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// by Bridget Weston Pollack / Mar. 18, 2016 1 comments
angel investor

If you’ve ever watched Shark Tank, you might recognize the cast of “sharks” as angel investors. Each shark has seen considerable success in business in the past and wants to put their personal money toward exciting new ideas.

And boy, do they invest. Sometimes the sharks offer hundreds of thousands of dollars — and expect to own a big percentage of the company in return. They make a lot of deals, but sometimes the new entrepreneurs are the ones turning down offers, not the other way around.

While the idea of jumping into a sea of sharks might be scary, try not to be intimidated by the idea of asking an angel to invest in your business.

Angel investors get their name from their supportive nature. Instead of expecting an immediate return on their investment in a new business, angels instead take a percentage of the company, later enjoying the profits from their investment as the company grows.

Who are these angels?

The typical angel investor is a successful entrepreneur who wants to invest not just their own money, but also their expertise into a burgeoning business. They tend to invest close to home so they can have face time with the company’s founders or executives. Angels vary in the amount of involvement they wish to have in a company they’ve invested in, but it’s safe to say that an experienced investor’s perspective is usually a welcome sight for a business owner hoping to strike gold.

Angels hope to recoup five to 10 times their original investment within 10 years of writing a check. A return of five times the investment in seven years is often considered the best-case scenario.

When should I look for an angel investor?

Angels typically come into play when a new company has proved its concept is viable in the existing marketplace. Those companies are typically in the process of designing and developing their products.

An angel investor is not likely to swoop in to assist a small business in its infancy. According to the Angel Research Institute, companies hoping to recruit an angel investor should have a three-to-five-year financial model and a strong business plan. You should be able to demonstrate annual revenues of about $10 million in within three to seven years.

Too small for an angel?

Worried your business idea will never garner support from an angel? Don’t count yourself out yet. A crowdfunding campaign based on rewards or perks might help you test the strength of your product idea; a few thousand dollars could be enough to kick off your business and eventually gain the attention of investors.

There’s no single “best” option for businesses seeking financing, so don’t feel pressured to seek investors of any kind unless you’re confident those investors will support your business for years to come.

If you do think an angel investor is a good fit for your new business, start practicing your elevator pitch now! Team up with a SCORE mentor to practice answering questions that potential investors will ask. The better prepared you are to make the ask for a considerable investment, the more likely you are to receive a “yes.”

Bridget Weston Pollack
Vice President of Marketing & Communications
SCORE
Bridget Weston Pollack is the Vice President of Marketing & Communications at the SCORE Association. In this role, Bridget is responsible for all branding, marketing, PR, and communication efforts. She focuses on implementing marketing plans and strategies for the organization to facilitate the growth of SCORE’s mentoring and trainings services.
// by Liberty Tax Service / Mar. 17, 2016 0 comments
business man

What is “an independent contractor?” What is “self-employed?” For anyone running a small business, knowing what the relationship between these two is paramount for tax purposes. 

What is Self-Employed?

The IRS’s definition of someone that is self-employed is someone who meets one or more of the following criteria:

  • You operate a business or trade service as a sole proprietor or an independent contractor.
  • You are a member of a partnership that operates a business or trade service.
  • You are in a business for yourself not mentioned above (including a part-time business).        

The IRS says you are Self-Employed only if you control how your product or service you provide is serviced to your customer or client.
 

What is an Independent Contractor?

By IRS definition, an independent contractor is someone who offers their services or product to the general public and is free from an employer-employee relationship. Examples of Independent Contractors would be:

  • Lawyers, accountants/bookkeepers, and other technical services
  • Doctors, dentists, and private-practice medical offices
  • Contractors or Sub-Contractors in the construction trade
  • Public Stenographers, auctioneers, or other specialty trades
     

What Else Does the IRS Say?

The label of an “independent contractor” is determine solely by the interaction the business has with their clients. If a person’s business is controlled by an employer, meaning if the employer can dictate how a service is performed, the business or person may be an employee and not subject to the self-employment tax. However in this situation, FICA (Social Security tax and Medicare) and income tax withholding would be taken out by the employer. If they are not withheld, the business owner will still be responsible for paying FICA and income tax. 

Liberty Tax Service
SCORE Corporate Patron
Liberty Tax, Inc.

Founded in 1997 by CEO John T. Hewitt, Liberty Tax, Inc. (NASDAQ: TAX) is the parent company of Liberty Tax Service. Liberty Tax’s online services are available through eSmart Tax, Liberty Online and DIY Tax, and are all backed by the tax professionals at Liberty Tax locations and its nationwide network of approximately 35,000 seasonal tax preparers. 
Liberty Tax.com | @LibertyTax | Facebook | More from Liberty Tax

// by Dex Media / Mar. 16, 2016 0 comments
Mobile Marketing

It’s pretty much everybody’s get-it-done tool for daily life: the mobile phone. Customers who need a plumber, a pizza or any other local product or service, most likely start by asking Siri or exercising their thumbs. In fact, if you search a simple word like “plumber” or “pizza” on a mobile phone, Google gives you a list of nearby plumbers or pizza parlors – it assumes that mobile users are local business customers first.

Just because you have a website or buy some ads on Google doesn’t mean your local business is covered for mobile. You need a mobile marketing strategy to take your best shot at local customers. Start with these 4 steps:

1. Mobile-ize your website

Mobile phones and tablets come in many sizes. Your site must adjust on the fly to stay readable. A web developer can rebuild your site in a “responsive” design that changes from device to device. Google warns that it will push down any non-adapting site from the top positions on search pages, so this is pretty much an offer you can’t refuse. Also, talk to your developer about maximizing the download speed of your website pages, particularly important for mobile.

2. Make sure you’re “nearby”

Your business won’t appear on “nearby” searches or on maps if web information providers can’t find an accurate street address or service area.  At a minimum, open an account (for free) at Google My Business and Apple Maps Connect, and fill in your business details. It’s also a good idea to use a “digital presence management,” “reputation management” or “online listings management” company to make sure the many business directory sites around the web display a correct and consistent name, address and phone number; Google and others check those sites to confirm the identity of your business.

3. Ads: Target mobile

If you buy search ads from Google AdWords, for instance, you can track how keywords perform by desktop vs. mobile, and adjust your bids for more exposure for your mobile ad winners.  You should add location and call “extensions” to AdWords—that allows you to target display of your ads to mobile users who are in your area, and add driving directions and a click-to-call button to your ad. With Facebook Local Awareness ads, you can also target your business area for the popular social network—Facebook users spend an average 14 hours a month on its mobile app.

4.  Reach out with text and app messaging

Phones get smarter, but text messaging, a technology from the '90s, is still one of the most effective ways to reach the mobile audience with short ads or simple offers. Unlike mobile ads, customers tell you that they want to receive your messages, twice, actually – once when they give you a number and again when they confirm. Text messages have a high open rate; people respond to the urgency of a text more than, for instance, email (just don’t overdo it and wear out the welcome.)  

And keep an eye on messaging apps like Snapchat (100 million users) and Facebook Messenger (800 million users), which have grown wildly as texting alternates. Companies are experimenting with Messenger as a customer service channel, but Facebook reportedly is working on a way offer advertising, too. Snapchat users message each other by sending quick videos or snapshots—marketers are beginning to get in on the action, and the company is also developing ad opportunities.

Learn more about mobile marketing on the Dex Media blog. 

Jeff B. Copeland is a senior manager for content at Dex Media, where he works on the Dex Media blog and email newsletter, the consumer information site EnlightenMe.com and other content projects.

Dex Media
SCORE Corporate Patron

Dex Media is dedicated to working with local businesses to provide them marketing solutions that will help them grow their business and be successful. Dex Media helps level the playing field and give these businesses the edge to compete in today’s digital marketplace. We’re here to give them the solutions they need to connect with customers, wherever they may be.
DexMedia.com | @DexMediacom | Facebook | More from Dex Media

// by Rieva Lesonsky / Mar. 15, 2016 0 comments
money in jars into seedling

If you’re planning to start your own business, you probably already know that startup capital is difficult to come by. Especially if the amount you need is relatively small (under $100,000), banks are reluctant to lend to you. The time and effort of the paperwork involved isn't worth the risk of making the loan for them, and as a startup, you won't have a track record to convince them your business deserves funding.

Many small business owners are turning to microloans instead. Microloans are small loans, typically ranging from as little as a few hundred dollars to as much as $50,000 but typically on the lower end of that scale. Microloans are available from a variety of sources, from online loan platforms to community organizations and nonprofit groups.

Is a microloan right for your small business? It might be if:

You are just starting your business.  

While traditional lenders are leery of lending to startups, micro-lenders often take the opposite approach. Many groups that make microloans also offer resources, expertise and advice to help ensure that your startup succeeds. For example, some micro-lenders require you to develop a business plan that meets their standards before lending money. The goal is not just to make loans, but to help small businesses start and grow so they can benefit the community.

You don't have a long credit history.

All too often, a relatively small amount of money is all that stands between would-be entrepreneurs and their dreams. For those who lack a good credit history, even $2,000 or $5,000 can seem out of reach. Micro-lenders are more willing than traditional lenders to work with applicants with a limited credit history or a poor credit score.

You have limited access to traditional loans.

Micro-lenders generally focus on underserved communities or specialized groups, such as military veterans, women, immigrants, people with disabilities and members of minority groups, who are more likely to have difficulty getting traditional loans. If you can easily get a traditional loan, on the other hand, a microloan probably isn't the right answer for you.

You plan to use the loan proceeds for equipment, machinery, operating expenses or working capital.

Micro-lenders generally have specific restrictions on what you can or can't do with the proceeds of the loan, so make sure you understand what the micro-lender you're approaching offers.

Do you think microloans sound like such small potatoes that getting one can't possibly help you? Think again. Many loan recipients use microloans to help build their business credit ratings. By paying back a small loan on time and in full, you can help establish good credit for your business, making it possible to get larger and larger loans in the future. (Find out if the micro-lender you're applying to reports payments to commercial credit reporting agencies.) You can work with your micro-lender to develop a business plan that helps you grow your startup in stages, working with the small amount of capital they can provide you and gradually progressing to obtaining more capital from more traditional sources.

Want to find out more about microloans? Visit the SBA’s website for a list of microloan providers near you, or talk to your local SCORE mentor. Don’t have a mentor? Visit www.score.org to get matched with one today. 

Rieva Lesonsky
Columnist and CEO
GrowBiz Media

Rieva is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a content and consulting company specializing in covering small businesses and entrepreneurship. She was formerly Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine and has written several books about small business and entrepreneurship. 
GrowBizMedia.com | @rieva | More from Rieva

// by Michael Katz / Mar. 14, 2016 1 comments
ideas to money

The people who are willing to pay more for you – significantly more – are the ones who totally understand and want the things (your knowledge, personality, approach) that only you can provide.

I bought a new car the other day. A Ford Focus. I love it. Fun to drive (5-speed), seamless connection to my phone (I don’t even have to take it out of my pocket), great gas mileage (35 highway). It cost me $16,000. Not a lot, I’m sure you’d agree, for a new car.

$16,000, in fact, is more or less the price of an option package on a high-end vehicle, something like the Audi R8 Spyder which starts at $128,400 (it’s so expensive, they don’t even feel obligated to spell “spider” correctly).

So let me ask you a question: Who do you think loves his new car more – me or the guy who plunks down $128K on a Spyder?

I mean, I’m quite satisfied with my car. I even told you a minute ago that I loved it. But Spyder-Man? He LOOOOOOVES it. Polishes it on the weekend. Buys clothing accessories to match the interior. Gives his children oddly-spelled names containing the letter “Y,” when an “I” would suffice.

It’s all a bit counterintuitive, isn’t it? After all, Spyder-Man is paying eight times as much as I am for a machine that pretty much does the same thing. And yet not only is he thrilled, he’s telling everyone he knows.

  • Do you think he isn’t aware that you can get a car for $16,000?
  • Do you think he feels ripped off?
  • Do you think he’s annoyed that “cars cost so much?”

I’m no Jimmy the Greek (look it up, youngster), but I’m willing to lay down odds that the answer is No, No and No.

Rather, here’s why I think he’s so happy. Reasons which, by the way, have everything to do with you and the way you (under) price your services:

  • He’s a “car guy.”

    He knows and cares about things like speed, handling, horsepower and torque (whatever that is). Me? I am literally a “tire kicker.” The differences – the things that make his car well worth $128,000 – are valuable to him, but lost on me.

    Clients are the same way. The people who are willing to pay more for you – significantly more – are the ones who totally understand and want the things (your knowledge, personality, approach) that only you can provide. As far as they’re concerned, there are no reasonable alternatives.

    If you price yourself like a Ford Focus, however, you don’t get those great clients. Instead, you attract people like me. Those who, while they have the potential to be quite satisfied, aren’t emotionally attached and who would frankly be just as happy with any number of similar vehicles (or consultants, coaches, writers or whatever it is you do).

    Higher prices attract the fans and filter out the price shoppers.
     

  • He uses price as a shortcut.

    As Robert Cialdini explains in his book, The Psychology of Influence, price is a “trigger feature,” something we all habitually use as a way of assigning value. The much higher price of the Spyder suggests that it’s also much more valuable. In some sense, the more he pays, the better he believes his car to be.

    Here as well, this applies to you and me. If one graphic designer charges $75 an hour, and another charges $200, don’t you assume – knowing nothing else about either one of them – that the $200 an hour person is better?

    Higher prices increase client satisfaction.
     

  • He gets better service.

    When you buy a Ford Focus, and if you’re really lucky, they give you a hearty handshake and a coupon for a free oil change.

    When you buy a Spyder, they deliver it to your house, give you a bunch of “free” Spyder clothing and gear and loan you a $50,000 “regular” Audi whenever your car needs work. It makes sense. When you clear $300 on a car, you can’t give away much. When you clear thousands, there’s a lot more headroom.

    Same with us and the services we sell. If your margin is razor-thin, you have to watch your time and other costs carefully. Too many changes or hours or anything else that uses up your resources, and you’ve got a problem. If you price high, on the other hand, you can afford to be generous. You’re not living on the edge of your profit margin, which means you can spend more time, more attention and even more out-of-pocket dollars on your wonderful, higher paying clients.

    Higher prices allow you to serve your clients better.

Here’s the bottom line. Many solo professionals assume that clients and prospects view us the way they do a gallon of gas – it’s all the same, so cheaper is better. As a result, they’re afraid to charge more out of fear of losing business.

In my experience, it doesn’t work that way. There are all kinds of prospects and clients out there, some of whom would be thrilled to pay (way) more for you. But you’re not going to find them among the Ford Focus buyers.

Instead, spend time figuring out what you’re really good at and what truly, truly makes you unique. Then, raise your fees (try doubling them) and seek out the people who understand, value and appreciate your differences.

Michael Katz
Founder
Blue Penguin Content Club

Michael Katz is Founder and Chief Penguin of the Blue Penguin Content Club, a membership site for solos and freelancers with an interest in creating great content. Learn more here: http://bluepenguincontentclub.com/signupAlso connect with him on LinkedIn.
Blue Penguin Content Club | @MichaelJKatz | More from Michael

// by Bridget Weston Pollack / Mar. 11, 2016 0 comments
Crowdfunding

Have you considered crowdfunding for your small business but thought it was too complicated or too risky? Did you think it was just an option for one-off projects instead of long-term business sustainability? As crowdfunding gains popularity, more options are becoming available for small- and medium-size businesses.

Crowdfunding is growing beyond rewarding perks to friends and strangers who donate to your efforts. Now, thanks to a new law, regular-Joe investors can get a piece of your company’s equity pie.

What the JOBS Act means for crowdfunding

Title III of the Jumpstart Our Business Start-Ups (JOBS) Act and Regulation A+ (RegA+) go into effect in May. Through these changes, the SEC will allow crowdfunding platforms to register as official equity “funding portals” through which small businesses can raise up to one million dollars per year.

RegA+ is perhaps the more exciting component: It allows non-accredited investors to use equity crowdfunding platforms to contribute to entrepreneurs. These non-accredited investors must have a net worth of less than $1 million or a yearly income below $200,000 in order to invest in exchange for equity.

Don’t expect IndieGogo or Kickstarter to immediately offer equity investing. These platforms are tightly focused on contributions made in goodwill -- for the love of the work or the project -- with expectations of modest rewards rather than financial returns. In most cases, crowdfunding campaigns up until this point have had a tangible goal, like the development of a single project, build-out of a retail space or completion of a work of art. If those platforms are going to pick up on the equity game, it will take time to refine and solidify their policies.

So, what are the options for a small business owner considering crowdfunding?

Perks are still popular

Kickstarter, GoFundMe, Indiegogo and Crowdrise are still the go-to platforms for rewards-based crowdfunding. Each platform takes a different commission from your campaign’s earnings, so be sure to read the fine print before signing up and setting a goal.

You’ll also want to consider whether a platform offers fixed goals (like a Kickstarter campaign where funds are returned to contributors if the goal isn’t met) or flexible goals (where all contributions go toward a project, no matter what.) Indiegogo, for example, allows you to choose a flexible funding campaign or fixed funding.

Local love for microloans

For entrepreneurs with modest financing needs and good credit, microloans can be a low-risk answer. Programs like Kiva Zip allow supporters near and far to contribute small, no-interest loans toward a business’s needs.

If you live and operate your company in Arkansas, California, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia or Washington, D.C., you may be able to participate in a Kiva City program that administers small business loans through local business development organizations.

Time to think about equity

Have a big funding ask? If you’re thinking about equity crowdfunding, keep an eye out for firms filing with the SEC to serve as funding portals. Many of these portals are well established, with extensive experience working with accredited investors to assist companies with fundraising rounds.

As equity crowdfunding becomes more accessible, it becomes even more important to do your homework before choosing a crowdfunding option for your business. You owe it to yourself and your company to research each crowdfunding portal you discover. Don’t get distracted by flashy pitches or big promises. Until business owners get a firm grasp on equity crowdfunding, we’re bound to see plenty of “trial and error” case studies to learn from.

Not sure which financing path is best for your business? Meet with a SCORE mentor to review your options. 

Bridget Weston Pollack
Vice President of Marketing & Communications
SCORE
Bridget Weston Pollack is the Vice President of Marketing & Communications at the SCORE Association. In this role, Bridget is responsible for all branding, marketing, PR, and communication efforts. She focuses on implementing marketing plans and strategies for the organization to facilitate the growth of SCORE’s mentoring and trainings services.
// by Liberty Tax Service / Mar. 10, 2016 0 comments
contractors file

Your small business is booming, and you decided it’s finally time to hire someone. Congratulations!

Do you know whether to classify your new worker as an independent contractor or an employee? In order to avoid any errors on your taxes, you’ll want to become familiar with some terms:

  • An Independent Contractor is a business owner or contractor who provides services to other businesses.

  • An Employee is anyone who performs services where the ‘Employer’ can control what will be done and how it will be done. This is so even when the employee has freedom of action. What matters is that the ‘Employer’ has or reserves the right to control the details of how the services are performed.

Facts that provide evidence of the degree of control and independence fall into three categories:

  1. Behavioral: Does the company control or have the right to control what the worker does and how the worker does his or her job?

  2. Financial: Are the business aspects of the worker’s job controlled by the payer? (These include things like how worker is paid, whether expenses are reimbursed, who provides tools/supplies, etc.)

  3. Type of Relationship: Are there written contracts or employee type benefits (i.e. pension plan, insurance, vacation pay, etc.)? Will the relationship continue and is the work performed a key aspect of the business?

Businesses must weigh all these factors when determining whether a worker is an employee or independent contractor. Some factors may indicate that the worker is an employee, while other factors indicate that the worker is an independent contractor. There is no “magic” or set number of factors that “makes” the worker an employee or an independent contractor, and no one factor stands alone in making this determination. Also, factors which are relevant in one situation may not be relevant in another.

The keys are to look at the entire relationship, consider the degree or extent of the right to direct and control, and finally, to document each of the factors used in coming up with the determination.

If, after reviewing the three categories of evidence, it is still unclear whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor, Form SS-8 can be filed with the IRS. The form may be filed by either the business or the worker. The IRS will review the facts and circumstances and officially determine the worker’s status. **Be aware that it can take at least six months to get a determination

Liberty Tax Service
SCORE Corporate Patron
Liberty Tax, Inc.

Founded in 1997 by CEO John T. Hewitt, Liberty Tax, Inc. (NASDAQ: TAX) is the parent company of Liberty Tax Service. Liberty Tax’s online services are available through eSmart Tax, Liberty Online and DIY Tax, and are all backed by the tax professionals at Liberty Tax locations and its nationwide network of approximately 35,000 seasonal tax preparers. 
Liberty Tax.com | @LibertyTax | Facebook | More from Liberty Tax

// by Dex Media / Mar. 9, 2016 0 comments
contact us form

Every business website should have a “contact us” form that site visitors can fill in to make an appointment, request an estimate, jump on a free offer and otherwise turn into leads.  You may think the little stack of boxes with the “Submit” button at the end is, well, just a little stack of boxes. But marketers test and study these things with scientific precision.

Marketers have come up with six surprising insights into how to generate the most, best leads through web forms:

1. Keep it to 3 to 5 “fields” (fill-in boxes)

“Abandonment” is the big threat with forms—customers giving up because it looks too hard. Give them three to five fields, and you should be safe. In general, if you want more signups, present fewer fields, for instance, just one box for email address. If you want fewer, but better qualified leads, present more fields; motivated buyers will give you more information.  Really long forms work better broken into several pages with a “progress bar” (like what you see as a software download progresses).

2. Make it easy with social sign-in

Forms now come with an option to click an icon for Facebook or LinkedIn and automatically fill in the personal information. You’d think people would be wary of handing over their social identities, but no, studies find that option yields a higher completion rate than forms that require keying in the answers.

3. Place a form on the right side of web pages

For a “landing page”—in other words, where a user lands after clicking on your Google ad or other promotion—tests have shown that forms do better placed to the right in the first screen, with explanatory text on the left and plenty of white space around the form to make it pop.

4. Link to a privacy policy page

Everyone is so concerned about spam, identity theft and other hazards of the Database Age, so reassure them; on the form, link to a privacy policy page where you pledge that you won’t share their information, etc.

5. Don’t “Submit”

While everyone understands that “Submit” on a button means “I’m done,” comparative studies found that forms with that message performed worse than button text that reinforced the value of completing the form, like “Start My Free Trial” or “Book Now.”

6.  Test days of the week to promote your form

If you’re promoting sign-up through email or social media campaigns, timing could make a difference. A study by forms vendor Formstack found that lead generation forms peaked on Thursday afternoons. Contest entry forms did best evenings after 8 PM. Church website forms scored on Mondays, but non-profit groups won on Fridays. Why? Don’t ask – it’s science.

Learn more about customer relationship management on the Dex Media blog. 

Jeff B. Copeland is a senior manager for content at Dex Media, where he works on the Dex Media blog and email newsletter, the consumer information site EnlightenMe.com and other content projects.

Dex Media
SCORE Corporate Patron

Dex Media is dedicated to working with local businesses to provide them marketing solutions that will help them grow their business and be successful. Dex Media helps level the playing field and give these businesses the edge to compete in today’s digital marketplace. We’re here to give them the solutions they need to connect with customers, wherever they may be.
DexMedia.com | @DexMediacom | Facebook | More from Dex Media

// by Rieva Lesonsky / Mar. 8, 2016 0 comments
search engine optimization

How do you use search engine optimization (SEO) in your small business? If you're like most entrepreneurs, you still have a ways to go at maximizing your website’s SEO, according to a survey by Clutch that polled owners and managers of small businesses, most with one to 10 employees.

Only half of the small businesses that have websites use SEO, the study reports. (Making matters worse, nearly half of small businesses polled don't even have a website — but that's a matter for another blog post.)  However, one-third say they plan to start using SEO in the future; just 17 percent say they have no plans to do it at all.

If you have a business website but aren't bothering to use SEO tactics, you are essentially leaving the results of your website — your most important marketing tool — up to chance.

Why go to the trouble of setting up a website if you're not going to make the most of it? Effective SEO can help determine who sees your website, what they do when they get there, and whether or not they end up purchasing from with your company.

Here are some tips for improving your SEO strategy:

Educate yourself about SEO. While keeping pace with constantly changing SEO trends and strategies can be complex, understanding the basics is fairly simple. Learning about SEO is important whether or not you plan to handle SEO yourself. By knowing the basics, you'll be better able to assess the skills of any independent contractor or marketing company you're thinking about hiring to handle your SEO.

Be willing to spend on SEO. It can be hard to pay for something as intangible as SEO, but its importance to business success makes it a vital part of any small business’s marketing strategy. Set aside adequate budget to execute the SEO tactics that will help your company grow.

Be patient. Seeing results from your SEO will take some time, so be consistent in putting forth your efforts. Don't pull your budget just because sales don't instantly increase. 

Go beyond the basics. Nearly six in 10 small businesses surveyed that use SEO focus on onsite SEO and local search optimization. While both of these are important, and tend to be the easiest steps to take in improving your website’s SEO, the report suggests that going beyond these steps can exponentially improve your results.

Specifically, Clutch advises creating high-quality content for your business website. Think of content as a way to answer your prospective customers’ questions about your products and services, provide information that showcases your expertise and build trust in your business. Only about one-fourth of survey respondents say that quality content is one of their SEO strategies.

You can also use content on other trusted websites to help your SEO. For example, guest blogging on reputable websites where your target customers spend time can build your authority and drive traffic to your own website. Just as with content on your own site, this content should inform, educate and develop trust with prospects. Only 24 percent of survey respondents use guest blogging as an SEO tactic, so there's lots of room to get ahead of the pack here.

Track results. The survey recommends not just tracking where your website traffic comes from and how well you rank for your chosen keywords, but also tracking conversions and leads. This measurement is vital to showing whether or not you're getting good ROI for your SEO efforts.

All this takes time, of course, and with 64 percent of small businesses handling their SEO in-house, it's no wonder many are falling short of their SEO goals. Getting outside help with SEO is an investment that can pay off for your business. SCORE mentors can help you and can also recommend local experts and/or companies to help. Visit www.score.org to get matched with a SCORE mentor.

Rieva Lesonsky
Columnist and CEO
GrowBiz Media

Rieva is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a content and consulting company specializing in covering small businesses and entrepreneurship. She was formerly Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine and has written several books about small business and entrepreneurship. 
GrowBizMedia.com | @rieva | More from Rieva

// by Jeanne Rossomme / Mar. 7, 2016 2 comments
motivation ahead

Being a small business owner can be overwhelming at times. Balancing life, money, employees, customers, vendors and the day-to-day tasks can take its toll. You might feel stuck in the same old routine and lose sight of your larger goals. Maybe you just need a good kick in the pants to motivate you and get you back on track.

Here are some quotes to inspire you hard-working entrepreneurs:

On failing

“A winner is just a loser who tried one more time.” - George M. Moore, Jr.

“Fall seven times, stand up eight.” – Japanese proverb

"You miss 100 percent of the shots you don't take." - Wayne Gretzky

"A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new." - Albert Einstein

“Every strike brings me closer to the next home run.” - Babe Ruth

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” - Thomas Edison

On criticism

“There is only one way to avoid criticism: do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.” - Aristotle

"When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it." - Henry Ford

“If you hear a voice within you saying ‘you are not a painter,’ then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.” - Vincent Van Gogh

“Never run back to what broke you.” - Frank Ocean

“Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” - Bill Gates

On procrastinating

“The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity.” - Amelia Earhart

“People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Neither does bathing. That’s why we recommend it daily.” - Zig Ziglar

"Those who let things happen usually lose to those who make things happen." - Dave Weinbaum

“You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” - Martin Luther King, Jr.

“You may delay, but time will not.” - Benjamin Franklin

On Strategy and Planning

"I’m as proud of many of the things we haven’t done as the things we have done. Innovation is saying no to a thousand things." - Steve Jobs

“Change before you have to.” - Jack Welch 

“In absence of clearly defined goals, we become strangely loyal to performing daily trivia, until we ultimately become enslaved by it.” - Robert Heinlein

"A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way." - John Maxwell

"Don't be afraid to give up the good to go for the great." - John D. Rockefeller

 

Where do you find inspiration? What keeps you motivated? Add your favorite inspirational quote on our Facebook Page.

Jeanne Rossomme
President
RoadMap Marketing

Jeanne uses her 20 years of marketing know-how to help small business owners reach their goals. Before becoming an entrepreneur, she held a variety of marketing positions with DuPont and General Electric. Jeanne regularly hosts online webinars and workshops in both English and Spanish.
www.roadmapmarketing.com | @roadmapmarketin | More from Jeanne