of thin air and that your customers will “get it” despite risking ambiguity, hats off to you. But most entrepreneurs can’t afford to think or act like that. Ignoring what your customers have to say about your product and settling with what you think they’ll like can put your business in jeopardy. Avoid this by soliciting feedback from your customers on a regular basis. What they have to say about your product can help you decide which areas you should put less of a focus on and the ones that you need to strengthen.

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5 Easy and Free Ways to Drive Traffic to Your Small Business Website

Anthony Karibian

Anthony Karibian, CEO of bOnline

Most small businesses today have realized a website is a vital part of their marketing plan. Many have spent weeks, maybe even months, creating a professional website to convert prospects into paying customers. So why are many small business websites failing to bring in sales? In order to attract traffic to your website, it’s important to understand that the work isn’t over once your website has gone live. Thankfully, you don’t need to be an expert or a millionaire to drive traffic to your site -  here are five free and easy ways:

Master SEO

Much of your site’s traffic will come from search engines such as Google, where your success depends on how highly your site ranks for keywords related to your business. There’s no guaranteed way to the top, but you can apply search engine optimization (SEO) best practices on your site to be in with a better chance. Think about the search terms you want to rank for and ensure these keywords are included in your website, including the header and page titles (but don’t force them in or repeat them excessively). Getting links back to your site from respected sources should also give you a boost. There are a lot of rules to good SEO, but the best place to start is with Google’s very own SEO Starter Guide, available here for free.

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5 Emerging Workplace Trends That are Becoming Mainstream for Small Business

Successful businesses and employees must be able to stay on their toes to keep up with emerging workplace technologies and trends. Practices that were once considered fads or eccentric habits are now the norm. Here are five emerging workplace trends that are becoming mainstream.

Fragmentation of Structure

Ask your parents and grandparents what the structure of their first grown-up job was like and they’ll mention something about everyone being in a single office building, most likely with an abundance of cubicles and offices. That’s just not the case anymore. Modern businesses are increasingly decentralizing their physical and hierarchical structure.

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