Small business market research is a tough game.

If you Google “how to do market research,” you’ll come across a long list of tactics that are hard to use on a small business budget. Market research surveys and questionnaires, focus groups, competitive intelligence, SWOT analysis, and structured interviews. The list goes on.

If you dig further into market research techniques, you could quickly find yourself reading about the difference between qualitative and quantitative research, or even statistical sampling methods.

All of those market research techniques have their place. But when you’re wondering how to do market research for small business, you aren’t thinking about complicated statistical models or big budgets.

Market research firms sometimes run massive surveys and international focus groups. You might not have a way to reach 100,000 people with a survey, or the resources to set up multiple focus groups.

But there are still small business market research tools that work. Conducting market research for a new business or a small business can require some creativity.

But with the right tactics you can do affordable or even free market research that gets you the insights you need for your business.

How can market research benefit a small business owner?

At this point you may be wondering: why do you need market research? Small businesses already have a lot of day-to-day operations to deal with.

It’s hard to make time to do market research for small business—especially if you also need to learn how to do market research in the first place.

But if you don’t periodically check in with your audience, you could be leaving business and revenue on the table without ever knowing.

There are many benefits of market research for small business, but a short list would include:

  • Helping you create more compelling marketing materials
  • Identifying more targeted niches interested in your company
  • Suggesting ideas for new products or services based on pain points
  • Minimizing the risk of bad positioning that costs you leads without you knowing
  • Giving you early updates on industry trends before they become widespread

Simply put, effective market research helps you get inside your customers’ heads.

When you need to conduct market research on a tight budget, it can be tricky to find the techniques and market research tools that give the best value for the time and cost investment.

This article covers how to do market research for small business, using eight of our favorite affordable market research techniques.

1. Quora: How to use Quora for market research

Quora is a social media platform based on questions and answers. On Quora, users can submit questions on any topic they like, as well as answer questions related to their expertise.

Getting started with Quora is easy: the platform guides you through the process and immediately prompts you to select your areas of interest.

Getting started with Quora

Setting up your Quora profile will let you get notified when questions are tagged with the topics you select. That makes it simple way to see what burning questions your audience is asking.

And because Quora orders its answers based on voting, you can also see which solutions they think are the most valuable.

For that reason, Quora market research can be a great method of collecting information on customer pain points. In market research for small business, free public questions from your audience is hard to beat.

If it fits into your marketing plan, you can also consider putting some effort into answering Quora questions. Repurposing your blog posts as part of a Quora marketing strategy can increase their reach and visibility.

2. Reddit: How to use Reddit for market research

Reddit bills itself as “the front page of the internet,” and for good reason—Alexa ranks Reddit as the eighth most trafficked website in the world and the fifth most trafficked in the United States.

Reddit contains a wide variety of communities, linked content, original content, and memes. But among cat videos and adorable gifs, there are some surprisingly insightful conversations—discussions that are a gold mine for small business market research.

Reddit is organized into “subreddits,” which are communities focused on specific topics. Finding subreddits based on your industry is a good way to mine for pain points—and discover your audience’s candid thoughts.

Anonymity means that redditors are often willing to share things they wouldn’t normally talk about in person. Reading discussion threads or even asking questions yourself can help you get insights from specific niches.

For example, if you run a fitness business and need to know how to do market research, you’ll find that are quite a few opportunities to conduct customer research on reddit. Subreddits like /r/fitness, /r/loseit, /r/gainit, /r/bodybuilding, /r/running, and /r/bodyweightfitness serve different communities, and people often share their successes and struggles.

Reddit can also be helpful for tracking down a very narrow segment of a larger population. A subreddit like /r/griptraining is the very definition of niche—but if you run a rock climbing or powerlifting gym it could have valuable insights from your target audience.
Reddit market research

Navigating Reddit can be a little tricky for new users. But once you figure it out, it’s a powerful tool to do market research for small business.

3. Book reviews: How to use Amazon book reviews for market research

This market research technique is a little bit unusual—but it’s all the more powerful because of how few people think of it.

When you need to conduct market research on a tight budget, you need to get creative. Book reviews offer a wealth of information, sometimes incredibly detailed and specific, that few people are taking advantage of.

Amazon book review

Amazon reviews are public, and you probably have some idea of the most important or popular books in your field. Even if you don’t, Amazon charts are also freely available—it’s easy to find out what people are reading.

Once you’ve tracked down some popular books, take a look at the reviews. Amazon lets you easily sort reviews by how positive they are and how helpful they are, so you can dive in at whatever point you like.

Positive reviews will be helpful because they can help you understand what people are benefiting from.

Negative or lukewarm reviews can be even more helpful because there’s a chance they call out needs or burning pains that the book didn’t answer—which may represent unmet needs your business can take advantage of.

4. Surveys: How to use a survey for market research

When most people think of using a survey to do market research for small business, they think of a massive effort that goes out to thousands and thousands of customers.

No, you probably don’t have thousands and thousands of customers that will respond to a survey. And there are some types of survey research that really do require those kinds of numbers.

But there are others that don’t. And those are the kind you can focus on as you learn how to do market research for your small business.

Setting up surveys that get sent to customers after a sale can help you get a sense of how satisfied they are and what needs led them to make a purchase.

Similarly, you can set up surveys that go out to people that didn’t make a purchase. What prevented them from buying? What might have caused them to make a different decision?

Even if you only ask those two survey questions, the answers can help you make adjustments for the next time around.

As a bonus, this type of small business market research is easy to automate.

Setting up automation that trigger based on purchase or lack of purchase is easy to do with marketing automation software. Set up survey questions once, then focus on other parts of your small business while the results come in.

5. Facebook groups: How to use Facebook for market research

Using Facebook for market research
Facebook has risen up as one of the major community building platforms for business. Type your industry into Facebook search and you’re bound to find a variety of related groups.

Some Facebook groups will be run by other business owners, others are simply people interested in the same topics. Regardless, reading through the conversations and questions asked in Facebook groups can be a valuable source of market research.

When you’re using Facebook for market research, you have a few options.

Simply reading through existing conversations is a great way to get started. Even though names on Facebook aren’t private, people are often more willing to share their goals or frustrations within a relatively private group.

Once you’ve observed for a while and understand a group’s tone and social norms, you can start to participate. Becoming a member of a group and engaging in discussions can be a great way to ask questions and go beyond surface level insights.

You wouldn’t do this on another business’s page, and you have to be careful about spamming in general, but Facebook groups can also help you get participants for a market research survey.

As you get more comfortable with how to do market research on Facebook, sharing a link to a survey can help you gather quantitative market research data.

As a free platform with over two billion monthly active users, Facebook can be a powerful way to do market research for small business.

6. Competitors: How to use competitor analysis for market research

Chances are you’re not the only business in your niche. How are the most popular websites in your industry trying to appeal to your audience?

How can you tell which content is the most popular or successful? Use a tool like Buzzsumo to find the most shared content on a particular topic.

Buzzsumo market research

A tool like SEMrush can tell you which content ranks the highest in search engines. Both are good ways to identify potentially high-value topics.

Beyond content, look at the other marketing materials your competitors put out. What kind of messaging are they using on their website? How are they creating cross-sell and upsell opportunities? What does their team look like—who’s actually doing their marketing?

As you grow your business, this kind of information becomes more useful. There’s no guarantee that your competitors are doing everything the best way—but seeing how they are managing their business can spark ideas to improve your own.

To do this kind of research, collect all of the info your competitors make publicly available. Comb through their website and about page, download flyers and brochures, and check out the events they attend.

Make absolutely sure you get on their email list, so you can see what kind of messages they like to send.

It’s worth taking competitor research with a grain of salt. Again, there’s no guarantee that competitors have done the level of customer research you’re looking for. Still, looking at competitor messaging is a useful way to infer the features and benefits that matter to your audience.

Competitor research isn’t a substitute for contacting your audience directly, but it can be a good starting point to figure out what kind of content is popular in your niche.

7. Behavior and analytics: How to use data for market research

It’s one thing to know what customers say they want. In any industry, professionals know that customers don’t always know how to solve their problems. Sometimes there’s a better question to ask for market research.

What do they actually do?

Tracking behavior on your website or engagement with your emails and messages is a great way to see which of your marketing efforts are most popular—and can help you adjust your marketing in the future.

Google Analytics is one powerful tool that can show you exactly how people engage with your website.
Google Analytics behavior tracking

What are content topics the most popular? Make more content on those topics. Which pages have the best conversion rates? Direct more traffic to those pages. Your content marketing is also a source of information about your audience.

Combining website tracking with marketing automation can take things to the next level.

Marketing automation software can track email opens, link clicks, behavior on websites, replies/forwarding—and use those insights to automatically follow up with customers on what they care about most.

Of all the affordable small business market research techniques on this list, data is the most actionable. Analytics let you go from insight to action almost instantly—and sometimes automatically.

8. Ask your audience: How to use interviews for market research

Even though people don’t always say quite what they mean, there’s no substitute for direct, one-on-one conversations with your audience.

A market research interview allows a free conversation that leads to deeper insights than a survey or written answers. If you can get people to open up, you’ll be rewarded by detailed information about their pain points, struggles, and successes.

The style of the interview is less important than getting interviews done. You can do phone interviews, in-person interviews, even email interviews—and still get actionable insights.

The lessons you learn from talking to even 10 customers can change your business strategy, marketing, or client service. The ability to speak to customers using their own language is like a marketing superpower. Customer interviews are the way to do it.

Entire businesses can be built on what your customers tell you. When you listen to your audience, you get to the heart of what they care about—and no amount of online market research or survey data can tell you that as precisely as they can.

Conclusion: Use market research to get inside your customers’ heads

If your business grows, you’ll eventually want to consider the focus group, survey, statistical analysis, and market trends approach to market research.

Those methods can reveal insights that are hard to find using more affordable market research techniques.

If you need to understand market saturation or build a picture of how your pricing compares to the competition, you’ll eventually need to use some of the more traditional forms of market research.

But there’s value to doing market research before you have the budget for standard methods. Getting in touch with your customers’ needs can give you a huge edge as a small business.

Not a lot of people do market research for a small business like this. Most prefer to wait until they can hire someone to do it for them (or just ignore it entirely).

Because of that, these types of affordable market research techniques are a huge competitive advantage—one that lets you get inside the heads of your customers and offer them exactly what they want to buy.

 Source: This article was published activecampaign.com By Benyamin Elias

Categorized in How to

JACKSONVILLE, Fla., Feb. 7, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- A majority of small business owners now embrace the use of online marketing channels like websites and social media to grow their company's reputation and their revenue, but many have not harnessed the full potential of their online presence and may be leaving money on the table. This is according to a report released today by Web.com (Nasdaq: WEB), a leading provider of Internet services and online marketing solutions for small businesses, and Dr. David Ricketts, Innovation Fellow in the Technology and Entrepreneurship Center at Harvard.

"The good news is that our survey shows nearly two-thirds of small business owners truly believe having an online presence will help them grow revenue and attract new customers. However, our report also indicates those same small businesses find it difficult to keep up with the continually changing dynamic of the web," said David Brown, chairman, CEO and president of Web.com.

"In 2017, it is no longer enough for small businesses to be online with only a simple website. They need marketing tools like search engine optimization (SEO), which will get them to the top of search lists, and they need business-specific social media channels that engage customers. The real challenge they face is not knowing where to find the online marketing help they require so that they can focus on running the business."

 (PRNewsFoto/Web.com)
(PRNewsFoto/Web.com)...

The first-ever Web.com Small Business Digital Trends Reportsurveyed small business owners nationwide to learn how they are using online channels to grow their businesses. The survey includes small business owners in a variety of professions, including dentists, contractors, artists, welders, hair salon owners, dry cleaners, and retailers with ecommerce sites.

Online Marketing: Using Basic Tools but Not All Necessary Tools

Despite the number of small business owners now embracing online marketing, only 54 percent of small business owners report they are very confident that their business's online presence is doing the job it's supposed to do. A deeper dive into the data shows small business owners have not yet tapped into the full suite of online marketing tools that are needed today to attract their next customer:

  • Only 17 percent of small business owners will be investing in SEO in 2017
  • 42 percent of small business owners admit they don't use both a robust website and social media channels to market their business
  • Only 12 percent cited that the main purpose of their website was for e-commerce, yet 31 percent of respondents identified themselves as a retail business
  • 26 percent admit to having only a single-page website
  • 43 percent say they have no plans to change or improve their online presence in 2017
  • 85 percent are hitting some kind of roadblock when attempting to use social media to promote their business

A majority of small business respondents (68 percent) say they are handling the building and maintenance of their online presence entirely in-house or on their own, compared to 22 percent who outsource this work to an online marketing firm, and 9 percent who solicit help from friends and family. When asked the number one area in online marketing they need help with in order to meet their top business priorities, the most popular answers were online advertising (29 percent) and website maintenance or expansion (26 percent).

Search Engine Optimization: An Underutilized Asset for Small Business Owners

Although SEO can help businesses stand out from their competitors, most small business owners are not citing it as a priority. Only 17 percent say they plan to add SEO to their online marketing strategy in 2017, and only 5 percent of respondents consider SEO a top priority for the year. The low number of respondents investing in SEO in 2017 may indicate a lack of awareness of the changing but important role of SEO and where to get help implementing it.

"Whatever a business's strategy is to reach customers – whether that's via social media, a website, or a combination of different strategies – small business owners need to stay focused on their main objective: to get their business in front of the right customers," says Brown. "The best way for small business owners to be found is to first identify what's unique and special about their business, and then make sure their site is visible using the right keywords and effective SEO."

Online Security and Small Business: Security Breaches May Go Undetected

An overwhelming majority of small business owners (81 percent) say their webpages are secure or very secure – but they may be unaware of vulnerabilities that could compromise their businesses. A report from online security company Whitehat Security finds that 86 percent of all websites have at least one vulnerability, indicating small business owners may be putting too much faith in their current cyber protections.

"When addressing cybersecurity, the primary question is – do these small business owners truly know if they are secure or not?" says Dr. Ricketts. "Security breaches can go undetected by even the largest of organizations, so small business owners may unknowingly be at risk."

Small Business Owners Are Hitting Roadblocks with Social Media

Small business owners are overwhelmingly (88 percent) embracing social media to support their businesses and half (54 percent) plan to invest in social media in 2017. However, a clear majority (85 percent) reported encountering challenges or roadblocks when using social media to market their business. These include:

  • Concern of reputational risks (15 percent)
  • Being overwhelmed with the upkeep, including the need to constantly develop interesting content (14 percent)
  • Lack of understanding of how social media will help their business (13 percent)
  • Knowledge of how to set up social media channels so they integrate with their business (10 percent)

Additionally, 23 percent of respondents admit they only use their personal social media handles to market their business.

When asked which social media platform was most effective for their business, Facebook emerged as the clear winner, ranking as the 'most effective' four times more than any other social media channel. Twitter was the next most effective platform, ranking ahead of channels like Pinterest, LinkedIn, Instagram, Google+ and Snapchat.

Click here to view an infographic on the Web.com Small Business Digital Trends Report findings.

Methodology

The Web.com Small Business Digital Trends Report surveyed 300 small business owners (defined as a business with 1-500 employees) in the United States regarding their experiences of building and maintaining their online presence.

About Dr. David Ricketts

Dr. David Ricketts received his PhD from Harvard University. He is an Innovation Fellow in the Technology and Entrepreneurship Center at Harvard (TECH). Operating from within the John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, TECH enables holistic exploration by serving as a crossroads of innovation education. Dr. Ricketts writes and speaks internationally on strategy, trends and best practices in entrepreneurship and innovation.

About Web.com

Web.com Group, Inc. (Nasdaq: WEB) provides a full range of Internet services to small businesses to help them compete and succeed online. Web.com meets the needs of small businesses anywhere along their lifecycle with affordable, subscription-based solutions including domains, hosting, website design and management, search engine optimization, online marketing campaigns, local sales leads, social media, mobile products and ecommerce solutions. For more information, please visit www.web.com; follow Web.com on Twitter @webdotcom or on Facebook at facebook.com/web.com.

Media Contact: Brian Wright 904-371-6856 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Source : http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/new-webcom-report-indicates-more-than-ever-small-business-owners-embrace-online-marketing-tools-300403490.html

 

Categorized in Business Research

Have you recently started your own small business or planning to start it shortly? Then, you need some tested ways that help to keep your small business more efficient than ever. Here, in this article, I’ve enlisted some secrets to lead a successful business. Have a look!

1. Small Business Training

As the new small business owners are new to the industry, and they need to learn a lot of things to set their business in the right direction. There are business courses or small business training that are offered to the new business owners to help and guide them in every step of doing things. These little business training sessions are incorporated with the new aspects and tactics of doing business that is helpful for business owners.

As new business owners are unaware of how to write business plans and how to get the grant and funding; in such instances, small business training consultants will guide you throughout every step. That’s why professional business trainings and courses are very important especially for the new business owners to get successful in the industry.

Small businesses struggle to grow and to generate decent profits. Business training provides the business owners with insights into management activities such as how you can hire cheap accountants to manage the finances, how to do market analysis, and how to design the processes in such a way that will help you generate highest possible revenues and the positive feedback.

2. Executive Coaching

Have you ever wondered about the marvels of executive coaching? Just having a business degree in business management is not enough. They need training and mentoring to polish their skills and abilities and to develop the best output for the organisation. There are a lot of executive coaching programs offered to worldwide business owners that will allow them to develop the skills and abilities that will help in the development of the organisation. Executive coaching is one them.

Executive coaching provides the knowledge how executives will polish their skills and abilities that will generate positive outputs for the organisation. Such training and coaching programs are designed to develop those skills that are not present in the personality of the executives, like leadership competencies.

Leadership skills are not born in every person. Sometimes those skills need to be developed in the individuals through coaching and training programs. An expert and professional executive business coach provides the managers with insights into management activities of your small business, market analysis, and then design the processes in such a way that will help you generate the highest possible revenues and positive feedback.

3. Management Coaching

Management coaching is a crucial element for the success of any organisation. Every new and established business needs a  professional management team who has got skills and abilities that will drive positive outputs. That’s why it’s imperative for the organisations to provide management coachings and training to their staff to direct the new business in the perfect direction. Every business, either established or newly formed always try to minimise the level of risks to maximise the benefits or profits. To avoid risks, you need management coaching for your management to get directed to the right path.

Management coaching experts will lead your management team in a way that gives positive outputs in the development of your organisation. It’s up to the management coach how he sees the entire picture of your business. Seeing your business through the wider perspective allows him to go into the little details that hide behind the scene. Always look for a professional expert as your management coach, to grow it in a right direction.

Always keep in mind that you as a business owner needs to focus more because the small business coach only guides you in different situations and you are responsible for following those guidelines. It’s critical that you understand the perspective of your business coach. Otherwise, it would be difficult to carry on with two entirely different approaches to run a small business.

Author : Charles Crawford

Source : http://www.lifehack.org/478879/3-tested-ways-to-keep-small-businesses-more-efficient-than-ever

Categorized in Business Research

What are the right products and vendors to use for my business?  At Docstoc, we have over 30 million registered members, and our small business owners & operators have always asked us this question.  Sometimes we didn’t have the answers, so we built a free service, ExpertCircle to help business operators discover the best products and vendors other professionals use.  Here are my personal reviews on 30 of the top terrific tools for small businesses, feel free to add your own reviews and thoughts on these products by clicking the links.

1.     Accounting & Finance

  • Freshbooks: If you need online invoicing, time tracking and expense services, this program is easy to navigate, even for the most novice business owners.
  • Wave Accounting: Quickly manage payroll and manage your business receipts for free.
  • Expensify: Get a handle on all of your business expenses and invoices so you can concentrate on more important things.

2.     Customer Support

  • ZenDesk: Streamline your customer service interface, create support boards and streamline your response time.
  • GetSatisfaction: A great customer community platform for interacting with your users, getting feedback and providing technical support.
  • SurveyMonkey: Build free surveys to conduct market research, and keep a pulse on customer desires and satisfaction.

3.     Human Resources 

  • ZipRecruiter:  Find better talent with cross-job-board posting, resume screening and a point-based score chart to find the best candidates.
  • Intelius: Run a background check on prospective employees, browse criminal records and other information to make sure you’re hiring only the best people.
  • AnyPerk: Reward employees with one of the most comprehensive perks programs out there, which provides discounts in countless services.

4.     Legal

  • Legal Zoom Business Attorney Plan: This attorney plan specifically tailored to small businesses provides attorney reviews of contracts and other legal documents, for a fraction of the price.
  • Docusign: The most prominent service for eSignatures that is both legal and secure.
  • Trademarkia: Search over 6 million registered logos, names and slogans to make sure your name or idea isn’t taken.

5.     Sales

  • Highrise:  Organize notes, tasks and email conversations for up to 30,000 customers, leads, partners and contacts.
  • Leads360: A sales management solution specifically tailored to turn leads into conversion, and track your performance so you can easily improve your sales.
  • BidSketch: Create professional and clean client proposals in just minutes, and get a certified client signature when they approve.

6.     Marketing

  • MailChimp:  Email marketing made simple with an easy-to-use collection of newsletter templates, as well as the ability to customize your own design.
  • SpyFu: A keyword tool for comparing the SEM tactics of your competitors, so that you can meet equal success in your online advertising and SEO campaigns.
  • HubSpot: This all-in-one inbound marketing software facilitates SEO blogging tips, lead nurturing, marketing automation and more.

7.     Operations

  • Yammer:  For the international businessperson, create a private social network for your contacts to collaborate virtually, share files and spread knowledge.
  • Carbonite: Excellent and affordable cloud storage and online backup for any business.
  • Trello: An efficient collaboration tool that allows you to organize your projects (completed, pending and in-progress) into simplified boards.

8.     Web Development

  • Balsamiq: For your next business presentation, Balsamiq allows you to mockup and design your ideas on a virtual whiteboard so they’re easier to share, modify, and get feedback on.
  • 99designs: Run a graphic, logo, or web design contest, and walk away with multiple ideas and access to hundreds of designers.
  • Amazon Web Services: An amazing service that allows you to run your entire business from the cloud, from business applications to mobile apps.

9.     E-commerce

  • Recurly: For any business that offers subscription or recurring billing, Recurly provides a simple solution for getting this done.
  • Shopify: Set up a fully hosted and customizable online shopping cart that accepts all global currencies.
  • Vendio: A platform for selling your goods on multiple e-Commerce channels, including Amazon, eBay, Facebook FB -0.94% and more.

10.  Technology

  • UserTesting: Get in-depth and immediate feedback on your website experience from real users, including a video of their experience as well as written answers to your questions.
  • Jira: A simple and clean bug tracking and reporting system that helps you prioritize and assign issues and work through them quickly.
  • MixPanel: A premiere analytics service for mobile and the web, focused on measuring very specific user actions and activity.

Author : Jason Nazar

Source : http://www.forbes.com/sites/jasonnazar/2013/05/28/30-terrific-tools-for-small-businesses/#703e6fd0281a

Categorized in Business Research

We are living in ehe age of the World Wide Web and connection to the Internet, when even in the most rural areas, a raging 46% of the population manages to stay connected.

In the more developed countries, this figure increases to the majority of the population, sitting at around 96%. Nevertheless, it is abundantly clear that certain enterprises still maintain the belief that they do not require the use of a website for their customers to visit.

The arguments that they make to support this theory are abundant. However, six main absurd excuses seem to surface on average more than others. A brief summary of these can be seen on the infographic below provided by Infobrandz:

infobrandz

“A website is redundant for this particular business.”

2

Across major continents, the implementation of the Internet exceeded 75% of the total population (including both personal and business use) a mere two years ago in 2014.

These statistics have only risen higher to the current standing of 2016 which approximates an average of over 3 billion Internet users worldwide, with the development of countries globally as well as the World Wide Web.

These numbers may seem intimidating at first glance due to the potential amount of people that your website can be targeted to. However, understanding the potential target market that a website will be able to captivate can be the key to developing business for small business owners.

If you can correctly implement your website — meaning you are able to set up a unique webpage that captivates potential target market consumers with innovative content — it is highly likely that traffic to your business will significantly increase.

“The industry is not online.”

It’s been reported that 42% of the global population actively makes use of the internet in one form or another. In addition, this rate is increasing gradually by approximately 1.13% per year.

Looking at these numbers, it is clear that the Internet is intricately connected to the world’s population. Due to this fact, your clients, both current and potential, are most likely connected to the web in one form or another.

If your industry is considered one of those that do not require a web-based platform that promotes interaction with your clients, this should by no means hinder you from having your own web-based platform.

In fact, this should compel you even further to develop your website as it will give you a competitive edge, making you among the first in your industry to actively interact with your clients and prospective clients over the World Wide Web.

If you are able to be one of the first companies in your industry with a web-based background and customer interaction platform in place, there is a high probability that through the website, you will be able to command and grow your market share.

“Development of websites can be overly expensive.”

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A lot of small business owners are under the assumption that building a professional website is going to empty your bank and leave a hole in your wallet. The cost of developing websites fluctuates according to the complexity of your site. A simple website with minimum functions can cost you from $100, whereas the price for a more advanced website theme can extend to $1000 or more.

For a small company, the complexity and features of the website don’t need to be extravagant. The cost is decreased, which makes it more affordable, thus a smart choice for investment. However, throughout the web, there are even more inexpensive options. There are dozens of DIY website builders which simplify and alleviate costs, time, and effort. Sites that offer these features include Weebly and Squarespace. If you feel that creating your own website is still too much hassle, there is a wide range of much more affordable outsourcing choices when you hire developers through sites such as Upwork and Freelancer.

The use of freelancing websites can result in a much cheaper development process if you can find the correct contractor. The average cost of a website is never easy to determine. However, with freelancing sites, you can set up the development of your site on your own budget. These costs vary from freelancer to freelancer, as well as from company to company. The most accurate average for a small business website will be around $1000-$3000. The total cost includes the domain name and hosting, the design work, the programming, and the feature development, as well as other ongoing expenses.

However, it is important to compare this expense to that of the potentially exponential benefits that an online platform can have not only for the growth of your clientele and income but also for your business as a whole.

“I have enough customers.”

The essence of a successful and growing enterprise always lays in the expansion. The development of your total market share is an essential asset, critical in maintaining your business relevance. Keeping on track with this fact will enable you to grow your small home business into a company ready to serve your retirement. Having a website is an essential step.

When people are in need of a product or service, they tend to use search engines online. Lately, mobile phones have been evaluated to be the most conventional devices used for searching. As many as 44% of online shoppers make use of the search engines on their phones to make purchasing decisions. An SEO-friendly website placed near the top of Google’s search results will be privy to approximately 60% of all organic clicks. Therefore, making small business websites with friendly search engine optimization is the key to increasing your clientele and developing your business.

y

“Maintaining a website requires an extensive allocation of time.”

In the past, it was difficult and time-consuming to design and maintain a successful website. However, thanks to improvement in both code and software, no longer will your website take hours away from your day leaving you no time to rest. Maintaining your website is simple and it keeps your content appealing.

The first basic step when it comes to maintaining your website is to ensure that your domain name is paid for and relevant. Domain names can average approximately $49.

After your domain name, the next step is to secure a hosting contract. Again, different packages are offered depending on your platform requirements and the particular offers available from the hosting companies. Generally, the price ranges from $1 to $10 per month.

Site maintenance is not as difficult as one may think. If you are interested in learning how the maintenance of your website will work and all that it involves, click here.

“I use social media instead.”

Using social media is a fantastic idea for all businesses, as about 2.3 billion people make use of one social platform or another. The annual growth of the number of social media users is approximately 10 % (that’s 219 million new users each year)!

A recent survey by HubSpot was conducted with 569 participants. The report concluded that businesses are expected to be on three to four social media channels at a minimum. The below graph represents customer/potential customer expectations with regards to service response time on social media platforms:

Untitled

Furthermore, following a friendly and direct rule of engagement with those interacting with your business will improve the word of mouth to your brand.

It is true that having a stagnant website is not as useful as having an Instagram or a Snapchat account thriving with followers. However, no matter how many followers, shares, and likes you can accumulate per day, if you are not able to turn these idle potentials into fluctuating sales, is there a point to having them at all?

This is why it is vital to have a call to action such as a link to your website visible somewhere on your social media platform. This allows for more in-depth engagement as well as potential purchases from your website from leads generated by social media platforms — these two foundations work hand-in-hand.

Start developing your website today

Although it is true that a small business can do well for themselves without implementing and investing money in online platforms, building a website is not as difficult or as costly as it seems. Furthermore, the benefits of having a website for your small business is a motivation too strong to ignore. Not only will a website promote your company and increase your brand’s awareness, but over time it will also lead to more productive sales quotas and critical expansion in the future.

Source : http://www.lifehack.org/

Auhtor : 

Categorized in Business Research

As an entrepreneur or solopreneur, you are well aware of the fact that without a solid marketing framework, the longevity, revenues, and profits of your organization might not stand a chance of ascendancy. As a small business owner, you can have a great team along with great products designed to resolve the present day issues of a market segment, but if you fail to create enough awareness to said segment in relation to your company’s existence, it could lead to the demise of your entrepreneurial venture.

As a result, most of us would agree that having a solid marketing framework for your business is essential. But what marketing mediums are best to utilize to promote your products?

Traditional Mediums Aren’t The Only Mediums

There are many traditional marketing mediums to use to promote your products and they include:

  • Bulk Mail
  • Television Ads
  • Radio Ads
  • Billboard Ads
  • Print/Magazine Ads
  • Telemarketing
  • Email Marketing
  • Door-To-Door Marketing
  • Referral Marketing/Word Of Mouth

But in addition to these traditional, well-known mediums, are many innovative and alternative mediums that are working for many entrepreneurs and solopreneurs already. Many of these innovative and alternative mediums are lower in cost than some of the above traditional mediums, as well as more impactful, profitable, and productive.

The following  innovative and alternative mediums could prove to be impactful, profitable, and productive for your small business.

Search Engine Optimization

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of increasing visitors and traffic to a website through  various strategies that help the website appear higher in rankings on search engines such as Google. There are a number of marketing strategies that could be used for this, many of which will be covered here in this very article.

Press Releases

Producing many press releases over short periods of time helps to build up backlinks in major search engines like Google and shows others that your company is innovating. There are many great press release services online that you could use, some of which allow you to buy packages to send out hundreds of press releases over a period of time, which helps to not just generate news, but build up links in various search engines as mentioned.

Video Marketing

With video marketing, you would incorporate online videos into your marketing campaigns to promote products and services, or you might establish online vlogs using sites such as YouTube to provide commentary on various topics. Both of these aspects work to improve your visibility. Also using video marketing could help provide better email open rates if you include video in the subject line of your email and link to video content in the body of your email, could allow you to reach a broader internet audience, could increase the effectiveness of your online landing pages, and more. You have the option of creating your own vlog, or marketing through another blog from another content creator, that’s currently catering to your target market segment.

If you’re focusing on SEO, you might want to invest in your own video hosting service like Wistia, but if your goal is to use a social platform to spread the word about your video the Youtube might be your best bet.

Blogging

A blog is an online journal that’s regularly updated with articles and postings to a hosted website. Some blogs are created for personal entertainment use only, while others are created for commercial reasons such as to promote a product, service, genre, or movement. Blogs are inexpensive to operate, and allow you to accomplish a number of things:

  1. Allows you to connect with your target market segment
  2. Helps establish you as a category authority
  3. Helps drive traffic to your website
  4. Helps build awareness for your products/services
  5. Helps with SEO rankings by showing search engines that you’re operating an active site.

You can even use your blog to generate additional revenue in a number of ways, such as selling affiliate products through the blog, selling your own products directly through the blog, and more. Also you can create revenue indirectly through the blog, such as generating traffic and converting a percentage of said traffic to buyers/clients of products and services that you sell outside of the blog.

You have the option of creating your own blog or marketing through another blog from another content creator that’s currently catering to your target market segment.

Podcasting

A podcast is an online radio show that’s available for download off the web. You could choose to host your own podcast or market through an established podcast of another host. Within the podcast, the host will usually do a live endorsement of a product by recommending it to their audience, so make sure to choose carefully a podcast that  targets the same market segment as your customers. Or, a marketer could create an commercial spot during the commercial section of the podcast to promote their products/services.

Pay-Per-Click Advertising

Pay-per-click advertising through popular services such as Google AdWords, allows businesses to display ads but only pay for them when people actually click on the ads. A business could use keywords and other aspects to set up their pay-per-click campaigns.

Remarketing

Remarketing incorporates aspects of pay-per-click, but functions a bit differently. Remarketing is where a business will set up an advertisement and if a person clicks on the ad but doesn’t make a particular purchase, the customer will notice that the ad (or a similar ad) seems to follow them around the internet to various websites. The purpose of the marketing strategy is to keep reminding the particular “clicker” about their interest in a product or service, to get them to eventually make a purchase.

Marketing Through Other Website/Social Media Ads

Website and social media ads (such as those on LinkedIn and Facebook) are posted ads to tailored audiences of a particular website or in the case of social media, to particular users of that platform. One can usually get a good breakdown of the website’s audience as well as the social media platform’s users, to make sure that the ads are going out to the target market segment in question.

Here’s more information about marketing your business on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Commenting

Comment marketing is where you would join as a user on a popular discussion forum or blog site, then merge into the conversation by posting quality and relevant commentary in relation to the topics at hand. After some time has passed with you posted relevant and quality commentary, you can begin to incorporate light promotion of your products and services within some of your tailored responses. Reddit and Quora could be good mediums for this depending on your target audience, you could do this on other popular blogs that your customers might read.

Big Data Marketing

Finally, big data marketing is basically using a variety of available data such as public data and data you’ve collected over time from your market segment, to use such data intelligence to create more targeted and efficient marketing campaigns. The data in this case, would be used to predict customer behavior and allows you to better utilize your marketing dollars in ways that are timely and profitable.

Source : nav.com

New mutating viruses, like Locky and CryptoLocker, are quickly popping up. And many are infecting small businesses, which are now big targets for hackers.

Undercapitalized and outgunned small businesses are still the weak links in cybersecurity, even though they may have valuable data. Their percentage of IT budget directed to security has been increasing from 4.9 percent in 2010 to 7.9 percent last year, according to Ponemon Institute's annual IT security Tracking study. But spending still lags behind big companies.

Meanwhile, hackers are inventing increasingly sophisticated malware. 

"Small businesses don't believe they're targeted by bad guys," said Larry Ponemon, chairman of the research think tank. "But small businesses are now targets, since big companies have the resources for security."

Small businesses can also offer entry to bigger ones, where there's lots of data to steal. In 2013, Target's data was famously breached. But few people know that the company's vast database was actually hacked through its HVAC vendor. That attack ended up costing Target $39 million in settlements and affecting 40 million customers.

These days, malicious programs are spreading even faster than before. The FBI warns that malware attacks are on the rise. And there are now many mutations of these destructive ransomware viruses, which can infiltrate computers.

Ransomware attacks computer systems through malicious links or websites and then encrypts their files. Pop-up messages appear asking the business to pay a ransom in hundreds or thousands of dollars for systems to be restored. Lately, ransom is asked to be paid in bitcoin, which can't be tracked, adds an FBI advisory.

One ransomware variety, called CryptoLocker, spreads a virus when a malicious email attachment is clicked. Banking data is then stolen and files encrypted so they can't be used.

"Ransomware is brutally malicious and bad for small businesses," said Michael Kaiser, executive director of the National Cyber Security Alliance. "It's also quite effective, since they have data, too, and can be used as stepping stones to bigger businesses."

The upshot is that more big companies are holding small vendors accountable for data breaches, said Ponemon.

These breaches can be devastating, he added. Small business may have access to huge amounts of data, such as email marketing services. So after a breach, small business can find themselves out of business and dealing with big law suits, Ponemon said.

The upshot is that small businesses need tight cybersecurity to protect their lifeblood.

"Small businesses are now targets, since big companies have the resources for security."

And they shouldn't count on law enforcement to help, said Kaiser. The crimes occur remotely and don't have fingerprints, he noted. So it's hard to track down the bad guys. "So focus on what you can control," he said, "and how you would respond and recover."

The best defense starts with a basic security audit of key assets. Take a step back, Kaiser advised, and know what you need to protect. "Small businesses get overwhelmed by risk," he said. "But what are they at risk for?"

The objective is coming up with a risk-management approach to protect data, he said. That may mean targeting new disruptive technologies like the Internet of Things, such as a video camera that's web connected, which can be a weak link. Or protecting smartphones used for business, which are also targets for a malware that locks them down and then demands ransom, said the FBI.

"The Internet of Things is happening so quickly," said Ponemon. "If you don't control access to one part, you can corrupt the whole chain." Wi-fi networks also need to be secure.

Do a risk audit

Regularly backing up data and storing it in a secure cloud is another good defense. "It can mitigate the attack," said David Burg, PricewaterhouseCoopers cybersecurity leader. "In a highly connected world, it's especially important." If the system is infected, it can be restored.

Kaiser advised using multifactor authentication, since it's stronger than just passwords. Devices can also be encrypted for extra protection.

Security leaks are most apt to happen in the cloud, added Ponemon. So experts advise finding a reputable cloud service that's secure and can hold system information.

"Read the reviews," said Kaiser. "And do your homework, such as finding out how the cloud services are maintained. Outsourcing can save money over time."

Ultimately, malware attacks may begin with simple employee error, such as clicking on a malicious link. So Ponemon suggests that small businesses create a culture of security. That means training employees on how not to share passwords or open suspicious emails.

"Good protection starts at the computer," he said.

Source:  http://www.cnbc.com/2016/06/27/warning-a-wave-of-new-viruses-is-targeting-small-businesses.html

Categorized in Internet of Things

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