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Four Big Mistakes Your Small Business Is Making

Digital marketing has become paramount in today's business landscape. If you're not reaching out to your audience online, then you're losing the lion's share in your market to your competitors who are marketing online.

Whether you're an established small business or a promising startup, there’s no excuse for not having a sustainable digital marketing strategy anymore. Even if you have a marketing plan in place, there’s really no guarantee that your plan works well until after you’ve seriously tested and tweaked everything.

If your digital marketing plan isn’t producing the incredible results you're expecting, it’s likely that your small business is making the following mistakes right now. Become aware of these issues, and make sure you’re not falling victim to these common mistakes.

1. Your strategy doesn’t resemble a “strategy” at all

Building a website or a Facebook page doesn’t qualify as a strategy in the strictest sense. What matters is how you use these online channels to achieve the goals you’ve set forth with your plan.

When it comes to building a business website, for instance, you need to find a way to use it as a platform to sell your products and services. Aside from creating landing pages for each salable item that you have, you need to find a way to attract an audience who will find interest in the things you’re selling. One way of doing this is to create compelling content that’s worth sharing. This is beneficial for long-term SEO purposes, as well as increasing overall visibility of your brand once your content gets shared on social media.

By increasing your website traffic from your target market, you should expect to convert a fraction of those into customers or clients. Not to mention, a strategy is never a one-and-done thing - you should commit to a strategy for a prolonged period to see the product of your labor come to fruition.

By coming up with sustainable tasks with your website that are focused towards a single goal and are implemented on a consistent basis, you now have a strategy that you can scale and improve so you can increase your conversion rate.

2. You don’t stand out from the rest of the pack

With the thousands, if not millions, of online businesses in your respective niches, you need to be special to make a lasting impression on your audience. If your business doesn't separate itself from your competitors, then you have a big problem.

The bulk of the issue can be attributed to your inability to identify a unique value proposition for your online business and clearly communicate it through your preferred channels. Does your company compete on price? Maybe your site has specialized knowledge on website builder comparisons or online marketing. To actually identify your value proposition, you need to learn how to do competitive research. This means taking a closer look at the online activities of your best competitors and see the good and the not-so-good things they’re doing.

By getting a better idea of their online habits and what they do to make their audience tick, you will have a greater understanding of what you must do to separate yourself from them.

Most of the data from competitor research is drawn from research tools like BuzzSumo, Ahrefs and others. Using either allows you to uncover the sites linking back to them and how they can do so, among other things. You can also analyze how each of their best-performing pages is constructed so you can replicate their technique and put a twist of your own. By interpreting the data correctly, you will be able to create content that resonates with your target market.

3. You don’t deliver what you promise

While I’ve touched on the importance of consistency, it deserves to be mentioned again. Business owners should be in it for the long haul, which means that their ventures are a marathon and not a sprint. It doesn't matter how fast you start - what is important is how you finish.

A component of consistency is setting out what you promised to your audience. If you can't comply with your self-imposed number of blog posts or newsletters in a week, then you risk losing the trust of your readers. The fact that you can't adhere to your rules is telling of your commitment, not to your business, but to your audience, your inability to comply to your word is indicative of how terrible your business is.

Internally at X3 Digital, to avoid losing the respect of our audience, my design agency makes sure that we practice consistency to temper audience expectation and keep people satisfied with our rate of production. Even if you feel understaffed and overworked, there are ways to work around these obstacles. You can always outsource smartly so you can delegate the menial tasks and focus on gauging the results. You can also look into marketing automation solutions so you can set pieces of your workflow into autopilot and put your mind at ease.

4. Your analytic data is lacking

At the very heart of digital marketing is one's ability to learn from mistakes. As a business owner, you need to learn how to take failures in stride and learn from them so you can apply them to your next campaign. However, tracking every move you make is another discipline in and of itself.

Private Party Band, a Florida-based corporate and wedding band, had been running new ad campaigns for their business, but had no KPIs or valuable analytics in place to track the success of their ad campaigns. This is an all-too-common mistake small businesses make when launching new set of ads for social media, starting a blog for your company or sending emails to your subscribers.

You need to find a way to measure the performances of each; this way, you can analyze the information into bite-sized data for you to review later on. From here, you can gauge which campaigns worked, which didn't and why. Understanding what makes for a successful campaign starts with setting up your tracking tools so you can keep learning and get better at promoting business online.

For starters, you need to learn how to use Google Analytics and align your website with your goals. While the tool covers lots of data to help your site succeed, you may need to other analytics tools that let you conduct A/B testing, micro-surveys and heat mapping to name a few.

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9 Resources to Get You Prepared for Tax Season

Don't let tax season overwhelm you. Utilize these nine resources to help you take the stress out of preparing your taxes for Uncle Sam.

April really is the cruelest month. But when British poet T.S. Eliot immortalized those famous words in his literary masterpiece "The Waste Land," he never could've known that they would end up ringing true for business owners and entrepreneurs living in 21st-century America.

Getting all of your receipts, financial documents and bank statements in order can be an arduous task. But there are solutions so that you can focus more on running your business and less on sifting through mountains of paperwork. Seeking outside help from a trusted accountant or bookkeeper is a great option, and technology has taken the grunt work out of organizing and preparing your own tax records -- making April not seem nearly as cruel as it used to be.

We asked nine entrepreneurs from YEC to share the resources they use to simplify things and help get their taxes in order.

 

Issuing 1099s was always a slow, costly process that required a CPA or advanced knowledge of Quickbooks. New online services such as Track1099 make processing your business' 1099s much easier. These services connect to your accounting program, pull the information from the appropriate recipients of 1099s and take care of all the communication with both the recipient and the IRS. Online and cheap. - Diego Orjuela, Cables & Sensors

Mint is a great way to review your business transactions from the past year. It is a mobile finance app you can link to credit cards, bank accounts and investment funds. Mint will automatically tag and categorize purchases to help you identify donations, gifts and other tax-deductible expenses that you've incurred over the year. - Adelyn Zhou, TOPBOTS

Intuit recently launched a new offering called QuickBooks Self-Employed (QBSE), which is perfect for small businesses that aren't ready to jump into the full-service offering that most are used to seeing advertised. QBSE is great for independent contractors and freelancers as it allows a user to quickly and easily detangle expenses that might be intermingled across personal/business accounts. - Corey Eulas, Factorial Digital

We implemented Xero about two years ago, and it is a great cloud accounting solution with superb integration for other platforms so that you have Xero as the heart of your organization. There's also lots of customization possibilities due to their open API. We are still using a personal accounting firm, but remotely, we use Xero as a cloud accounting solution. - Philipp Mohr, Hashplay Inc

The best way to plan for taxes is not to leave everything until the last second. Hire a good bookkeeper and have them take care of your books year round. I'd recommend having them utilize a widely used system like Quickbooks Online, which will give you real-time access to your financials. This will allow you to focus on growing your business as opposed to spending more time on taxes. - Mitch Gordon, Go Overseas

I like Evernote because I can put all my files, notes and receipts in one place via a cloud-storage format. It just makes it easy when I'm on the go and can save and upload from anywhere. - John Rampton, Due

I absolutely love using QuickBooks Online to help keep me organized and my books reconciled for tax time. It has made my life so much easier, and I love their mobile app for ease of use while I'm traveling or on the go. I can actually run payroll off my smartphone -- how cool! - Rachel Beider, Massage Greenpoint, Massage Williamsburg

In addition to many of the other well-known tax software products out there, Google Sheets is definitely going to come in handy. Google Sheets is free to use and nearly identical to Excel -- with even more benefits. Access your data from anywhere and also share or convert to a different file type with the click of a button. - Zac Johnson, Blogger

Outsource your taxes. It’s not going to be expensive if you use an independent accountant that has your best interests at heart. You can make more money in the time (not to mention avoid the headaches) that you'll save yourself. - Thomas Smale, FE International

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Cutting Your Restaurant’s Operations Costs

Running a restaurant is expensive. You have operational costs that seem to only go up, regardless of your restaurant's success.

Running a restaurant is expensive. You have operational costs that seem to only go up, regardless of your restaurant's success. You can turn your hard-earned cash at the end of each day into more profit if you cut costs in a few areas without cutting into the quality of your food or service.

Look at your restaurant with the eye of an environmentalist. You may find areas in which you can save money and help the environment. For example, if you're using traditional incandescent lighting, you could switch out bulbs for fluorescent lighting.

You can also save on energy costs if you turn off equipment that isn't in use for an hour a day – you can save up to $400 per year on ovens, according to Shipley Energy. If you swap out your regular toilets in your restaurant with low-flow toilets, you can save up to $1,000 over a year, depending on the cost of water in your area.

Another benefit to going green, or greener, is that sustainability sells.

Customers who are environmentally conscious are more likely to spend money at a restaurant that shows how it's helping the cause.

You can also save on energy costs if you turn off equipment that isn't in use for an hour a day – you can save up to $400 per year on ovens, according to Shipley Energy. If you swap out your regular toilets in your restaurant with low-flow toilets, you can save up to $1,000 over a year, depending on the cost of water in your area.

Another benefit to going green, or greener, is that sustainability sells. Customers who are environmentally conscious are more likely to spend money at a restaurant that shows how it's helping the cause.

 

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Mobile Wallet Guide: Android Pay vs. Apple Pay vs. Samsung Pay

Paper money is so 2015. Just pull out your phone and click to pay. But which one should you use?

You no longer need to carry a bulky wallet filled with numerous credit cards or cash. With a mobile wallet, you simply use your smartphone to pay for your transactions. Most electronic wallets are free and to begin, you just download the app on your smartphone. Many of these apps, such as Apple Pay, Android Pay and Samsung Pay, are becoming increasingly popular and compatible with many card readers, credit cards and banks.

Android Pay, Apple Pay and Samsung Pay are some of the most common mobile wallets available. Aside from the differences in mobile platforms, there are many advantages and limitations to each option.

android-pay-logo

With Android Pay, you can add most credit, debit and gift cards to the application. You can also store all your loyalty cards within the application as well, helping you maintain reward points. With Android Pay you don’t need to open the actual application when making a transaction. Android Pay uses near field communication technology (NFC). This allows you to transmit all your credit card information between your phone and the card reader. If the store has a newer card reader and accepts this mobile wallet, you can simply hold your phone to the card reader, while the phone is open. There is no fingerprint authentication required with this application.

Security is always a concern when it comes to your financial information. Instead of using your actual credit card number and other personal information when you use Android Pay, this application uses a virtual account number, ensuring that all your personal information is secured on your phone. And if your phone is lost or stolen, you can easily lock the phone, create a new password or completely wipe all financial information until the phone is recovered again.

apple-pay-logo

Android Pay and Apple Pay have many similarities. For example, when using Apple Pay, you also hold your phone unlocked to the card reader. However, Apple Pay requires fingerprint authentication for the transaction to be complete. You can pay with either your smartphone or with an Apple Watch. You can make in-app purchases as well as payments online using this mobile wallet. Apple Pay is also compatible with most credit cards and U.S. banks.

When you make a purchase using Apple Pay, your receipts are kept in your mobile wallet but the transaction information is not stored elsewhere. Like Android Pay, your credit card information is not used for the transaction. Instead, a specific number is used, eliminating the chance of stolen credit cards and fraud.

samsung-pay-logo

Samsung Pay is much more limited than Android Pay and Apple Pay. This electronic wallet is only available on the newest Samsung Galaxy phones, Galaxy S6 Edge+, Galaxy Note 5, Galaxy S6 active and Galaxy S2 and S3.

When you use this electronic wallet, you can add any qualifying Visa, MasterCard or American Express credit cards. Additionally, more than 650 banks and credit unions support Samsung Pay. You can also add gift cards and loyalty cards, helping you more easily manage and use them. If a card has a barcode located on it, it can be stored on the electronic wallet.

When you pay using Samsung Pay, you access the card you wish to use on the app, validate your purchase and place your phone near the card reader. You can also pay for online purchases when on your phone by using Samsung Pay and verify the purchase with your fingerprint.

One advantage to Samsung Pay is it works with most card readers. It uses both NFC technology and magnetic secure transmission (MST) technology. MST technology emits a magnetic signal that acts like magnetic strip that you find on most credit cards. This allows you to use this electronic wallet at more terminals than similar applications.

When it comes to the security of Samsung Pay, numerous security measures are in place. You must verify every purchase with your fingerprint or by entering a pin number. Additionally, your credit card number is never used for transactions, instead a random set of number is used. If you fear storing all your credit card information on your phone, all account information is encrypted and stored in a data vault.