5 Ways to Find the Best Startup Talent

You’re a new, untested business and finding the right talent is instrumental to your success. You’re competing against long established businesses that offer stability and benefits for its employees, as well as the approximately 200,000 other start-up businesses, according to the Small Business Administration. When you make finding the best talent a priority, your start-up benefits by having competent employees with fresh ideas involved from the beginning. With the economy continuing a slow recovery process with no real end in sight, many job seekers are turning to start-ups for a chance at hands-on experience with the opportunity to grow with the business.

Look to LinkedIn

LinkedIn has 238 million members who are career and business-focused. LinkedIn estimates approximately 20 percent of these are active job seekers. This recruitment pool ranges from just out of college graduates to established innovators in their fields. The site provides a variety of tools for recruitment, from on-site job listings to network connections that allow you to speak directly to your potential applicants. One of the most effective ways of reaching a strong pool of talent is to participate in LinkedIn groups for your industry or for those looking for work.

Networking Events

Events specifically for start-ups and innovative thinkers are an effective way to find people who would be interested in working with a start-up. Conventions within your industry are another way of networking directly with potential job seekers, although not everyone is going to be as excited about a start-up as they would be at start-up specific events.

Leverage Your Personal Network

You don’t know what kind of talent awaits in your personal network until you ask. Once you have identified the positions that your start-up needs the most, ask friends, colleagues, and everyone else in your social circle about people could potentially fit the bill. You may be surprised who you end up finding in your search when you go about it this way.

Head to College

College graduates are coming out of school into a rough job market, so career fairs and other job networking events are well attended by those who want a leg up when they finish their degree. These events are also a way to find excited, high energy candidates who are willing to put in the time to make your start-up a success. Sources such as www.CollegeOnline.org lists campuses throughout the U.S. where you can start your recruitment.

Focus on Your Work Environment

You want to make the work environment a welcoming, productive environment for the awesome talent you’re finding. Perks such as free vending machines and coffee are welcomed. You also want to focus on the equipment side of the equation. Up-to-date hardware and software may be rough on a start-up budget at first, but when you aren’t struggling with obsolete equipment and inefficient software, you get a lot more done. Some costs can be defrayed by using cloud computing services, as you pay for the service and not the hardware, maintenance or licensing.

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Starting a Small Business in Uncertain Times – Tips to Set Yourself up for Success

Tips for Starting a Small Business in Uncertain TimesSeven out of 10 small businesses survive at least two years, and half of all new businesses make it at least five years, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). But these numbers aren’t just dependent upon the viability of the businesses themselves—they’re also a product of the economic environment in which they were created. Many businesses struggled to stay afloat during the economic recession that began in 2008, but an improving economy means we’re seeing new business growth in many areas of the United States. Some areas are recovering better than others, though, and while opening a new business in economically uncertain times comes with additional risks, there are still plenty of opportunities for those businesses to succeed—particularly if would-be entrepreneurs take steps to create greater stability for themselves. Here are some tips from PowerSites to make that happen.

Make Sure You Have a Viable Market

Every business needs customers to succeed. Before you put any money into your venture, make sure the market for those services is present in your area. You wouldn’t want to open a new home construction business in the aftermath of the burst housing bubble, because no one was looking to build or buy homes at that time. Conduct market research to make sure you’ll have a viable consumer base. Work that research and other affirming facts about the opportunity into your business plan.

Get Your Financing in Order

Financing can be tough to find in an economically depressed area, and it may force you to get creative with your fundraising. Self-funding is good if you can afford it, but otherwise you might struggle to get large business loans from banks. Investors, meanwhile, may be hesitant to invest money into a struggling economy unless they feel very optimistic about your venture.

There are other options to obtain startup capital. If you receive regular payments from a structured settlement, lottery winnings or a nonqualified annuity, these can usually be sold for a lump sum to generate liquid cash. While selling your future payments will not bring in the entire cash value of an annuity, it may be worth it to come up with the necessary capital now.

Seek Local Assistance

In times of economic struggle, many city and state government agencies create relief programs and other incentives for new and existing businesses. Small businesses are a key factor in economic growth, and most local and state governments understand they need to support these ventures if they want to facilitate recovery. This relief and assistance may come in the form of tax breaks or deferments, low-interest financing, small business startup resources and other support. Make use of the resources the SBA offers, and also contact your local and state economic development offices to find out about local programs and incentives.

Maintain a Low-Cost Profile

Regardless of your financial situation, any new business owner should be frugal with spending and take advantage of ways to save. Whether that’s by sharing work space or working out of your home for a short period of time, a low-cost profile helps you earn the good graces of conservative banks and potential investors who want to see large profit margins or the potential to generate big earnings against nominal expenses. These modest costs will lower your break-even point and the liability you face in any given month. And, if things go well, low costs could accelerate your plans to expand your business.

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Small Business Resolutions for 2014

What better time than the start of a brand new year is there to create a list of smart resolutions to keep your business growing in the year to come. Below find several tips from PowerSites to consider as you plan your budget, goals and business aspirations for 2014.

Engage in Content Marketing

Be seen as a credible authority in your industry by participating in content marketing. Vary the channel in which you deliver the information to cast a wider net of consumers. Concentrate on adding high-quality, industry-related news and information to social media, your business website, email newsletters, video channels and also consider making guests posts on other websites. The more you are seen as an expert on the topics you publish, the greater your following will become.

Hire a Social Media Manager

Facebook and Twitter are often seen as the social media standard on which small business should engage. However, other platforms such as Pinterest, Google+ and Instagram, are paving new ways for small business promotion, along with new sites such as Slideshare, Path and Mobli which are quickly gaining interest. With all the social marketing possibilities, consider hiring or contracting a social media manager to focus entirely on your social presence, and target the specific audience you wish to attract.

Watch the Clouds

Cloud computing is becoming a crucial asset to large and small businesses alike. Cloud computing is not just for data storage anymore, but rather makes a plethora of applications readily available to you and your business. Think of cloud computing as a way to increase capacity or add capabilities on the fly without investing in new infrastructure, training new personnel, or licensing new software, recommends InfoWorld.com.

To make the best use of these cloud applications, make sure your business technology is ready for it. Wherever you are located, look at the options you have for broadband connectivity. Companies such as Verizon in Washington DC offer bundled internet and voice services using advanced fiber optics technology. This gives you the speed you need to do sophisticated number crunching when planning your next growth phase.

Mobile-Ready is a Must

With the majority of consumers owning a smartphone or tablet, mobile-readiness should be at the forefront of your business. Upgrade your company’s website to a responsive design that allows people to access it from any size device without sacrificing viewability and a stellar user experience.

More Ways to Accept Money

Be seen as a modern, tech-savvy company by offering mobile wallets and payment services such as GoPayment and PayPal to offer customers convenient ways to pay for goods and services. If you have a mobile business, increase your cash flow as opposed to invoicing a customer when you get back to the office. Many services offer free card readers that attach to your smartphone or tablet with low inexpensive per transaction fees allow you to collect payment on the spot.

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Work Smarter, Not Harder: iOS Apps for Small Businesses

When you own a small business, it’s your baby. You want to handle everything down to the last detail, even if you end up curled up in a corner when the lack of a work-life balance comes crashing down on you. Delegating tasks to employees is a good first step toward confronting this issue, which affects many small business owners. Putting your technology to work for you helps with the rest. These iOS apps allow you to work smarter and not harder, so you don’t have to keep looking over your employee’s shoulders, and actually manage to relax.

Dropbox

Cloud storage is widely used by many companies, and for good reason. The ability to upload all of your needed files to an account that you can access from anywhere, and sync across your devices, means time saved. running back to the office because you forgot to grab the sales projections for your investors is suddenly not an issue. Dropbox is a household name for personal and business cloud storage, and its business features give you powerful file sharing and collaboration tools that are safe and secure.

Quickbooks 2013

Book keeping and accounting isn’t the most glamorous task, but until you can afford an accountant on staff, you’re stuck doing it yourself. Make this process slightly less painful by using the Quickbooks 2013 app. According to the Apple Store, it allows you to create invoices, check out your profit and loss on the go, create estimates, and analyze your profit and loss.

Evernote

When you don’t need a full blown collaboration tool, but you do want to sync notes filled with business information, meeting minutes, and ideas to your team, Evernote works perfectly for this application. This powerful app gives you the ability to share your notes with your team, adding in files and media for supporting documents.

Go to My PC

Are you separated from your computer when you travel for business, have vendor meetings, and are otherwise out of the office? Instead of stressing because of the lack of access to your main computer, use a remote desktop connection app such as Go To My PC. Despite the name, it also works perfectly well on Macs if you use Apple for more than your mobile products. You connect directly to your computer and can access it as though you were right in front of it. The connection is secure so your data is kept safe.

American Express Receipt Match App

American Express is known for the best small business credit cards from AMEX, and they have an app that makes it even more appealing as a prospect. The American Express Receipt Match App works as a typical receipt scanning app to start with. Once you or your employees enter in their receipt information, however, the app searches for matching transactions from your credit card statement. That way you don’t have to wonder which card it ended up on, and you have a full accounting of all of your receipts. This makes claiming expenses and deductions that much simpler at the end of the tax year.

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How to Utilize Pinterest and LinkedIn Alongside Facebook and Twitter

Facebook and Twitter may be the best-known social media sites, but they’re not the only ones that can benefit small businesses. Among English-speaking social sites, LinkedIn sits at the number five spot, trailing behind Twitter, Trendstream’s GlobalWebIndex reports. Meanwhile, Pinterest ranks number seven. Both sites are growing quickly, with LinkedIn growing at 30 percent, and Pinterest at 20 percent, Jeff Bullas reports. For small businesses seeking cost-effective marketing methods, both these platforms represent untapped opportunities.

Pinterest

Socialbakers has found Facebook posts with photos generate more “Like”s, comments, and shares than any other type of post, constituting 93 percent of the most interactive posts. Pinterest leverages this visual appeal by enabling users to upload images and other media content as “Pins” and organize them on “boards” where others can see them.

Pins create a way to visually build your brand. You can pin images associated with your company logo. You can also post graphics that position your expertise or support your sales theme, such as quotes or infographics with statistics.

Pinterest can help generate leads. Your Pins can attract followers from within Pinterest. You can also link your Pinterest account to other sites to attract followers from there.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn boasts 200 million users, including 74 million from the United States, according to its site. It provides the business-oriented equivalent of Facebook, which can boost your brand in several ways.

Customizing your URL will distinguish your page from competitors and from others with similar names. Ideally, choose a URL consistent with a domain name representing your brand. Use a service such as WebHostingBlueBook.com to locate a good URL domain name.

Your profile’s headline field lets you describe what makes you and your products or services unique. Other fields establish credibility by citing your professional credentials and displaying references.

LinkedIn also provides promotional opportunities. You can network with other professionals in your field or your target market by using the site’s private messaging and groups features. Participating in group discussions and sharing content gives you a way to establish your expertise and build business relationships.

The above methods can also serve to drive traffic to your other social media platforms. For instance, you can include links in your profile. You can also share content of interest to groups you participate in, where appropriate.

Integrating Your Social Toolkit

Pinterest and LinkedIn work best when used in conjunction with your other social media tools as part of a single toolkit, rather than viewing them in competition with Facebook and Twitter. You can integrate your Pinterest account with your Facebook and Twitter accounts for cross-platform sharing. Likewise, you can use your LinkedIn profile to link to your Facebook or Twitter pages, and vice versa. You can also share content from these social media hubs with your LinkedIn networks.

You will get the most leverage out of using these social media tools if you track your results. Sprout Social provides one way to do this by integrating management of your LinkedIn page with your Facebook and Twitter activity and providing you with analytic feedback on the results of your campaigns.

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Prevent a Dying Blog With These 6 Tips

Prevent a Dying Blog With These 6 TipsYou have a blog? Join the club. You’re competing with millions of Web content pages and other blogs for a reader’s valuable time, attention and page view. There are 59 million WordPress sites alone. More than 51 new websites launch each year, notes website monitoring company Pingdom. Ensure that your blog is a one-of-a-kind online destination with these marketing tips, and make sure you do the following:

1. Lists, Info Graphics, Images, & Blurbs

According to the Nielson Norman Group, a market research firm, only 16 percent of readers follow a blog post word for word. Nearly everyone scans the content to find the most relevant, interesting or entertaining information as quickly as possible. Build readers’ trust and keep posts brief. Include plenty of visual support, such as images, bullets, numbered lists, and informational graphics to drive your point home.

2. Blog Post Email Promotion

Neil Patel, founder of online analytics and marketing companies Kissmetrics and Quicksprout, says email messages drive 14 percent of traffic to a website or blog. Building email campaigns with a responsive design ensures messages can be read on any device. Keep the formatting short and simple. Nearly half of all email messages are read with mobile devices, according to email marketing company Yesmail Interactive.

3. Community Building & Social Media

Building a community and loyal following around blogging content helps maintain, and even drive, traffic. Readers invested in your content will re-share posts on Facebook, for example, that they see as worth promoting. For word-of-mouth blog marketing, make sure that you:

  • Post original, unique blog articles that speak directly to the reader
  • Post a blog link on all social media channels to announce a new post
  • Respond to social media comments and engage in active dialogue
  • Post updates on promotions, sales and events

You may attract a number of unique visitors, but the following pointers will retain them.

  • Host contests and giveaways on social media to engage visitors
  • Capture email addresses with free offers
  • Survey a reader after a blog view

4. Topics & Posting Schedule

If you can generate enough topics to keep your content fresh and your readers engaged, write as often as you can. Aim to post at least one piece of original content per week to stay relevant to both your readers and search engines.

Avoid space filler copy, and always write with a genuine interest in the topic. Enthusiasm will naturally be conveyed with your words and tone — a few lackluster articles can cause readers to hit the unsubscribe button.

Be sure to create a content calendar that’s topically fluid, rather than sharing random ideas and stories. Be open to inspiration and develop a high-level plan that keeps your blogging on target.

5. Mobile

According to an email marketing survey by Constant Contact, 44 percent of Americans own a mobile device, and 43 percent of those users open an email message on a smartphone or tablet. Promote featured blog posts and sweepstakes through email blasts that can be easily read on mobile devices. You’ll also want to go mobile from the business side. Acquire a guaranteed wireless connection with a portable Wi-Fi system from a website such as www.wirelessinternet.net. The capability to post remotely helps you meet your blogging goals in a timely manner.

6. Expert Citations

To obtain authority and credibility, cite evidence that supports a specialized topic if you are not an established expert in the field. Not yet a seasoned expert? Write with veracity and conviction or let your personality shine through with words to express a point or entertain.

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Marketing Tips for Small Business Owners on a Budget

If you own a small business, you may be facing some difficult marketing decisions. Financing is often tight and ideas are often scarce. Not every small business owner can afford to hire a marketing consultant, so here are a few practical marketing tips for a small business owner on a tight budget.

Have a Marketing Budget

Think about the scope of your business and about what you hope to accomplish through your marketing campaign. With this in mind, calculate the percentage of your budget that you plan to devote to marketing. Some experts recommend a level of about 10% of your revenue, but this can vary based on your individual situation and goals.

Stick to Your Plan

When you’re setting up the budget at the beginning of the year, remember to plan out how you’re going to use it. If you just stash the money somewhere and spend it haphazardly on marketing expenses as they come up, you’ll never know how long the year’s money is going to last. Try to be intentional about where you’re spending it by looking ahead and predicting how much you’ll need when. Be flexible when you need to, but try your best to stick with the plan.

Invest in a Good Website

Some small businesses figure that they can get away with just having the basics online or (worse yet) with not having a website at all, due to their local customer base and narrow range of interest. However, these days when new customers are looking for your business, the first place they may go is Google, and their online findings will be all they have to consider. If your business does not appear online, many potential customers will not even consider you. Try to make the first impression that a customer will have of you via your website a good one. Contact PowerSites today to get your small business a website, and make sure that you have the basics needed to have an established online presence.

Email Marketing

TV ads (and, by the same token, billboards) can be prohibitively expensive. Try to cut down on the need for a TV spot by capitalizing on free advertising methods like email marketing and word-of-mouth. Send out newsletters through email. This can be even more cost-effective than a printed newsletter and, even better, you can have your customers forward it to their friends for free.

Social Media

You definitely don’t want to miss out on the benefits of social media. Every small business should at least have a Facebook page and Yelp page. Post regularly to attract new customers, and keep your current customer base engaged. Thank them by offering them specials and exclusive discounts. Social media really is the online equivalent of “word-of-mouth” referrals. If someone likes your business, they will probably post about it on their Facebook, tweet about it on Twitter, or leave a review on Yelp. However, if someone does not like your business, they will most definitely be telling everyone on social media about it. However, if handled and addressed properly, negative reviews are a great opportunity to show that your small business excels in customer service.

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Twitter Tuesday: Follow Tweets to Manage Your Online Reputation

The great thing about social media is that fans of your business will use it to let others know about their experience, but this can be a double-edged sword. At the same time, the worst thing about social media sites, like Twitter, is that folks who do not like your business can nearly instantly let others know about it, which can spread like wildfire.

Twitter Tuesday: Follow Tweets to Manage Your Online ReputationThat about sums up Twitter, a social media platform where users can say anything, as long it is no more than 140 characters in length.

Praising a place, checking in by tweeting their location, commenting on a restaurant’s menu or ambiance, or letting friends and followers know about a store they’ll never step foot into again – these are just some of the common tweet scenarios you’ll come across while perusing Twitter.

It doesn’t matter whether Twitter is part of your local social media campaign, you definitely need to stay alert, and monitor what is being said about your small business. Fortunately, you do not have to assign an employee to monitor the Internet for tweets about your small business. There is a free service called Twilert that will do it for you.

You simply sign in using Facebook or Twitter and then schedule Twilert to email you at set interval – from every time someone tweets about you to once a day. There are different pricing plans, but there is a free plan that sends you one Twilert per day.

The beauty is that you will learn what your customers are saying about you even if you don’t always use Twitter for marketing your small business.

It’s important that you be ready to respond to any complaint in a positive manner that will reinforce your good customer service. If you see something negative being said about your small business, don’t tweet back irrationally, defensively, or in a retaliating manner. Just simply tweet them that you are sorry, and apologize that they were not fully satisfied with their visit to your establishment, and instruct them to contact you privately via email so that you can resolve the issue, and potentially have another opportunity to give them a better customer experience.

If they do contact you, make every effort to satisfy them and they will most likely tweet about your customer service and what a great business you are! Social media platforms like Twitter can be one of your best marketing tools. Smart small business owners make every effort to manage their online reputations, and Twitter can serve as an open ended way of improving customer service.

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Social Media Monday: Small Business Owner’s Guide to Facebook Graph Search

Facebook’s new applications and innovations can be hard to keep up with. But these same innovations can be used to help increase marketing for your small business. For example, the Graph Search, one of the applications recently pioneered, can help increase traffic to your Facebook page if handled correctly. Here are three simple steps to maximizing the Graph Search’s potential.

Keep your Facebook page active

First of all, if you want your Facebook page to be taken seriously, spend time on it. Make it attractive to customers and get them involved. When users are searching for businesses to try, the businesses that will show up in the search (and even more importantly, those that will have highest place) will be those with pages that are continually kept up-to-date and have plenty of reviews and user action. Keep your social media presence strong and vibrant. Write posts that intrigue customers and draw them in, and put promotions up online to encourage more customer action on your page. Try coupons and special online deals or even competitions to draw more traffic to your Facebook page.

Encourage recommendations and reviews

The more popular your page gets in the social media world, the more likely you will be to get more recommendations by users. This is important because for Facebook Graph Search, your popularity on Facebook itself is what counts to get you into the search results. Regularly encourage users and customers to share your page, invite their friends, and promote your services. Communicate to your customers how important their reviews are to you. Ask for their likes and comments often. Recommendations are especially important because they get you into the “friend recommendations” search results when potential customers are searching for a small business like yours.

Get your page on Facebook Places

A future expected development in Facebook search is a “Local” feature that will allow potential customers to search only those businesses in the immediate area. Because of this, make sure that your small business is listed on Facebook Places so that you can have a presence in the area and appear in the “Local” search results. Even now, there is a ‘Nearby’ option, so try to get a presence in the area by gaining as many recommendations as possible so you’ll be featured in a higher spot in the search results.

Using these three simple tips, you can ensure that you get into the Facebook Graph Search results for potential customers of your business. This is a great- and free!- way to promote your small business online.

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Get Your Name Out There: Brand Your Small Business

As a small business owner, you know you’re good at what you do and you’re sure you can convert customers. But attracting the right customers in the first place requires regular commitment to branding and marketing. Upgrade your marketing and branding efforts to increase your marketplace share and brand recognition:

Select a Good Name

To stand out, your small business must have a memorable name. Something as simple as Mike’s Pizza or Jessie’s Dog Grooming Salon communicates who you are and what you do, but is not memorable. Potential customers might confuse you with a competitor. Before you finalize your name, check whether domain names are available and ensure your name has no embarrassing typos or slang meanings that could undermine your business, suggests SBA.gov. You might upgrade Mike’s Pizza to Mike’s Deep Dish or Mike’s Pie in the Sky, for example. Or you could re-brand Jessie’s Dog Grooming Salon as Jessie’s Canine Coiffure or Jessie’s Dapper Dogs. The new names inject personality, stand out and are easy for customers to remember.

Define Your Brand

Branding Your Small Business
To successfully brand your small business, know what it means. If you’ve lost touch with your brand — or never created a strong brand — convene a focus group to help define brand personality. SBA.gov suggests asking questions about how your service compare to competitors’ to help focus your brand. Once you’ve tweaked your brand, craft a marketing plan that caters to your new brand.

Find Your Niche

Even in a crowded marketplace, differentiate your brand and products from competitors’ through the help of a niche. A niche is an area of business that is relatively free of competition and overlooked by your main competitor. For example, you may conceptualize your service in a new way by taking the traditional concept of a bicycle repair shop and creating a mobile version that travels to areas where cyclists ride. Either personal market knowledge or consumer surveys can help you identify a niche that may be overlooked by your competitors.

Establish Your Voice and Be Consistent

Having a consistent message is key to attracting and retaining fans. GoDaddy’s Bob Parsons likes to employ the Japanese concept of kaizen, a strategy for continual improvement, according to Lifehack. “When you’re ready to quit, you’re closer than you think,” says Bob Parsons. By committing to improving your branding and messaging every day, you can accomplish a lot with just small daily effort. Try tweeting daily, for one small example of focusing on branding daily.

Use Social Media to Connect with Customers

An active social media presence can increase brand awareness and help connect you to customers. Businesses use social media for customer service, location information and to demonstrate their expertise. Determine what social media channels make sense for your industry, then commit to maintaining a regular presence on these platforms. Metrics, such as number of fans/followers and daily or weekly posting goals, help you track your ROI and improve your social media performance.

These strategies require consistent work. Consider creating metrics that help you evaluate how well your branding efforts are paying off in terms of conversion, increased sales or higher traffic.

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