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7 Top Online Communities for Small Businesses

As an entrepreneur, you can feel isolated at times and it helps to connect with like-minded people. Joining online communities offers you the opportunity to network with other entrepreneurs, some of whom have more experience than you.

You can not only get help with your questions but learn from others to avoid making the mistakes they made. You also have others with whom to celebrate your successes. You will find many people who are willing to share the trials and joys of running their small businesses. Here are some of the top online communities you could consider joining:

Start Up Nation

Start Up Nation is a free service for entrepreneurs. It provides you with everything you need to start your business, manage it and grow it. You can sign up for a free newsletter and receive free access to downloadable eBooks from the Startup Nation Business Builder series.

Find case studies, articles, videos and other sources of information to learn from. For example, read about how to use crowdfunding to get your startup through a rough patch.

You are able to network with members on a variety of community forums that encourage active group discussions where valuable advice and tips are shared. Interact on topics relating to small business, start-ups, entrepreneurship and more. Various business services such as copywriting, logo design, business consultation are also available.

Warrior Forum

Warrior Forum mainly covers internet marketing and provides you with a way to take your online business to the next level. The community consists of over a million marketers, making it one of the biggest internet marketing forums. The forums are free but you can pay a once-off fee to join a premium business forum.

The users on this forum are all about sharing stories and helping each other with their internet marketing and online business successes and failures.

According to Paul Raglan, a writer for bestessayservicereviews and academized reviews, the comments of seasoned marketers is on the of the best ways to avoid being scammed if you’re new to internet marketing.

The “war room” gives you access to some wellknown internet marketers. This site also contains social groups, blogs, and a marketplace where you can advertise relevant, highquality products. 

Small Business Brief

The Small Business Brief is a message board style forum. It is a place where small business entrepreneurs can ask questions, find help, share small business ideas and encourage others involved in small businesses. It offers advice about all the different aspects of operating a small business – especially online – including social media management, email marketing, pay-per-click advertising and link building.

Some of the hot topics discussed include how to generate leads from Facebook ads, suggestions for Keyword Planner tools and effective link acquiring strategies. You will also find common pre-written letters, templates and forms that help business owners to manage their small businesses.

The Small Business Bonfire

The Small Business Bonfire is free to join and gives you access to some amazing information and tools for small business owners. It is a collaborative community where you can get actionable tips through the small business blog and a weekly newsletter. Find content such as how small businesses can get the most out of mobile apps and much more.

There are numerous categories of information, like business growth, social media, business planning, productivity and digital marketing. You can get free small business downloads that include guides, templates, and worksheets. It is also possible to use some affordable marketing services on offer.

LinkedIn Groups

If you want to connect with other small business owners like yourself on LinkedIn, joining a LinkedIn group provides connections and resources, but there are so many of them that it can be hard to select one. These groups are a little different from typical message boards, but they offer opportunities to find answers, get advice and network.

Each group runs and operates autonomously – some are open to anyone and others are membership only and you need to be accepted by the group manager. A few popular groups are Small Business Marketing Network and Bright Ideas & Entrepreneurs.

Bright Ideas and Entrepreneurs is a popular group with many members, including small business owners, startup founders, angel investors and more. You can get some amazing business insights and share ideas.

Growth Hackers

GrowthHackers founder, Sean Ellis, was looking for a place where he could discuss customer bases and growing companies. He couldn’t find a community, so he built one and the thriving community now has over 150,000 users.

It has a Reddit-style homepage that features articles submitted by users and discussions. There are numerous growth studies and you will come across many growth marketing ideas. Users appreciate the quality of content and the chance to connect with industry experts. Despite the growth, the team has been able to keep the community value high.

Online Geniuses

If you are are interested in building your user-base, Online Geniuses is for you. Before Slack groups existed, Online Geniuses was a Skype community of internet marketers who talked about strategies and shared personal stores.

The community grew and founder, David Markovich, started looking for a different platform. It’s now hosted on Slack and receives dozens to hundreds of applications a day.

Online Genuises covers marketing advice, product discussions, growth strategies and much more. It’s a strong community with over 16,000 members and features prominent entrepreneurs in Ask Me Anything weekly sessions.

Conclusion

This is only a small sampling of top online communities – there are many more. Joining an online community offers you the chance to connect with like-minded individuals and feel less alone in your entrepreneurial journey. Of course, you can’t join all of these groups, you will have to select one or two that you believe are most suited for your purposes.

Spending some time networking, getting answers to questions and being exposed to more seasoned entrepreneurs can be extremely valuable – it may just give you what you need to take your small business to the next level.

Guest Post: About the Author

Becky Holton is a journalist and a blogger at Essay Services Reviews Club, MyAssignmentWriting. She is interested in education technologies, grademiners review and is always ready to support informative speaking at essay-writing service uk. Follow her on Twitter.

9 Tips for Building Customer Retention and Customer Loyalty Through Relationships

Retaining loyal clients just makes business sense. Repeat clients spend more and are easier to convert than first-time shoppers. But building those relationships can be tricky, especially if you manage a lot of client accounts. Here are nine of our top tips for cultivating customer loyalty and retaining clients, from asking for feedback to apologizing like a pro.

Keep in touch regularly.

Sometimes no news is good news, especially when it comes to customer support. If people aren’t reaching out, then everything is probably working as planned. However, you shouldn’t depend on customers to keep the conversation going, and it’s a good idea to reach out on a regular basis to keep them updated on your product or service and see how they’re doing. Even if they don’t need anything from you at the moment, a personal email from a sales rep will let them know you’re thinking of them.

Celebrate milestones together.

Speaking of checking in, milestones are a great chance to do this naturally. If you work with individual clients, birthdays are a popular time to reach out (often with a discount or other reward) to make them feel special. However, if your clients are all B2B, celebrating a different milestone such as your six-month or one-year anniversary of working together is more appropriate. If you track the data, it can be really fun to pull together some highlights—i.e., projects completed, minutes logged, etc.—to see how far you’ve come together.

Say thank you.

Sometimes you don’t need a specific milestone to reach out and say “thank you.” It can be as simple as a quick email, or if you really want to get fancy, you can go with a handwritten card. End-of-year appreciation gifts around the winter holidays are also a tradition in client-based businesses, but you’ll want to do some advanced planning and flex your creative muscles to make sure that your gifts don’t get lost in the shuffle. Branded promotional products will ensure that your clients know exactly which gifts came from you.

Highlight loyal customers.

Not all “thank yous” have to be cards or promotional gifts. If you have some customers who are really jazzed about your product or service, leverage their enthusiasm and ask if they would be willing to write or film a testimonial for your website. These testimonials are also great fodder for email campaigns to current customers and leads so you can showcase what’s possible with your product using real-world examples.

Put personalization to use.

The more time you spend with your clients, the more you’ll get to know them, and you should be leveraging that knowledge. If you use a marketing automation system, technology will collect that data for you, but it’s also good to remember customer preferences from your personal meetings and phone calls with them. Use this information to guide the content you send them. If your client is interested in increasing brand awareness, focus your attention on that rather than (say) launching a new product.

Reward them for referrals.

Word of mouth is one of the most popular marketing tools in your arsenal, so you should absolutely be incentivizing customers to use it. Offering a discount or some other type of perk in exchange for a referral (or X amount of referrals) will get you more leads and give your customers a fantastic motivation to spread the word. Even better is a loyalty system that rewards both customers and new leads. For example, if you refer someone and they sign up for a trial, you get $20 off and so do they.

Ask for feedback and implement it.

Your customers work closely with your products or service, and they pay you for it, so they’re in the best position to tell you what they want and what they’re willing to pay for. However, very few people will proactively reach out to offer ideas for new features, so you’ll need to get the ball rolling and solicit feedback from them. Many customers will be flattered that you value their opinion, but just asking isn’t enough. You need to follow through and implement the best suggestions to show that you take them seriously.

Respond quickly to support tickets.

Nothing is more frustrating than sitting on hold or having to send three emails to customer service before getting a response. When a customer reaches out for help, try to respond as promptly as possible, even if it’s just to pass them off to the right person. If you can’t solve their problem directly, try to keep an eye on the ticket and make sure it doesn’t languish in the queue. When you’re going to be out of the office or unable to respond quickly, make sure that your OOO message has alternative contacts that customers can reach out to in case of an emergency.

Apologize when you make a mistake.

No one is perfect and each sales rep is bound to make mistakes sometimes. When you goof, own up to it and apologize to your clients. Tell them you’re sorry and explain what steps you and/or your company are taking to fix it. If necessary, review the complaint or error with your customer to figure out what went wrong where. While you may think that mistakes and apologies will drive customers away, if you do it correctly you can actually diffuse their frustration and build customer loyalty in the process.

Building close relationships with your customers takes time and effort, but it’s so worth it in the end. Not only are they likely to spend far more money with you, a good working relationship makes business much more pleasant and even enjoyable. Start building loyal customer relationships today with these nine strategies.

Guest Post: About the Author

Lee Becknell serves as the Senior Digital Marketing Manager for Pinnacle Promotions. Lee oversees digital marketing from the Atlanta, GA headquarters. She has been with Pinnacle for over six years. Lee enjoys spending time with her husband, son and golden retriever, running and taking naps.

 

9 Books with Advice to Make Networking Less Excruciating

Very few people truly enjoy networking, which is why so many experts have created a cottage industry out of offering advice. But how do you know what strategies are legit and which aren’t? We’ve done the legwork for you and rounded up nine books on networking by experts from both the business world and academia. Pick up a highlighter and get ready to note all the great tips you’re about to read.

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

First published in 1936, this book is a worldwide bestseller that has sold tens of millions of copies. Carnegie was a lecturer and writer who taught self-improvement courses on topics such as sales, corporate training, and public speaking. This book covers his important tips for accomplishing exactly what the title says, from becoming genuinely interested in others to showing respect for others’ opinions. It’s a classic for a reason, and we’d be remiss not to start our list off with this book.

Networking Is Not Working: Stop Collecting Business Cards and Start Making Meaningful Connections by Derek Coburn

If you’re sick of endlessly swapping business cards with people who immediately forget your name as soon as you shake hands, this book is for you. It’s a quick read, only covering 163 pages, but it will quickly help you rethink how and why you network. Coburn covers essential topics such as identifying the core group of people you want to focus on, enhancing the value you deliver to your best clients and positioning yourself for more quality introductions to ideal prospective clients.

The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t by Robert I. Sutton, PhD

Sutton is a professor of management science at Stanford University’s School of Engineering where he researches evidence-based management. While this book isn’t about networking per se, it’s an excellent guide to spotting toxic people that you want to avoid—and how not to become one yourself. Sutton explains 12 warning signs of toxic workplace behavior, including sarcasm, humiliation, interruption, backbiting and snubbing. Then he delves into the frequency, costs, and damages of this sort of behavior, highlighting case studies from real life companies. If you ever wanted an argument for being a nice person in professional contexts, this is it.

Superconnector: Stop Networking and Start Building Business Relationships that Matter by Scott Gerber and Ryan Paugh

The most successful networkers don’t just meet people for networking’s sake. Instead, these Superconnectors focus on building relationships and providing value through making key introductions and helping their contacts solve problems. Gerber and Paugh advocate for a three-pronged Vision-Execution-Profiting approach to help you build these connections and create mutual value in the age of social media. They cover the dos and don’ts of introductions, finding your own community, Google-proofing your reputation and more in this book.

The 20-Minute Networking Meeting by Marcia Ballinger, PhD and Nathan A. Perez

This tactical guide will teach you how to network and get a job using real-world scenarios, short stories, meeting examples and dozens of tips and observations. Depending on where you are in your career, you might opt for the Professional edition or the Executive Edition. In either one, you’ll learn how to master the five most important parts of a networking meeting, break into the hidden job market, maintain your new network throughout your career and more.

Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time by Keith Ferrazzi and Tahl Raz

Originally published in 2005, an updated and expanded edition of this popular book was released in 2014 to incorporate the rise of social media and new management styles. Master networker Ferrazzi shares his networking mindset and then breaks it down into basic, easy-to-follow principles that readers can replicate, such as “don’t keep score” and “never eat alone.” Throughout, he also shares tips from some of the world’s best connectors, including Bill Clinton and the Dalai Lama.

Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success by Adam Grant, PhD

Organizational psychologist Adam Grant teaches at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He has authored multiple best-selling books, including Give and Take, which was a New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller and was eventually translated into 30 languages​. In this book, Grant investigates how our professional success is becoming ever more dependent on how we interact with others. Grant investigates how three particular styles (taking, giving, and matching) play out and which ones the best networkers use to develop connections.

Giftology: The Art and Science of Using Gifts to Cut Through the Noise, Increase Referrals, and Strengthen Retention by John Ruhlin

Many people use branded gifts to create and nurture relationships with their clients. But if done wrong, these gifts can waste your money and even backfire, negatively impacting the relationship. In this book, Ruhlin teaches readers how to give gifts the smart way, harnessing the power of radical generosity to create goodwill and increase their connections in the process. If people aren’t returning your calls and emails and you don’t know why, this book might have a solution for you.

Taking the Work Out of Networking: An Introvert’s Guide to Making Connections That Count by Karen Wickre

Silicon Valley veteran Karen Wickre has worked for Google and Twitter, among other major companies, and she also counts herself as an introvert. Wickre wrote this guide to share her passion for connecting people and to show introverts that they too can be good at networking. Wickre teaches her readers how to “embrace the quiet side” and coordinate networking opportunities that work for them, such as one-on-one coffee dates instead of big professional mixers with dozens of people.

If you’re feeling stuck in your networking activities, or feeling nervous about attending an upcoming trade show, try reading one or more of these books to inspire yourself and learn new strategies. Good luck at your next mixer or coffee chat, and remember that you never know when a stranger might turn into a mentor or colleague.

Guest Post: About the Author

Lee Becknell serves as the Senior Digital Marketing Manager for Pinnacle Promotions. Lee oversees digital marketing from the Atlanta, GA headquarters. Lee has been with Pinnacle for over six years. Lee enjoys spending time with her husband, son and golden retriever, running and taking naps.

6 of the Best Sales Negotiation Skills for Business Success

Sales negotiation skills are key to business success. Business owners continually encounter situations, ranging from trivial to complex, that require negotiations.

Expert sales negotiation traininghelps business owners achieve optimal results. In this training, sales course content is infused with negotiation skills development. Six sales skills for business owners to improve their sales outcomes include:

The Courage to Walk Away

Skilled business owners avoid going into discussions without options. A businessperson entering discussions should have a Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement (BATNA).

A BATNA is what you walk away with if you can’t reach an agreement. Understanding your BATNA gives you the confidence to reject unprofitable or low-profit deals and only make informed concessions for win-win outcomes. Confidence grows when you have a favorable fallback position and are not desperate for a deal.

In addition to coming prepared by having your BATNA, knowing your buyers’ and suppliers’ BATNAs can inform your negotiation strategy.

Effective Listening Skills

Negotiations can be highly pressured. Business owners might be itching to get their points across. However, holding the floor in discussions can lead to not paying attention to what others are saying. The dominating speaker is too busy thinking of their next point.

Just waiting for your chance to speak instead of truly listening is also considered disrespectful to others at the table. When you don’t listen, you can also miss chances to create and claim value.

When you pay close attention, you are likely to uncover details that could enrich the deal and improve the relationship. Listening is so crucial that top business negotiators write out their best questions before meetings. Questions give you control of the meeting, allowing you to steer discussions.

Documentation Skills

Sales negotiation training teaches students to put discussions and agreements in writing. It’s possible to agree to something and later forget details of the agreement.

Additionally, it’s almost inevitable to come across a dishonest person in business. Documenting terms makes it more difficult for someone to later use deceptive tactics to challenge agreements.

Other times, clients or suppliers may forget committing to an agreement. When you have agreements in writing and all participants retain a copy, the contract acts as a reminder for smooth operations and timely deliveries.

Effective Communication Skills

In business negotiations, there’s little room for miscommunication or communication breakdowns. As Lee Iacocca once said, “You can have brilliant ideas, but if you can’t get them across, your ideas won’t get you anywhere.” Similarly, if you can’t communicative effectively in business, your negotiation efforts may not amount to much.

Effective communication is key in simplifying complex information, resolving conflicts, and persuasion. Negotiation seminars often train sales professionals to hone their communication skills through role play. Strong communication skills need practice to form positive habits like being engaging and responsive.

Fortunately, communication skills can be honed. To improve your effectiveness in negotiations, you can:

  • Take time to thoroughly research and prepare before the meeting.
  • Consider enrolling in expert negotiation training.
  • Engage in negotiation simulations to rehearse and improve.
  • Conduct debriefing sessions to analyze your performance.

Problem-Solving Skills

Businesses make profits out of solving other people’s problems.

The same steps a businessperson takes to solve problems can be used to reach agreements. Problem-solving steps you can take to reach agreements include:

  • Clearly defining the problem.
  • Pursuing alternative opportunities for solving the problem.
  • Questioning the cause of the problem.
  • Identifying multiple possible solutions to the problem.
  • Prioritizing potential solutions.
  • Deciding on an acceptable solution.
  • Assigning tasks for implementing the solution.
  • Setting measures to track progress on the problem and solution.

Empathy

Empathy helps a businessperson understand others’ problems and create appropriate solutions. When you’re empathetic, you’re positioned to understand the feelings and attitudes of others, even if your own feelings differ.

Empathy forges mutual respect and develops trust. In persuasion, empathy can encourage positive social behavior. This increases the chances of creating win-win solutions. Expert sales negotiation training can:

  • Equip people to identify their own and other people’s emotions.
  • Train people to identify emotion by reading body language, tone, and non-verbal cues.
  • Train business owners to employ skillful probing without sounding interrogative.
  • Practice active listening to understand rather than interrupt.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of others’ concerns without judgment.

Sales Negotiation Skills Summary

By training in and nurturing these six key skills, business owners can create favorable outcomes. After all, business is ultimately about exchanging value for profits. If you fail at negotiations, you are more likely to fail in business. If you employ these six skills to succeed at negotiations, your business is positioned to grow consistently.

Guest Post: About the Author

Specialists in the corporate business negotiation market, The Negotiation Experts offer instructive advice on their site via articles, Q&A’s, book reviews, case studies, and negotiating definitions.

Are You Forgetting the Offline Marketing of Your Online Business?

So, you’re running an online business or an e-commerce shop, and there’s no need to advertise your business offline?

Wrong!

You should be jumping at every opportunity to promote your products and services and drive offline traffic using both innovative and conventional methods.

Here are a couple of ideas on how to do that.

Local Newspaper Ads

It’s true that many people, particularly younger audiences, use digital sources when it comes to consuming news and learning about new products, but according to a recent media consumer survey conducted by Deloitte,55% of respondentsstill use newspapers, magazines, TV, and radio as their main sources of information.

Bearingthis in mind, you should target your audience with ads in local newspapers.

Moreover, many colleges and high schoolshave their newspapers which means that even if your product and services are aimed at younger people, you can reach them throughthis old-school medium.

Both ofthese options offer you low-cost advertising.

Join Your Local Chamber of Commerce

This is a no-brainer as your local Chamber of Commerce will help you increase brand awareness and make your business come off as more legit in the eyes of your prospects.

For example, if a company is a member of the Chamber, 43% of consumersare more likely to purchase from it.

Besides boosting the reputation of your business, this membership will also positively impact your local SERP rankings, as every chamber has a website. In other words, you’ll be listed on their website and this will put you on your prospects’ map.

Attend Trade Shows

Trade shows and other industry events present you with a great opportunity to build and expand your network, showcase your products and services, and attract new customers.

You will meet a lot of interesting people and possibly strike up some business relationships.

The trick is to prepare yourself thoroughly and promote your business in the best possible light by investing in custom branded bannerswhich will make your booth or display table stand out.

Apart from being in attendance, you should also consider becoming a speaker at such events. This way, your business will gain additional exposure, and you’ll establish yourself as an authority in your niche.

Use Branded Merch

Pens, tote bags, baseball caps, t-shirts, and other ordinary items with the logo of your company on easily turn into powerful advertising tools that keep on giving and building awareness.

Instead of slipping potential customers or business partners your business card, you should give them something that they can actually use. You can be sure that they’ll wear the t-shirtor put their data on the flash drive you gave them.

Unlike a business card, these objects have another purpose other than simply promoting your business.

Finally, whenever people use that flash drive, they’ll see your logo and company name which means that you’ve managed to integrate your brand into their daily routine. This is the brand repetition with a twistsince people have learned how to successfully ignore advertising, but branded merch also provides value which makes it hard to be oblivious to.

Help Your Audience

Freebies don’t always have to be tangible.

You can offer to help your prospects and help them learn something new or solve their problems.

Just like you write blog posts and create how-to guides and videos for your online marketing, you can also do the same in real life.

You can host free seminars or make guest appearances at local radio shows and talk about some of the most common pain points of your audience, and answer their questions.

Educational workshops are another way of getting in touch with your audience and offer them something of value.

Cross Promotions With Complementary Businesses

By joining forces with a company which offers complementary products or services, especially if it’s a brick-and-mortar business, you can find a great offline channel to promote your offer in a context.

Another good idea is to partner with a local business with a strong offline presence but no online experience and reach. This partnership can be beneficial for both sides as you can be featured in their offline promotional efforts and vice versa.

Leverage Guerilla Marketing Tactics

These unconventional methods can draw your audience’s attention without spending a fortune.

Graffiti allows you to spread the word about your business by using dull city walls as a canvas. They’re highly visible and it’s hard not to take notice. Just make sure to obtain all the necessary permits.

Leaving sticky notes at random places such as coffee shops, libraries, or bus stops is a great way ofcapturing people’s attention in a subtle and yet memorable way.

Or you can sneakily leave branded pens at banks or other places where people might need them,

As you can see, these methods are pretty simple and straightforward, and by neglecting offline marketing, you’re leaving too much money on the table.

Guest Post: About the Author

Michael Deane is one of the editors of Qeedle, a small business magazine. When not blogging (or working), he can usually be spotted on the track, doing his laps, or with his nose deep in the latest John Grisham.

Small Business Owner’s Guide to Podcast Marketing

 Small businesses need to find their voice. Building a loyal audience and customer base around your brand has never been as important as it is today. In modern business, content marketing plays an essential role in promoting your company’s mission and vision and stats tell the tale. Content marketing is used by 86% of B2C marketers, while that number rises to 91% for B2B marketers.It seems that as long as you have something relevant to say and are willing to present it in an attractive manner, your message will be heard.

On the road to discovering your company’s voice, you might want to speak up! One of the more attractive methods of content marketing is, in fact, podcast marketing. Now sure, not everyone will feel comfortable exposing themselves directly to an audience but there are a bunch of reasons why you should give podcasting a go.

For starters, podcasts are becoming more important because they are both a great source of entertainment but also an amazing educational tool. It is a great way to build a close relationship with your audience. Another benefit is that podcasting as a medium of communication is a lot more engaging than some other forms used for content marketing. Finally, making a podcast allows you to perfect your public speaking skills in a safe environment where you control what part of the conversation actually gets released.

How to Make a Podcast

You should know that even though the process might seem complicated, it’s very easy to grasp once you’ve understood the basics.

The Technical Aspect

The most fundamental piece of equipment you’ll need is something to record yourself speaking, meaning a microphone and some basic recording software. Everything else, from studio headphones to sound design software, is there to help you achieve certain levels of production quality. As your need for production quality grows, so will the need for investing additional resources. For example, let’s say you’re looking to go with a video version as well since YouTube is a great place for promoting your podcast. Like all of your company videos, you’ll need to work on giving it a professional look, which will require more investments like getting the right video recording and editing equipment, setting up a place to shoot, etc.

If you’re only starting out, try to determine a standard that you’re satisfied with while staying within budget. The production quality of your podcast is only a small portion of the story.

Content and format

With technicalities out of the way, you need to focus on the format of the show and the content of your episodes. Will it be hosted by more than one person? Are you going to have guests on? Once you’ve determined the format, you have to prepare and research what type of content would be most relevant to the audience you’d like to gather around your show.

SEO is an important part of running a small business in general, but it can add incredible value to your podcast marketing too. For instance, by researching keywords, you’ll be able to define the questions your audience needs answered and you’ll get to do the answering. It will also be of help when you’re optimizing your show notes. If you place your podcast on your website as well, each page should be optimized in order to improve its ranking. If you’re able to afford it, you can even consider adding a transcript of the full show.

Podcast Promotion

Once you’ve produced your podcast, you’ll need to upload it to relevant platforms such as iTunes, Libsyn or PodBean. However, developing a strategy for promoting your podcast is the final piece of the puzzle which will make all the difference.

Social Media Platforms

Using social media to promote your podcast is a must. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram will help you build a community while enabling direct contact with your audience. Your episodes are a great source of promotional material, meaning you can use it to create quotes, sound bites, promotional posters, trailers, infographics or anything that your audience might engage with. Once you’ve gathered a significant following, you can include your followers in the production of the show. They can suggest topics for future episodes or you can even create a special, periodical Q&A show where you’ll answer their questions and give them a shout out.

Be My Guest and I’ll Be Yours

Having guests come on your show has great promotional value. They usually have audiences of their own and you will access them via that episode. The size and the engagement level of their audience is an important parameter to take into account when inviting people on your podcast. Bear in mind that they’ll be looking at your reach as well.

Aside from having guests on, you can also make guest appearances on other people’s shows. The same benefits apply here and this is an aspect of podcast marketing that doesn’t require for you to have a podcast of your own. In order to make the most out of each appearance, keep a couple of things in mind. Make sure you go on shows that have an audience which is likely to respond positively to your brand, service or product. It’s also essential that you have your company’s online information in order since your contacts, website, and social media profiles will be available in the show notes. Lastly, consider making a discount offer that only the listeners of the show can use, by offering a promo code or sharing a special landing page. That way, you’ll not only entice them to become paying customers but you can also measure the influence of each individual appearance.

Advertising Your Podcast vs. Podcast Advertising

Paying for ads to boost the growth of your podcast is great if you can set aside a budget for it. But for small business owners, podcasts are more of a promotional tool rather and that money is usually reserved to be spent elsewhere.

Podcast advertising, on the other hand, can be quite useful in more ways than one. If your audience is large and engaged enough, you can start monetizing your podcast by selling ad spots to other companies. Still, if you don’t have your own podcast, you can advertise your company on other people’s shows and reach new customers that way.

Guest Post: About the Author

Mark is a biz-dev hero at Invoicebus – a simple invoicing service that gets your invoices paid faster. He passionately blogs on topics that help small biz owners succeed in their business. He is also a lifelong learner who practices mindfulness and enjoys long walks in nature more than anything else.

Networking for Small Business Owners

Networking for small business owners is imperative to make vital connections to grow your company. Interacting with potential investors, business partners or clients will help you form loyal and trusting relationships and open up new opportunities.

The biggest roadblock that prevents small business owners from networking is lack of time—it’s difficult to carve-out hours to attend an event or a conference when you are practically living at the office. However, networking should not be ignored—with these tips, you can achieve this goal.

Utilize LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a social media platform designed to connect professionals in virtually any industry. They currently have over 500 million members in over 200 countries around the world. The first step to using this site is to create a personal account with your photo and contact information. You should add details about your business so that when you communicate with other members, they are able to easily find what company you own.

You can also create a business page showcasing your business on LinkedIn. If you connect your email account, you will automatically be able to add your contacts. You can also search for contacts via their name or company they work for.

LinkedIn transformed the networking world by allowing users to create groups by interest or industry, where you can find like minded entrepreneurs or clients without leaving your home or office. You can also join professional groups and ask questions to get help in growing your business.

Host a Meet & Greet

Devoting time to net working can be especially productive if you combine it with other goals, such as brand recognition and connecting with new customers. A great way to do all three is to host a meet & greet inside your business, if it has a physical location.

Start with inviting other small business owners either in your niche or simply in your area. This will be a great way to connect with other entrepreneurs, bounce ideas off each other and learn new tips on improving your business operations.

To make sure that everyone interacts and has a good time, plan some activities, such as ice breakers or fun games. Make sure the attendees have enough room to mingle and get to know one another. Facilitate interaction by setting up small tables where attendees can congregate, but encourage everyone to move around the room.

This will not only connect you with other like-minded professionals, but also expose your business and products to possible new customers.

Cross-Promotion

If your goal is to network with potential customers, a highly effective way to do so is cross-promotion strategies. Partner with another business, preferably not in your industry so as to avoid competition. You can work together to promote each other’s brands on collaborative materials.

This can be as simple as leaving flyers or coupons in each other’s locations, or as complex as creating a marketing plan to promote both brands. For example, think of world-known companies such as T-Mobile and Netflix offering their services in a joint plan.

By joining another company in your networking efforts, you can expose your brand to a brand new customer base and decrease your marketing and advertising costs.

If you are looking for financial assistance to invest in your business, look no further than IOU Financial. Our company supports small businesses with easy and quick loans. Contact us today to learn how you can get a secured loan of up to $300,000 in 24-48 hours.

Women in Business: How to Get Certified as a Woman-Owned Business

If you are a woman who owns or runs a business, you can gain a competitive advantage by having your business certified as women-owned. Although the process can be time-consuming, it’s well worth the effort, because many governmental entities and public corporations have quotas for women-owned businesses. So don’t despair if you are not part of the “old boys’ network.” Celebrate instead, and fight for you share of the pie by getting certified.

The federal government  likes women-owned businesses, and has a requirement to award 5% of eligible prime contracting money to women-owned small business. Government agencies and large companies distribute requests for proposals through organizations like the National Association of Women Business Owners (NWBOC) and the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC), who in turn distribute the requests to members. In addition, many state and local governments offer opportunities for women-owned businesses, as do large corporations such as Starbucks and Target.

Who Qualifies?

In general, a business is considered women-owned if:

  • Women control at least 51% of the company, and they are U.S. citizens
  • Women must manage the daily operation of the company and must occupy the highest executive office on a full-time basis
  • A woman and man can jointly own a women-owned business as long as the woman owns 51% and can demonstrate her control and management of the company

Four Certification Programs

There are four major, nationally-recognized certification programs for women-owned businesses:

  • Small Business Administration’s Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) designation: This is an excellent certification for businesses wishing to bid on federal contracts. The WOSB designation helps women-owned businesses in industries where they are underrepresented.
  • Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) certification: This is a federal designation provided by your state. It can help you win contracts from the U.S. Department of Transportation. States that issue contracts that use federal money must include DBE businesses at a predetermined level. DBE certification is not just for women – it also applies to minorities.
  • Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) certification: This is probably the premier non-governmental certification, accepted at federal, state, and local entities as well as 1,000+ corporations. Certification requires significant paperwork and a personal interview, but there isn’t any requirement for the size or age of your business. The SBA accepts the WBENC certification for the WOSB program. By joining WBENC, you gain access to thousands of other female business owners.
  • Nation Woman Business Owners Corporation (NWBOC) certification: This program is similar to the one offered by WBENC. In addition, NWBOC offers training and mentoring opportunities.

LinkedIn Strategy: How to Get Your Employees to Use LinkedIn to Benefit Your Biz

Any professional has likely heard about LinkedIn and even created a profile on the social media platform. However, with the wide reach of over 562 million users, LinkedIn is a valuable tool that should be utilized to promote your business. Below are ideas about how you can help your employees to use this platform not just for their personal needs, but to benefit your company:

Become Authority Figures

To set your company apart from the competition, an effective way is to facilitate your employees to becoming authority figures in their respective niches. LinkedIn is a platform that can help with this goal, allowing employees to post articles and blogs on their profiles.

A marketing expert can write about the latest trends, while a mechanic can write about tips on preserving a car’s value. When online viewers search for keywords related to the content, they read the articles and start to form trusting relationships with your employees.

If your team members can become known in their fields for their authoritative and informative content, you will improve your brand recognition and attract new customers.

Network

To find new clients, business partners or investors, you should encourage your employees to network. LinkedIn makes this objective easy by promoting online networking that transcends time and location constraints.

Your employees can join industry-specific groups where they can join conversations and make important connections. They can search for specific individuals and reach out to them on the platform.

LinkedIn Showcase Pages allows employees to create pages that highlight a certain area of the business, and then share that with a target audience. For example, if your business needs an investment to explore franchising opportunities, you can create a page that reflects your earnings and profits, as well as goals, and share that with interested investors.

If your team members are encouraged to make connections on LinkedIn, your company can leverage that for business opportunities.

Recruit

Increased competition has made it challenging for some businesses to recruit and retain employees. LinkedIn can offer an advantage to your HR department in this regard.

LinkedIn makes it easy to search for candidates based on their current position and experience. Instead of posting an ad on a general career site, such as Indeed, you are able to do a targeted search and view detailed information to make faster and more informed hiring decisions.

LinkedIn Career Page is another option for candidate searches, helping prospective candidates come to you. The Jobs tab on this page lists current openings as well as insights from current employees about the company and their positions.

The Life Tab helps candidates determine if your company would be the right fit for them. This tab offers photos and videos shared by your employees as well as any written content that can be shared about your company culture.

This helps your business share benefits that candidates can expect if they join your team, and allows your hiring managers to connect with potential employees on a more personal level.

There are multiple opportunities that LinkedIn offers that can benefit your business. Some of them, such as promotion and marketing, may require a financial investment. If you need a partner that can help you grow your business, IOU Financial is ready to help. We work with small business owners to help them finance their goals. Contact us today to learn more about our easy and fast loans of up to $300,000.

3 Excellent Online Communities for Women Entrepreneurs

Women in the U.S. are taking their careers more seriously than ever before as well as the necessary steps to become entrepreneurs. Since 2007, there are 45% more female-owned businesses—which currently employ 9 million people in this country.

Although women have been making significant progress in the business world in recent years, it is still mostly run and controlled by men. As such, females need their own communities to help them with the motivation to succeed, resources to start their own business and support to meet the challenges head on. The following online communities are great choices for women entrepreneurs:

Chic CEO

This community targets those females who want to become entrepreneurs, or are in the first stages of developing their ideas. A common barrier to the process is fear and the belief that they can’t do it, so Chic CEO provides resources to help women conquer their fears.

The site offers tutorials and advice from actual business owners that is easy to understand and follow. Check out the following resources:

  • 3 Day Chic Start: an online tutorial that focuses on customer service and brand development
  • Business Plan format guide
  • Blog
  • Resource Center that recommends books, interviews with other professionals and more

Yes She Can

As the name itself suggests, this online community empowers women to follow their dreams and live up to their full potential. This site targets female Los Angeles business owners and professionals, sharing local events, stories, advice and resources to empower females.

Started by professional writer, Lydia Mack, Yes She Can offers several cool features:

  • Sole news source for female LA entrepreneurs
  • Calendar with hand selected events, such as conferences, lectures, meetups and workshops to help women advance in their careers
  • Weekly newsletter with strategies to improve both the personal and professional lives of women
  • Monthly meetups where members meet on the first Friday of every month to network and share their thoughts and advice

Note: Although this group is Los Angeles based, it is a great example of local groups throughout the country. With an easy online search, females can find meetups and meetings in their areas.

Lean In

This organization was created by Facebook’s Founder and Board Chair, Sheryl Sandberg. Named after a book she wrote, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, this site is dedicated to aiding women in their quest to follow their ambitions.

They accomplish their goal in three ways:

  • Create Circles, where over 37,000 different groups of women meet throughout the world to discuss their objectives and create plans to succeed
  • Create awareness campaigns to educate the public about important issues surrounding the success of women, and men’s role in this process
  • Create tutorials, videos and discussion guides for both men and women on helping females succeed in the business world

If you are a female entrepreneur who has a great idea for a new business, but lack funding, turn to IOU Financial. Our company is committed to helping both men and women follow their dreams and ambitions. Contact us today at www.ioufinancial.com to find out about our easy business loans of up to $300,000!