Building a Business Website? These 7 Questions Will Show You When to Outsource

29. August 2016 08:35

 

woman overwhelmed at her desk

Is it really that difficult to build a business website? With so many free and easy tools out there, it certainly seems like a task anyone can complete.

But here’s the rub: just because you can do something doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the right choice for your business. Here are seven questions that can help you decide whether to outsource the work or go it alone.

1. Where Does My Funding Coming From?

According to Ben Landers, president and CEO of the digital marketing company Blue Corona (@BlueCorona), a business that’s bootstrapping it probably has more available time than cash. If that’s the case, it may make sense to go lean and mean with a DIY site.

That said, he also points out that there’s no comparison between a pro’s work and the results you get when you go it alone.

“Professionally designed sites outperform DIY sites most of the time,” he notes.

The upshot: To spend or not to spend? That is always the question when you’re starting up. If you don’t have the cash, it may be better to invest time putting together a basic site.

2. How Important Is a Website to My Business?

Landers says that websites aren’t essential for every business, at least when first starting out.

“Let’s say you’re opening a boutique neighborhood coffee shop. A website isn't mission critical for this type of business,” he says. “Having a solid Facebook strategy is probably far more important initially.”

The upshot: Businesses that can bring in revenue with a strong social media presence may be able to put off building a website for a while. However, once you’re ready to build, check out “How to Create a Small Business Website that Pays for Itself” for tips.

3. Do I Know SEO?

Stoney deGeyter (@StoneyD), president of Pole Position Marketing (@PolePositionMkg), says web development is a four-stage process:

  1. Research and discovery – getting information about competitors, keywords, and site analytics.
  2. Content and messaging – using the research to write and review content.
  3. Design – developing “wire frames” to build layouts for specific pages and designing comps.
  4. Development – coding the site and rolling it out.

According to deGeyeter, design and development can often be handled in-house, but those first two stages are “critical aspects of having a search-friendly site that can be optimized and marketed later.”

In a nutshell, search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of improving your site's search engine rankings. You can start by using keywords in your site content that match your customers' search queries, but suffice it to say, it gets way more complicated.

“If a company has any interest in long-term marketing via search engines, it's a good idea to get an SEO expert involved in the early planning stages,” deGeyeter says.

The upshot: Optimizing your site once it’s live is harder than getting it right and building from there. If SEO isn’t your game, you may want to outsource that research, planning, and writing to a professional.

4. Do I Need Bells & Whistles?

You may also want to consider any special functions you need on your site.

“E-commerce and payment gateways can be a little bit tricky,” says Brandon Seymour, founder and CEO of the digital marketing agency Beymour Consulting (@beymourSEO). “If you've never managed or built a website before, it might be worth hiring a professional to help get the job done right the first time.”

The upshot: Any feature that makes your site more than just a brochure may mean you need to outsource production, especially if the feature is beyond your technical skills.

5. How Much Competition Is in My Industry?

Your competition may determine how much effort and expertise you need to differentiate your site.

“Saturated industries, like real estate and legal, have set the bar really high,” says Seymour. “If you want to compete in these crowded industries, you need to build a web presence that makes you stand out.”

The upshot: Check out your competition. You’ll get a sense of what the expectations are in terms of functionality, user experience, and the wow factor.

6. Can I Be Objective?

Christopher Fox (@CGFSyncresis), managing partner of the healthcare marketing consultancy Syncresis, notes that even though his company lists web development as one of its services, it outsourced its site design because it “believes in the value of an outside perspective.”

“A good web designer will see your company in a way that you don't," says Fox. “They will offer a look and feel and develop content that you won't think of because you look at the world from the inside of your company outward.”

The upshot: A fresh perspective can do wonders for your understanding of your business. That alone may make outsourcing your site design worth it.

7. Could My Time Be Better Spent Elsewhere?

Let’s face it – you’re already trying to do it all. That’s just the nature of running a small business. Do you really need to add “design and develop a website” to your to-do list?

Perhaps Fox explains it best when he said hiring a professional “will spare you days of fiddling around and learning that's just not necessary for your core business.”

“Make, market, and sell your products or services, and don't let a web project distract you from that strategy,” Fox suggests.

The upshot: One of the best ways to save time and stay sane is to delegate jobs to the people who can do them better. If your skillset doesn’t include building websites, consider passing the task on.

Delegation can free up your resources, but it can also reduce risk. Find out how in “Risky Business: 6 Small Business Practices that Increase Liability Exposure.”

About the Contributors

Stoney deGeyter

Author of The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period, speaker, teacher, husband, father, and web marketer Stoney deGeyter is the president of Pole Position Marketing, a results-driven, inbound marketing agency that has been helping businesses grow their web presence since 1998. DeGeyter is a nationally recognized speaker and leader in the web marketing industry. You can view his work on Slideshare or contact him to discuss web-marketing strategy or to provide in-house training for your team.

 

 

 

Christopher Fox

Christopher G. Fox, PhD is managing partner of Syncresis, a consultancy focused on brand development, marketing, and communication strategy, and online marketing program management in the healthcare sector. His business mission is ensuring that practices and provider groups trigger the right behaviors in the right patients. He has a career-long history bringing together creative thinking from multiple disciplines to rally audience segments around his clients’ business goals.

 

 

 

Ben Landers

Ben Landers is the president and CEO of Blue Corona, a five-time Inc. 5000 digital marketing company that helps business owners accurately track the performance of their advertising initiatives and more effectively utilize the web to increase leads, sales, and positive online reviews. If you’re looking for help with ad tracking, analytics, email marketing, Google AdWords, marketing automation, pay-per-click management, SEO, social media, or website design and development, visit www.bluecorona.com.

 

 

 

Brandon Seymour

Brandon Seymour is an online marketing strategist and founder of Beymour Consulting, a South Florida-based digital marketing agency, specializing in SEO, reputation management, and website development.

 

 

 

 

 

How to Create a Small Business Website that Pays for Itself

24. August 2016 10:00

 

web page that says open for business

When you’re first starting out, it can feel like everyone has a hand in your pocket. The money rolls in, and then it usually rolls right back out in the form of:

  • Permit and licensing fees.
  • Rent.
  • Taxes.
  • Inventory costs.
  • Insurance premiums.

It’s easy to see why entrepreneurs may want to put off any expense that seems unnecessary. But before you decide that your small business website falls into that category, check out what these experts say about its benefits.

Short-Term Benefits of Building a Website

“Regardless of whether or not your business is online or brick-and-mortar, it is absolutely naive to think that a website is not important,” says Min Lee, the senior vice president of business development for CertaPet (@CertaPet). “Today's consumers, out of reflex, will always resort to the Internet for validation when considering a business to patronize.”

Lee goes on to say that your business’s web presence will become more important as more consumers enter the prime consumer demographic – 18- to 35-year olds with expendable income.

According to CEO and founder of the marketing consulting firm Strazanac Solutions (@StrazSolutions) Samantha R. Strazanac, many consumers prefer to “vet you out” online before entering a business relationship. Having a website shows that your are serious – in her words, it “validates and legitimizes your business and shows you’re a true professional.”

Moreover, co-founder and managing partner of the marketing communications agency lotus823 (@lotus823) David Hernandez says a website is one place online where you can exert some control over your business's reputation and sales.

“Within social media, there are limits in content posting, such as limits on long-form content,” says Hernandez. “Without a website, you have nowhere to drive conversions.”

The takeaway: People expect all businesses, no matter the size, to have a website. Not having one may make your business appear unprofessional. Worse, some potential customer may actually think it’s shady.

Bonus tip: Hernandez also discourages small-business owners from relying too heavily on social media to promote their businesses. To demonstrate his point, he tells the story of a local doughnut shop that resisted building a website because their business was geared toward social. Any time a media outlet wanted to promote the shop, they had nowhere to direct fans. As a result, says Hernandez, they missed opportunities to grow their business.

Long-Term Benefits of Building a Website

Perhaps the biggest long-term benefit of creating a website is increasing your business’s visibility. As Lee says, your website give you a “louder voice” and “more opportunities to cast a wider net with that louder voice.”

As your reach grows, you might also find the information you gather is a boon to your business, too. According to Hernandez, “Over time, you'll be able to collect data on user engagement with your website and learn how people are discovering your business online.”

The takeaway: While you want a website that generates leads and revenue, the reality is that it takes time. Instead of looking at your site solely as a moneymaker, focus on the boost it gives to your reputation.

Tips for Making Your Website Profitable

The insights you can gain from a long-tail marketing plan are only going to come if you can draw potential clients to your site. To make that happen, you want to your website to have…

  • Fresh content.
  • Purposeful design.
  • SEO basics.

Get the details in “3 Key Elements Every Small-Business Website Should Have.”

However, if the SEO and content marketing payoff seems too far away, Jennifer Goodwin (@thatJENgirl), owner of Internet Girl Friday, has a suggestion: hook your sales funnel to your website. She says you can have a website that is merely a landing page with built-in sales funnel software.

For example, small-business owners can run a Facebook advertisement promoting a $10 coupon. When a customer clicks on the ad, they’re taken to a site where they enter their email address. From there, the customer is moved through the rest of the sales funnel. According to Goodwin, your sales funnel determines whether you need a full-blown site or a simple landing page that converts traffic into customers.

The takeaway: Ultimately, your website needs are determined by your business goals. Plan carefully so your site matches your needs. The post “These 4 Elements Will Make or Break Your Business’s Online Presence” can help.

About the Contributors

Jennifer Goodwin

Jennifer Goodwin is the owner and founder of www.internetgirlfriday.com, an award-winning Internet marketing agency that helps veterans and small businesses launch their ideas online.

 

 

 

 

 

David Hernandez

David Hernandez is the co-founder and managing partner of the New Jersey-based integrated marketing communications agency lotus823.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Min Lee

Min S. Lee is currently the SVP of business development for www.certapet.com and www.companionanimals.org. He is passionate about animals and loves playing golf in his spare time. Min is a native of San Diego, California, and has a background in finance and investments.

 

 

 

 

Samantha Strazanac

Samantha Strazanac owns Strazanac Solutions, a small marketing consulting firm in Raleigh, North Carolina, with a focus on SEO, link building, websites, content marketing, and social media management. Strazanac enjoys introducing new marketing strategies to brands and clients who have never considered branching out from their traditional marketing tactics. When she isn’t in the office, Samantha enjoys trying out new recipes for her friends and ballroom dancing.

 

 

3 Key Elements Every Small Business Website Should Have

22. August 2016 08:39

woman looking at her laptop

Every website is a work in progress, which is actually pretty exciting – you get to make it better as you learn. But here’s the deal: there's no one-size-fits-all checklist for website must-haves, and that's a good thing. Ideally, your website reflects what makes your business unique.

That said, there are some elements that create solid groundwork now that you can build on later. Let's review.

1. Fresh Content

The first goal of any content you put on your site is to make it easy for potential customers to find and buy from you. That means you want to have your business’s…

  • Name and logo.
  • Hours of operation.
  • Address.
  • Product or service list.
  • Contact information.

But according to Michael Transon (@michaeltranson), CEO of the marketing agency Honeycomb (@HoneycombUSA), your content serves an additional purpose: getting your site noticed.

“Search engines like Google attribute more authority to websites that have more unique content on their homepage, therefore ranking sites with more content higher on search results,” says Transon. “Small-business owners need to ensure their website homepage contains at least 600 words.”

Get fresh: Transon also says that small-business owners should actively look for ways to create fresh content throughout their site, and a great way to do that is with a blog.

“Websites that focus on blogging in their marketing efforts have a 13x better chance of achieving positive ROI than those who don't,” he says. “This is because each blog post is seen as a new website page by Google's search engine robots and increases organic traffic from search engines.”

2. Purposeful Design

Lots of people talk about having a user-friendly site, so there’s little doubt that’s important. But online brand expert Nick Leffler (@nick_leffler) says the key to a quality user experience is to understand why you’re building a site in the first place.

“A website must have a well-defined purpose that's easy to achieve,” says Leffler. “Visitors should know immediately what a website is about without having to read into it much.”

That means the site should have…

  • A prominent value proposition. Leffler says this is the first thing you want visitors to see.
  • A call-to-action on every page. “In addition to knowing what you do, visitors should know what you want them to do on the site,” says Leffler.
  • Well organized pages. Not only does your content need to be well written, but Leffler says it needs headings and sub-headings so readers can skim and get what they need.

Transon says you also want to make navigation from page to page easy, too. He recommends…

  • Making sure pages aren’t overcrowded with content. Crowded pages can confuse the reader and cause them to abandon the site altogether.
  • Putting the most popular links at the top of the site in a navigation bar. This organization shows users where the important stuff is.

Go mobile: More people are searching the web from their smartphones and tablets, so make sure your website design is compatible with mobile devices. Bob Bentz (@BobBentz), author and president of the web design company Rocky Point Media, recommends taking the thumb test.

“Try tapping all of the links with only your thumb. This will give you an idea of what it's like for a large man to try to navigate your mobile website," Bentz says. "If you can't do it easily on the small screen, consider a redesign.”

3. SEO Basics

Content and design aren’t the only ways you can help your search-engine rankings. Ryan Raplee (@ryanraplee), co-founder and CTO of Legal InSites (@LegalInSites), says local businesses need a business name, address, and phone number (NAP) that is identical to their Google My Business listing, as well as other citations on the Internet.

Ideally, this data should be formatted using a structured data markup from schema.org. You can find more information at that website.

Bentz encourages small-business owners to spend time on their titles and meta tags.

“Make sure the keywords you wish to target are included in those tags and in your on-page design," Bentz notes. "For small businesses that don't have a lot of local competition, this effort alone might get you on the first page of Google.”

Get found: “A meta title needs to be less than 55 characters and a meta description needs to be less than 150 characters, otherwise Google will cut it off in results,” says Transon.

For more tips, check out “These 4 Elements Will Make or Break Your Online Presence.”
 

About the Contributors

Bob Bentz

Bob Bentz is the author of Relevance Raises Response: How to Engage and Acquire with Mobile Marketing. He is also an adjunct at the University of Denver teaching the graduate level course in mobile marketing. Bentz is president of Rocky Point Media, a web development company in Hawaii. In addition, he is president of mobile first digital agency Purplegator in Philadelphia.

 

 

 

Nick Leffler

Nick Leffler helps small businesses grow their business online with experience building websites, social media presence, and more. Leffler has grown his online presence with a small marketing budget by using methods such as blogging and organic social media reach.

 

 

 

 

Ryan Raplee

Ryan Raplee is the co-founder and CTO of Legal InSites, a digital marketing agency that specializes in web design and SEO for law firms. He's started many successful websites, some reaching as many as 500k unique visitors a month. In recent years, his focus has been working solely with law firms. Follow Ryan on Twitter to connect.

 

 

 

Michael Transon

Michael Transon is the CEO of Honeycomb, a San Francisco inbound marketing agency. Honeycomb helps small businesses create and execute cross-channel marketing plans to increase demand generation. You can find him on Twitter at @michaeltranson.

 

 

 

These 4 Elements Will Make or Break Your Business’s Online Presence

18. August 2016 08:15

dropped ice cream cone full of subtext

Once upon a time, business owners set up shop, placed some ads, and maybe hosted a couple of events to drum up customers. But this is the age of the Internet, and that means now you need an online presence for most folks to even consider your business.

That wouldn’t be so bad if you could throw together a website and be done, but the list of online must-haves seems to grow every day. Instead of trying to do it all, make sure you have these four essential elements.

1. A Plan

“Building an online presence isn't something you can do ‘when things aren't busy,’" says business consultant Lara McCulloch (@laramcculloch). Here are some tips she has for figuring out which online elements make sense for your business to prioritize:

  • Go where your customers go when they’re making decisions. McCulloch says the easiest customers to attract on the ones already searching online for the products or services you offer. Reach them through search engine optimization and pay-per-click advertising.
  • Figure out your customer. "Before you build your online presence, you need to know who you're trying to reach, where they are in their decision making process, what information they need to help them make their decision, and what's going to be meaningful and relevant to them," says McCulloch. That way you can decide how to best reach them.
  • Focus on the stuff that matters. According to McCulloch, lots of businesses get caught up in vanity metrics like shares and retweets, but at the end of the day, these numbers may have little impact on the bottom line. Instead, she recommends making the measurement fit the goal: “If your goal is to acquire new customers, you need to be tracking just that – how many new customers did we get as a result of this campaign?”

Pro tip: Jodie Shaw, the chief marketing officer of The Alternative Board (@TAB_Boards), says a content calendar is a key component for planning your online presence.

“Build your calendar around the events that are important to your audience, and ask yourself ‘How can I leverage this opportunity?’” Shaw suggests.

2. A Website

For most businesses, a website is a no-brainer. The tougher call is figuring out what information needs to be on it and what it should look like.

At the very least, content marketing and social media consultant Erika Heald (@SFerika) thinks your website should “have your hours of business and location information (including parking), and it should give your potential customers a feel for what makes your business unique.”

She says that might mean writing your founding story or adding photos of your employees.

Your next step is to add the elements that matter for your industry. For example, Heald says a restaurant owner might want to “include a sample menu, details about take-out and delivery options, and note if you are able to accommodate diners with specific food allergies.”

Heald’s suggestion got us thinking. Here are a few more ideas for industry-specific elements:

  • Healthcare: Consider adding what insurance plans you accept and your education and certifications.
  • Contractors: Customer reviews and images of successful products may appeal to your clientele.
  • Consultants: Tell potential clients the industries you work in and provide case studies of your work.
  • Retail: You may want to add e-commerce options and a calendar of promotional events.

Depending on your business, you may also want to highlight certain products or services, add a price list, or offer an online scheduling option.

Pro tip: Notice we didn’t say anything too specific about the look of your site? That's because the trends in design are always changing.

“What works now has no guarantee of working the next day,” says Paul Lemley (@PALemley), the chief digital strategist of Lemley Media. “Where digital marketers, those that view themselves as true ‘growth hackers,’ set themselves apart is through being agnostic when it comes to design, platforms, and strategies.”

That said, you can't go wrong when you keep your design professional and user-friendly. And consider outsourcing the design work to a professional.

3. Quality Content

Heald says, “If you consistently provide interesting and helpful content, you will be able to build up a positive reputation and relationship with customers while making a name for yourself as an expert in your industry.”

McCulloch points out that it’s not just your clients who are looking for amazing content.

“Search engines, like Google, like fresh, relevant, and useful content," she says. "They award content producers who produce stuff that gets a lot of views, keeps people on the page to read the content, and creates shares and comments.”

And if you’re a business owner who hates writing, Heald notes content creation can include “photography, video, or even audio content.”

Pro tip: For those who find content creation intimidating, Heald recommends the book Content Inc. by Joe Pulizzi.

“It has some great exercises to help you identify the right topic to focus on and provides a ton of examples of small business and entrepreneurial efforts that took off thanks to content,” Heald says.

4. Social Media Accounts

Shaw says that owners who skip social media channels may be missing out on potential business.

"People make snap judgments about how stable and safe a business is, and not having a Facebook page or a Twitter could affect sales," she warns.

However, that doesn’t mean you have to be on all platforms all the time. She recommends doing a little research into the demographics the platform appeals to before jumping on the bandwagon.

Pro tip: Before you start tweeting and sharing, review your General Liability Insurance. Most policies can protect you if someone claims your tweet is libelous. Learn more in Tweet or Twibel: A Small-Business Owner’s Guide to Advertising Injury.

About the Contributors

Erika Heald

Erika Heald has spent her career using content to drive business results. As a San Francisco-based content marketing and social media consultant, she focuses on helping enterprise technology startups define their content marketing strategy and supporting processes to drive lead generation and customer loyalty.

 

 

 

 

Paul Lemley

Since receiving his master’s degree in communication, Paul Lemley has guided multiple organizations through digital transformations, from non-profits, global manufacturers, and e-commerce brands to national franchises. As founder and chief digital strategist of Lemley Media, he brings this background to small and medium-sized businesses looking to grow their digital presence but tie their strategies to return on investment.

 

 

 

Lara McCulloch

A renowned, results-driven marketing expert with over 20 years as a brand consultant for multinationals like Cadbury-Adams, Unilever, and Shell, Lara McCulloch brings ‘Big Brand Thinking’ to small business. Her consulting firm is focused on building growth, reputation, and evangelism for companies around the world. She’s been touted as a pioneering force in the marketing revolution, founding one of the world’s first Twitter communities. McCulloch is also the host of the podcast Start Some Shift.

 

 

 

Jodie Shaw

Jodie Shaw is the chief marketing officer for The Alternative Board (TAB), a global company that helps business owners and leaders create better businesses and lives through advisory boards and coaching. She has over 20 years experience in marketing within B2B environments, with close to 10 of those years spent in franchising, and has worked in various advertising and marketing roles throughout her career. Prior to joining TAB, Shaw was the global chief marketing officer and CEO of a global business coaching franchise, which operated in 50+ countries.

 

 

Why an Online Presence Can Make or Break Your Small Business

15. August 2016 14:54

two colleagues looking at a tablet

It’s hard to imagine that some business owners don’t take much interest in building an online presence, but according to The Alternative Board (@TAB_Boards) that’s the reality. A recent survey from the organization shows…

  • 18 percent of entrepreneurs have no social media presence at all.
  • 59 percent see social media as an accessory to their business.
  • 22 percent check their accounts only a few times a year.
  • 64 percent monitor their accounts only once a week or less.

While we’d like to believe you are as shocked as we are, the odds are pretty good you’re actually in one of those groups. That could be a problem. Here’s why.

1. Your Online Presence Makes Your Business Visible

Business consultant Seema Alexander (@SeemaAlexander) says online presence is most simply defined as the assets you use to make your business “searchable and visible” on the Internet, such as…

  • Your business website.
  • Social media accounts.
  • Your blog.

“The way that you rank on a search engine, the way that you position your services or products on your website, the way that others talk about your brand online can make or break a business,” says Alexander.

Pro tip: According to Beth Carter, founder and chief strategist with Clariant Creative Agency (@ClarCreative), the trick to developing a successful online strategy is to know what your clients are looking for and where they’re looking for it.

“If you run a consulting firm that targets C-suite executives who you know are on LinkedIn, your company had better be on LinkedIn, too,” says Carter. “If you run a hotel and you know that customers frequently call you asking for directions from the airport, make sure a Google map is prominent on your website, and make sure that website is easy to read on a cell phone.”

2. Your Online Presence Gives Your Business Credibility

Jodie Shaw, chief marketing officer of The Alternative Board (TAB), says recent research shows that consumers are taking control of the buying process, and many see a robust online presence as evidence of your business’s trustworthiness.

“If a potential customer googles a company they’d never heard of before, and they see it has a website and it’s on multiple social media channels, that presence gives them a bit more confidence in the company,” she notes.

Pro tip: Shaw adds that small-business owners may want to monitor what others are saying about their business online, too. Start thinking of social media and online review sites as word-of-mouth advertising.

In fact, she says, “Customers are now saying they trust third-party reviews or commentary as much if not more than they would their best friend.”

Her recommendation? Value your web presence as much as you would positive word-of-mouth referrals.

3. Your Online Presence Engages Your Customers

According to Gallup, the more fully engaged your customers are, the more likely they are to spend their dollars on your products and services. Gallup’s research shows fully engaged customers…

  • Bring 37 percent more revenue to their primary bank.
  • Make 44 percent more visits to their preferred retailers.
  • Make 56 percent more visits to their preferred casual restaurants.

Granted, there are hundreds of ways to improve customer engagement, but Shaw says one of the best reasons to use social media is that it allows you to interact with your customers in real time.

“You’re able to communicate with them about things that are relevant to them and engage them in a conversation, which builds confidence and trust,” she says. “That gets you loyalty and potential business as a result.”

Pro tip: Carter says your goals should inform your online strategy.

“A local retail shop might not need a super-fancy website; the bare minimum might be enough," she says. "But if the goal is to drive foot traffic each week, then the store owner might need to be extra active on Facebook in order to stay top of mind with patrons and get them excited to keep coming back."

How to Manage the Risks that Come with Online Activity

“Having any online presence comes with a set of risks, like bad reviews, bad photos, or false statements others make about you or your brand,” says Alexander.

Unfortunately, these aren’t the only risks your business faces. You also have to be careful that you and your employees don’t tweet, pin, or share…

  • Copyrighted materials.
  • Defamatory statements.
  • Private information.

The Internet makes all of these mistakes easy to commit. However, if someone accuses you of these advertising injuries, your General Liability Insurance can likely offer some protection. Learn more in our eBook Tweet or Twibel: The Small-Business Owner’s Guide to Advertising Injury.

About the Contributors

Seema Alexander

Seema Alexander is a business model strategist, transition coach, and speaker. She is founder of seemaalexander.com, http://www.TheTransitionLab.com, and the Life After Corporate Mastermind Facebook Group.

 

 

 

 

 

Beth Carter

Beth Carter is the founder of Clariant Creative Agency, where she applies inbound marketing methods to help her clients build sales and leverage content in powerful ways. As a communications professional, she brings over 15 years of experience writing award-winning copy for companies of all sizes, from Fortune 100 to the neighborhood mom-and-pop store.

 

 

 

 

Jodie Shaw

Jodie Shaw is the chief marketing officer for The Alternative Board (TAB), a global company that helps business owners and leaders create better businesses and lives through advisory boards and coaching. She has over 20 years experience in marketing within B2B environments, with close to 10 of those years spent in franchising, and has worked in various advertising and marketing roles throughout her career. Prior to joining TAB, Shaw was the global chief marketing officer and CEO of a global business coaching franchise, which operated in 50+ countries.

 

 

The Business Benefits of Staying Active

12. August 2016 12:51

professional on an exercise ball

If you’re an entrepreneur who has sacrificed a lot of workout time to build the business, it might be hard to see the benefits of creating a health and wellness program for your employees. But here’s the thing: healthy employees can be a major boon to your bottom line. Read on to learn more.

What Is Wellness Program?

Let’s start by pointing out that wellness programs go far beyond exercise and weight loss. That may be the first thing that pops into your mind, but wellness actually incorporates a much broader idea of what it means to be healthy.

According to the National Wellness Institute (@NatlWellnessInt), “Wellness is an active process through which people become aware of, and make choices toward, a more successful existence.” That means a wellness program supports the whole person: mind, body, and spirit.

Granted, in corporate America, the emphasis tends to be on physical wellbeing, but some companies do take a more holistic approach that can include…

  • Psychological counseling.
  • Stress management classes.
  • Sabbaticals for long-term employees.
  • Financial counseling.

You can still find your fair share of health screenings and free gym memberships. Just keep in mind that your wellness program can address any number of needs you see in your employees.

The takeaway: When you think “wellness,” think “whole person.” It opens up a wider world of possibilities for your program.

Why Should I Offer a Wellness Program?

Theresa Islo, program manager for the University of Wisconsin Master of Science in Health and Wellness Management (@UWHWM), says research shows that wellness programs can have a positive impact on your bottom line. One study published by The Health Project even found “a correlation between effective workplace health promotion and overall financial performance.”

“While research shows medical cost savings, I would encourage employers to think past health care costs and biometric screenings alone,” Islo notes. She suggests a well-designed worksite wellness program can have additional benefits, like…

  • Improved employee health. Nice for them, right? But it’s nice for you, too, because healthy employees come to work.
  • Improved productivity. Healthy, balanced employees have an easier time concentrating on the task at hand.
  • Improved employee engagement. This may be in part because you’ve demonstrated that you care for your workers.
  • Decreased absenteeism. Again, healthy workers show up, but so do the workers who have other aspects of their lives under control, too.
  • A positive impact on recruitment and retention. Benefits matter to your employees. Even if you can’t compete on salary, the perk of a wellness program can be a draw.

Islo says it will take some time before you get results you can see and analyze. How much time depends somewhat on the type of program you implement.

“For example, a nutrition education program that aims to reduce BMI could take a minimum of three years to show measurable impact,” says Islo. “Alternately, offering flu shots could produce a noticeable benefit in a matter of months.”

The takeaway: Building a wellness program takes time, but the benefits may make it worth the wait. Learn more in "Study: Wellness Comes Back to Small Businesses Twofold."

What Kind of Wellness Program Can I Offer?

“Organizations around the country are finding exciting, innovative ways to promote well-being,” says Islo. She suggests looking to others for inspiration. For example…

  • Chicago-based Tasty Catering (@TastyCatering) emphasizes psychological health programs and other nontraditional benefits such as leadership training and low-interest loans for workers.
  • A Tennessee county health department has a wellness garden in which employees grow vegetables.
  • Zappos, Facebook, and other leading companies offer paid time off to allow employees to disconnect from work and telecommuting to increase productivity and engagement.
  • Meredith Corporation’s (@MeredithCorp) 200 fitness classes have contributed to 85 percent of its employees being healthy.
  • Vermont physicians write prescriptions that include free entry to state parks.
  • San Francisco International Airport (@flySFO) installed a yoga room to provide travelers with a quiet respite from hectic terminals.

While there are lots of ways to promote wellness in your small business, Islo does offer a few caveats.

“I am wary of weight loss programs that incentivize people to lose weight,” says Islo. “They may have unintended consequences, such as people gaining weight in order to earn the incentive for losing it, and for some, losing weight is risky.”

Islo also says small-business owners need to be aware of compliance issues related to HIPAA and the ADA. Many activities will require waivers, especially physical ones.

The takeaway: You can build a wellness program that makes sense for your employees and budget, just be sure to consider the risks as you plan.

Offering a wellness program can set you apart from the crowd. But if your big concern is getting the right people, check out the tips in “5 HR Pros Reveal the Secret to Hiring the Right Employees the First Time.”

About Theresa Islo

Theresa Islo is the program manager at UW-Extension, Division of Continuing Education, Outreach and eLearning for the collaborative, online University of Wisconsin Health and Wellness Management degrees that include a bachelor’s-completion option and a master of science. She was previously the director of operations at the Wellness Council of Wisconsin after working in employee benefits consulting and administration with employers in Southeastern Wisconsin for many years. She completed her bachelor’s degree at UW-Milwaukee.

Turn Great Weather into Great Business Opportunities

10. August 2016 08:21

two women shopping on a nice day

Sunny skies can have a powerful impact on people, especially if they’ve spent the winter under a pile of blankets binge watching Game of Thrones. Once that warm weather hits, you can hardly blame them for getting out.

Unfortunately, their increased busyness seldom leads to increased business for you. But it doesn’t have to be that way. We spoke to a number of small-business owners and marketing consultants to find out how you can turn great weather into great business opportunities. Here's what we found out.

1. Take Advantage of Foot Traffic

Freelance marketing consultant David Everett Strickler (@mktgmantra) says, “Summer is a wonderful opportunity to do two things: move last season's inventory and sell hot on-trend consumer goods.”

But he adds that if you want to take advantage of the increased foot traffic that summer often brings, you should be smart about your setup.

“Have both what they were drawn toward (the sale selection) and current items that may be of interest to them,” he says. That way you encourage multi-unit sales.

Here’s how: Strickler suggests getting shoppers' attention with a bright, bold sale sign. Then group items to encourage consumers to purchase them together.

For instance, a surf shop might sell hoodies at a deep discount, but place new wet suits alongside them. The hoodie pulls them in, and the savings may help loosen their purse strings for other purchases.

2. Find Your Customers' Motivation

Shaun Walker, the co-founder and creative director of HEROfarm (@herofarm), says your business can take advantage of the season's business opportunities if you focus on your customers.

“Everyone has needs and, as a business, your job is to try to fill them,” he says. “Take a look at your customers and see what is driving them at the moment.”

Here’s how: Let’s say you own a store and have a lot of parents in your client base. 

“During the summer, children often find themselves with huge chunks of free time while parents worry about the mischief and headaches that can bring,” says Walker. As a storeowner, he says you can address that problem like Target did with its “Big Honkin’ Summer” campaign. The store packaged several products together that both filled and enhanced the empty time.

3. Look into On-Demand Geofilters

Paul Lemley (@PALemley), the chief digital strategist with Lemley Media, says Snapchat Geofilters are a good way to take advantage of the countless outdoor festivals, beer gardens, beach parties, and athletic events that pop up during the summer months.

“Oftentimes, sponsorship of these events are extremely cost prohibitive, exclusive to specific brands, take months to prepare, and only garner the attention of individuals in attendance,” says Lemley. But creating a customized Snapchat frame or image is “a targeted and inexpensive option to capture the attention of attendees and their Snapchat followers.”  

Here’s how: Start by identifying events that your clients might find interesting. For example, Lemley says a clothing store may want to take advantage of the crowds a concert or festival draws.

“They can create a unique filter that engages the concert attendees, targeting only the grounds on which the event is occurring,” he notes.

Lemley acknowledges that this is currently a “pure branding and awareness tactic,” but points out it has “the potential to be seen by thousands of individuals.” Snapchat also added advertising capability, so he recommends you be on the lookout for case studies in the fall.

4. Know What You Want

Before you set up sales or promotions, think about the end game.

“Summer sales, like at other times of year, have to make sense,” warns Culinest (@Culinest) principal and CEO Terry Frishman. “Know your margins, what you can afford to discount, and what you want from it. Are you trying to sell more at one time, like buy two, get one free, or have a loss leader to get people in the door or purchasing for the first time?”

Here’s how: Once you’re sure of your goal, Frishman suggests matching your offer with your ideal customer. That might mean taking a new product to the local farmers markets for feedback or hosting an outdoor movie night that both builds community and creates sales opportunities.

5. Attend ‘Boardwalk U’

What exactly is Boardwalk U? For Bill Corbett, president of Corbett Public Relations (@liprguy), it’s literally the boardwalk in Long Beach. He breaks out his sneakers, puts on his headphones, and enjoys the nice weather, all the while listening to podcasts and audiobooks. By the end of the summer, he says he has a “renewed understanding of marketing strategies, new technology, and sage advice from the top gurus in the sector.”

“In my opinion, it is not so much as what you can do; it is what you can learn during the lazy days of summer,” says Corbett. “For me, this means reading, researching, and listening.”

Here’s how: Corbett says Boardwalk University is “any place where you can focus on professional improvement.” Don’t have a boardwalk in your town? How about a quiet coffee shop or the library? Of course, these days, you can take the library wherever you go. Pick a spot and make good use of the extra time you have.

Looking for more ways to take advantage of the season? Perhaps the answer is in “Should Your Business Have Shorter Hours in the Summer?

About the Contributors

Bill Corbett

Bill Corbett is president of Corbett Public Relations, an award-winning professional public and media relations firm based in Floral Park, New York. He is a recognized public relations, media relations, crisis communications, digital media, and personal branding expert with over 25 years of experience. Known for effectively building and protecting reputations and brands, Corbett’s mission is to provide businesses and entrepreneurial-minded individuals with effective and goal-focused marketing strategies and services.

 

 

Terry Frishman

Multiple-award-winning Terry Frishman (Columbia MBA), principal of the boutique food consultancy Culinest, inspires and helps food start-ups and more established culinary businesses profitably excel. Frishman has been a repeat industry expert on Food Network, International Restaurant Show, and the Fancy Food Show, served on many professional Boards of Directors and taught food business classes to thousands of aspiring food entrepreneurs. As Product Manager at Kraft, she won 6 team awards, launched a $20M brand and successfully managed $120M brand.

 

 

Paul Lemley

Since receiving his master’s degree in communication, Paul Lemley has guided multiple organizations through digital transformations, from non-profits, global manufacturers, and e-commerce brands to national franchises. As founder and chief digital strategist of Lemley Media, he brings this background to small and medium-sized businesses looking to grow their digital presence but tie their strategies to return on investment.

 

 

 

David Everett Strickler

David Everett Strickler is a marketing and branding consultant and writer with over eight years of experience in marketing and advertising. A self-proclaimed "Millennial Marketer," Strickler has successfully launched brands, personalities, and small businesses through professional marketing and identity services. He regularly speaks to students and professionals alike about marketing, careers, and life experiences in the New York Metro area.

 

 

 

Shaun Walker

Shaun Walker is the creative director and co-founder of HEROfarm Marketing, Public Relations and Design, a New Orleans-born agency that arose post-Hurricane Katrina to help do its part in rebuilding the city and empowering entrepreneurs there. Founded in 2009 by award-winning industry veterans Shaun Walker and Reid Stone, HEROfarm is built on a social mission and simple philosophy: Do great work for good people.™ It strives to transform the traditional sell-buy-consume process into a meaningful connection between consumers and companies while making a positive impact on the world.

 

 

How to Monetize Your Commute

8. August 2016 08:10

professionals walking to work

According to data from the US Census Bureau, as cited in The Washington Post article “The Astonishing Human Potential Wasted on Commutes,” the average commute is 26 minutes. Before you mega-commuters scoff at that little number, note that the author estimates that year year, a…

  • 15-minute commute equals 5.2 days.
  • 26-minute commute equals 9 days.
  • 45-minute commute equals 15.6 days.
  • 60-minute commute equals 20.8 days.

And if you do have a 90-minute commute? You’re in your car for a little over a month every year.

Like they say, time is money, so the idea of spending entire days doing little more than moving your body from one location to another probably makes your skin crawl. But your commute doesn’t have to be a waste. These six tips can help you make the most of your ride to and from the office.

1. Use the Time to Plan

Leo Welder, the founder of the entrepreneur’s startup guide ChooseWhat.com (@ChooseWhat), says he uses his ride home for day planning. He schedules all of the tasks, meetings, errands, and calls that he wants to make the following day so he never has to spend time figuring out what he should be doing next.

There’s an app for that: Welder prefers Remember The Milk for task management.

“It allows me to schedule using drag-and-drop and time scheduling and offers a slew of ways to categorize and prioritize tasks," he says.

2. Learn as You Go

Bryan Clayton (@bryanMclayton), CEO of GreenPal (@YourGreenPal), lives in Nashville, Tennessee, which was recently named one of the top-10 worst traffic cities in the country.

“I really can't stand that dead hour of non-productivity every morning, so I have been searching for ways to make use of it,” Clayton says. “While I cannot accomplish any actual tasks because I am driving, I can make it one of the richest hours of my day.”

He does that by listening to audiobooks every morning.

“Right now, I am listening to the autobiography of Warren Buffett, and I am getting smarter with every commute,” he says.

There’s an app for that: Like Clayton, marketing strategist Crystal Washington (@cryswashington) recommends downloading Audible to “listen to great business books, self-help titles, and even business lectures at Ivy League schools!”

Bonus tip: Founder and CEO of uniquely HR (@uniquelyHR) Mikaela Kiner subscribes to a variety of podcasts, such as This American Life, Freakonomics, and GeekWire.

“I can't tell you how often I cite things I learned about technology, the latest app, a new take on the gender pay gap, or Malcolm Gladwell's latest research,” Kiner notes.

3. Take Care of Errands

Washington points out that technology has made it easier to get personal tasks done while you’re on the road.

“Trains, buses, and taxis or car services are likely the best forms of transportation for increasing efficiency, but with the right apps, work can be done on any mode of transportation.”

There’s an app for that: Washington recommends Fancy Hands to complete any number of personal assistant tasks, such as making reservations, ordering tickets, or finding cleaning services.

4. Check Your Email

Using public transportation also gives you a chance to answer emails, but Welder says you’ll be more effective if you’re disciplined about not responding to every message as it comes in.

“I typically respond to emails twice during the work day so I can focus on other tasks during the rest of my day,” says Welder.

There’s an app for that: “Use apps like Talkler or ReadItToMe to review and respond to emails by listening to them and then responding via voice-to-text,” says Washington.

5. Sneak in Some Exercise

If you have options for your commute, Mikaela Kiner suggests you pick the route that involves exercise. It will save you the time you might otherwise spend on the treadmill.

“I purposely get off one stop early,” says Kiner. “Often, between walking to and from the station and walking to meetings, I can log as much as three miles per day.”

There’s an app for that: You can track your steps with the pedometer app Walker. And if you need more inspiration to get moving, read “Why Bike to Work Day is Great for Small Businesses.

6. Minimize Your Commute

Neil Costa, founder and CEO of the recruitment marketing agency HireClix (@hireclix), spent years dealing with a brutal two-to-three hour commute, so when he opened his own digital ad agency, he chose to locate it in the heart of the city where he lived. The change, he says, was worth it.

“Any person taking the enormous risk of starting a small business should consider going local to get themselves out of their vehicle and spend more time at their workplace or at home," says Costa. "It's one of the best benefits I have as a business owner.”

There’s an app for that: One way to stick your toe in the pool that is commercial real estate is to start with office sharing. Download the Desks Near Me app to find temporary coworking space.

Not quite ready to leave home base? That can work if you can stay focused. Learn how in “Home-Office Hacks for Higher Productivity.”

About the Contributors

Bryan Clayton

Bryan Clayton is a lifelong entrepreneur, founding Peach Tree Inc., a market leading landscape construction firm in 1998 acquired in 2013. He is currently CEO of GreenPal, an online marketplace connecting homeowners with nearby lawn care professionals.

 

 

 

 

Neil Costa

Neil Costa is an entrepreneurial executive who has spent the past 20 years focused on ecommerce, digital advertising, and recruitment advertising. In 2010, he founded HireClix on the cornerstones of creative digital marketing, analytical thinking, and great service. As CEO of HireClix, he counsels clients on how to build effective recruitment marketing campaigns and leads a team of savvy marketers and strategic human resources technology consultants. His clients include government contractors, medical device companies, technology firms, national retailers, and many other organizations.

 

 

Mikaela Kiner

Mikaela Kiner is a native Seattleite who’s spent the last 15 years in HR leadership roles at iconic Northwest companies, including Microsoft, Amazon, PopCap Games, and Redfin. She has an MS in HR management with a certificate in organizational development and is an ICF credentialed coach. Kiner delivers results by building trust and engaging her clients in creative problem solving. Clients appreciate her strategic thinking and hands on execution.

 

 

Crystal Washington

International keynote speaker, Crystal Washington works with organizations that want to leverage technology to increase profits and productivity. She is the author of the book The Social Media Why: A Busy Professional's Practical Guide to Using Social Media Including LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, Google+ and Blogs for Business.

 

 

 

 

Leo Welder

Leo Welder is the founder of Austin, Texas-based ChooseWhat.com, the entrepreneur's startup guide. The business has helped thousands of entrepreneurs take the right first steps with the best tools to ensure they maximize their opportunities for success. In addition to running ChooseWhat.com, Welder contributes regularly to several entrepreneurship and technology publications, supports the Young Men's Business League and Austin Sunshine Camps, and spends time with his family.

 

 

Making Life Better with Beer: The Story of Temperance Beer Company

5. August 2016 08:42

pints of beer

The path to small-business ownership is seldom straight. In fact, it's pretty roundabout. And muddy. And full of rocks and brambles that seem to appear out of nowhere.

It takes courage to strike out on one's own, but those who do persevere are rewarded. Just ask Josh Gilbert, founder and owner of Temperance Beer Company (@TemperanceBeer). His journey to brewery owner started in possibly the least likely of places: an architectural firm in a city known for its dry laws.

Temperance door

Photo courtesy of Temperance Beer Company

Try Something New-ish

“I am a licensed architect, and back when the housing bubble burst, I was in a two-person practice doing mostly residential projects,” says Gilbert. “So over the course of 2009 to 2010, I had a lot more time to think about what I really wanted to be doing with my life.”

Turns out, the thing that he wanted to do didn’t have much in common with his profession.

“Beer had always called to me," he said. "I was a home brewer, so I decided to give it a go.”

But while beer was his passion, he realized that he couldn’t run the business and brew the beer. Luckily, he met Claudia Jendron, who was then a brewer at Goose Island.

Jendron’s path to the craft beer industry was just as surprising as Gilbert’s. According to a profile in the Chicago Reader, Jendron started out as a marine biologist studying sturgeon for the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. Her science background meant she had studied organic chemistry, physics, and molecular biology, all of which are valuable to her new career as a brewer.

The takeaway: When you’re striking out on your own, your instinct may be to stick with what you know. There’s no harm in that, but don’t forget you know more than your chosen profession.

Evaluate your interests and talents, and see which skills might transfer to a new line of work. Don’t be afraid to try something new.

beer glorious beer

Photo courtesy of Temperance Beer Company

Make Your Own Path

Gilbert’s plan was to open his brewery in Evanston, a suburb just north of Chicago. But that created a couple of problems. The first hitch was finding a suitable location, specifically something industrial that could house brewing equipment. According to Gilbert, the low occupancy rates of 2012 helped solve that problem.

The next issue – regulatory approvals – was much thornier.

“Alcohol is regulated at every level of government, so we needed a lot of signatures,” says Gilbert. “Overall, it was tough to figure out what we needed to know – there isn’t a manual telling you how to open a brewery in Cook County or Evanston.”

Not only was there no manual, but Gilbert found that Evanston, which didn’t have any other breweries at the time, didn’t offer a liquor license for a production brewery and tap room. That’s when Gilbert realized he would have to work with the city to come up with the appropriate regulations.

Gilbert says, “After my initial meeting with the city's liquor control board, I worked with an assistant attorney from the city to draft an ordinance that, per the mayor, would create a liquor license suited to our business model.” The process, he says, took several months.

The takeaway: If Gilbert’s experience teaches us anything, it’s that just because something hasn’t been done doesn’t mean it's impossible. If there isn’t a path, make one for yourself.

Temperance taps

Photo courtesy of Temperance Beer Company

Make a Connection

Temperance may be an unusual name for a brewery, but Gilbert picked it because of Evanston’s “tortured history with alcohol.” The local government initiated dry laws in 1855 that lasted almost until 1972, according to the city’s website. In 1858, the Women’s Christian Temperance Union made Evanston its home base.

But Gilbert points out that the group was interested in more than the prohibition of alcohol. The WCTU also wanted to improve people’s lives and worked for women’s right to vote, the eight-hour workday, and other social reforms.

“As the first brewery in the city, I wanted to tie into this rich history as sort of an end parenthesis,” says Gilbert. “We see our mission as similar to the WCTU’s: make life better. We just do it with beer.”

The takeaway: The name Temperance does a lot of work for Gilbert’s marketing efforts. For those who don’t know the city’s history, it’s just clever enough to draw them in. But Evanstonians are in on the joke, and that makes them feel connected to their local brewery.

Look for ways to show your support of the community, and chances are the community will return the favor.

tap room

Photo courtesy of Temperance Beer Company

Beer isn’t your drink of choice? That’s okay. You can get more small business tips in “Living and Working the Dream: The Papapietro Perry Winery Story.” Cheers!

About Josh Gilbert

Josh Gilbert

Prior to opening Evanston’s first production craft brewery and tap room, Josh Gilbert worked as a professionally licensed architect and even co-founded a small firm of his own. In 2011, he decided to turn his home-brewing hobby into a business. Gilbert attended the Siebel Institute in 2011 to learn about running a brewery and opened Temperance Beer Company in 2013.

 

 

The Business Trip Checklist for Freelancers & Small-Business Owners

3. August 2016 08:17

man waiting at the airport

Honest-to-goodness face time (i.e., the kind you can’t get on your iPhone) is a powerful tool when it comes to building relationships. Unfortunately, meeting with out-of-town clients also takes you away from your day-to-day operations.  

That doesn’t have to be a scary thought. Use this checklist to prep for your trip so it’s productive and lucrative.

1. Download an App for Your Receipts

According to certified public accountant Amy Northard (@AmyNorthardCPA), you can deduct 100 percent of some expenses you incur while on the road, including…

  • Airfare.
  • Luggage fees.
  • Cab or car fare.
  • Mileage when you drive.
  • Parking fees.
  • Tolls.
  • Laundry.
  • Dry cleaning.

But save your receipts!

“The IRS allows you to use digital copies of receipts, so I would recommend getting an app on your phone,” says Northard. “A lot of the bookkeeping programs have apps connected with their software, like QuickBooks and Xero. You can just take a picture with your phone and link it to your bookkeeping.”

If you don’t have already use bookkeeping software, Northard suggests downloading a standalone app, like Expensify or Shoeboxed, that lets you photograph and categorize your receipts and then export a report at the year’s end.

“Once you take the picture, you can toss the receipt, but I like to keep paper copies as well, in case that system fails for whatever reason,” Northard says. “I always keep a zippered pouch in my purse or my travel bag and just stash everything in there.”

Money-saving tip: The IRS only lets you deduct 50 percent of meals on business trips. However, Northard says you can either track receipts or use the per diem rate the IRS allows for the area. Sometimes the per diem rate gives a bigger deduction. Try plugging in your travel city at the GSA per diem calculator.

2. Prep Your Employees

Perhaps the scariest part of hitting the road is leaving your business in the hands of your employees. But personal productivity expert and creator of the P10 Productivity Accelerator Program Penny Zenker (@pennyzenker) says it’s a great idea to let your people handle problems: “If small-business owners take themselves out of the problem-solving role, people will rise to the occasion.”

Preparing your staff can go a long way toward helping them rise, so she suggests that you…

  • Set up escalation procedures.
  • Define any other critical business process and assign responsibilities.
  • Review any concerns with the team before you leave.
  • Delegate tasks, and identify the expected outcomes and milestones.

Sanity-saving tip: Maura Thomas (@mnthomas), founder of management and productivity training company RegainYourTime.com, says setting an out-of-office message on your voicemail and email may allow you to focus more on your trip. But she suggests adding day before and after your actual travel dates to give yourself some breathing room.

She says, “If people hear back from you before they expected, that will be a pleasant surprise.”

3. Schedule Every Activity

Ray McKenzie, principal and founder of the consulting group Red Beach Advisors (@redbeachadv), recommends putting all activities on your calendar. That includes…

  • Staff meetings.
  • Sales calls.
  • Independent work time.
  • Business meetings.
  • Meals.
  • Workouts.

According to McKenzie, this lets you focus on the specific activity without much conflict and lets your staff know if you’re available.

Sanity-saving tip: “Give yourself permission to relax. I find traveling is one of my most productive times because I have left the office behind,” says Zenker. “I use this time for critical thinking, business development, and even relaxation time. That isn’t downtime. It is purposeful recharging.”

Productivity is important wherever you are. Get ideas for staying on top of your schedule in “14 Essential Time Management Hacks for Freelancers.”

4. Look for Bonus Business

Michael Mehlberg, cofounder of the business development membership site Modern da Vinci, thinks small-business owners can maximize their travel by contacting people in the area that they’ve been meaning to connect with.

“Let them know you will be in town for a short while and it would be great to meet up for coffee, lunch, whatever," Mehlberg says. "They will be glad you connected, and you will feel like a rock star for getting more done than you had previously planned.”

Revenue-building tip: Social media may be your networking lifeline when you’re an out-of-towner.

“Check in on Meetup.com, Facebook events, Eventbrite, and even Twitter for networking opportunities outside of your immediate network while you're traveling,” says Mallie Rydzik, CEO of the consulting group Mydzik. “Post social media updates to let people know where you are and ask for an opportunity to grab coffee.” 

5. Make Sure You’re Protected

Hopping in your car may seem like the most convenient way to go, but you might want to check your auto insurance. Most policies exclude business travel, so the cost of an accident could come out of your pocket. Instead of risking it, consider purchasing Commercial Auto Insurance.

Rental cars are another concern. Your personal auto insurance might cover damages if you wreck a rental, but you may want to check that before you go, too. If it doesn’t, consider Hired & Non-Owned Auto Insurance.

Money-saving tip: You can purchase Hired and Non-Owned Auto Insurance as a standalone policy, but many small-business owners opt to add it as a rider to their General Liability Insurance. That usually helps keep costs down.

Wondering if the property in your car is safe? Find out in “Where Your Business Property Is and Isn’t Covered, According to Your Insurance.

About the Contributors

Ray Mackenzie

Ray McKenzie is a senior strategy, management, operations, and customer success consultant with more than 15 years of experience. His company Red Beach Advisors, based in Los Angeles, California, is a management and business consultant group specializing in implementing solutions for startups and small- to medium-sized businesses through strategy, process, systems, and people.

 

 

 

Michael Mehlberg

Michael Mehlberg has a proven leadership track record commanding the skills required to lead highly-technical, high-value, and high-stakes projects. Mehlberg’s experience as both a computer scientist and business professional allows his software engineering, product management, and business development expertise to be used to grow small businesses with purpose and speed. He has successfully led positions in engineering, project management, product management, sales, and business development.

 

 

 

Maura Thomas

A 20-year veteran of personal productivity, Maura Nevel Thomas is founder and chief trainer of RegainYourTime.com and creator of the Empowered Productivity System, a process for managing the details of life and work. As a speaker and trainer, Maura helps individuals, organizations, and corporations maximize their communications tools, defend their attention, and achieve their significant results.

 

 

 

Amy Northard

Amy Northard is a CPA who specializes in working with small-business owners to make taxes and bookkeeping less stressful. She has a passion for helping small-business owners wade through all the financial things it takes to start and operate a business so they can focus on their craft. In addition to preparing tax returns and bookkeeping for clients, Northard enjoys teaching small business basics through her online course Be Your Own CFO.

 

 

 

Mallie Rydzik

Mallie Rydzik, M.S., is founder and CEO of Mydzik, a collaborative consulting group for forward-thinking businesses. A scientist by training, she uses both her analytical and creative mind to help others revamp and reimagine their businesses. Her career mission is to change the way the world works, and she lives that vision daily through her thought leadership as a CEO, consultant, speaker, and writer. She can be reached directly for press inquiries at [email protected].

 

 

 

Penny Zenker

Penny Zenker is a productivity expert, strategic business coach, international speaker and trainer, and best-selling author of The Productivity Zone. Her P10 Productivity Accelerator System balances the skills and mindset of our behaviors. The program is based from her extensive experience as a master NLP practitioner and neurostrategist, and as a successful entrepreneur, and as a Tony Robbins Coach, coaching highly successful business leaders in their personal productivity and strategic thinking.

 

 

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