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The 'Sexy' and Weird Little Truth of the First Year of Business

Starting out for the first time is not glamorous.
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This article was translated from our Spanish edition using AI technologies. Errors may exist due to this process.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Nobody disputes that running your own business is very rewarding. I have seen the glamorous photos on Instagram of businessmen enjoying the beach and on Facebook I have found posts that say “I love my job !!!!!!” (with everything and the errors in the exclamation marks).
Entrepreneurship can be great, but let’s be honest, running your own business can also be difficult and scary. What can you expect from your first year of business?This is the naked truth of how mine was.
1. There is much more administration than I expectedDuring my first year of business I tried to spend as little as possible. I did everything I could myself. For example, I spent 10 hours a day learning to drive on my social media; I optimized my profiles hundreds of times, got millions of customer testimonials, and so on. And all of that took a long time.
2. I used to eat at my deskMost days I had lunch on my MacBook. Either that or she would buy junk food that she “sniffed” between client appointments. None of that is fancy or healthy. Sometimes I did it because I had little time, but other times it was because I got stuck finishing a project. However, it is essential to take care of your health, something that did not matter to me. Which brings me to my next point.
3. I gained 10 kilogramsI’ve never been too skinny, but I gained weight from bad habits that I was sabotaging myself with. Eating on top of my computer, skipping breakfast, not moving around enough, not eating dinner until I was starving and then eating whatever I found. Sadly the list goes on and it is very common among new entrepreneurs. We dive headlong into our work and put everything else in the background. Why do we do that to ourselves? Not well. I have lost half the weight I gained by adopting new habits, but it is difficult.
4. I made bad decisionsIt was very difficult for me to establish my personal brand. For a while I tried to represent what other people wanted to see in me and not only did I not succeed, it made me feel false. But that’s the lesson of experience: when you know more, you decide better. Learning from your mistakes helps you do better next time.
5. I had to ask a lot of helpIn my first year of business I launched a series of online courses. I didn’t know anything about the required technology, so I had to ask for help, something that is very difficult for me. I didn’t know much about making videos or even how to take courses, but admitting how little I knew helped me learn from those who were experts.6. I improved my work all the timeIn my first post it sounded like a corporate robot, but now I have another voice. I’ve rewritten articles and posts, experimented with social media, improved programs, and so on. I’ve done a lot of trial and error. Building a business is a process, not a to-do list to check off. The reality that work is never really done can be frustrating at times.
7. I was terrified all the time!Launching your product and service without being certain that it will succeed is terrifying. It is about generating a new company, finding clients, sharing your ideas, promoting your work, asking for help, that is, you are always vulnerable. Running your own business, especially at the beginning, is like bringing your heart out.
However, once you start to gain experience the fear subsides and you start to enjoy your adventure. Do not give up!

How To Prepare A Business Plan That Is Useful In Practice

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If you have an innovative app idea, you should write a concise, high-level go to market plan. Here’s … [+] how to prepare a business plan that actually helps you in practice.
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Have you ever seen one of those 50-page business plans that go into detail about every conceivable aspect of a still purely theoretical business? You probably have, since those business plans have been the industry standard for decades.
Yet, in a world where words like lean and agile are becoming the new norm for startups, 50-page business plans look a bit out of place, and with a good reason.
It’s a fact that creating a plan is very helpful for a new business. A study of more than 10 thousand businesses shows that ventures grow 30% faster on average if they create business plans.

However, another study indicates that innovative startups in more dynamic environments benefit from shorter planning. The reason is simply – innovative startups are less familiar with their business environment and more particularly – the exact needs of their customers. This means that the plan is likely to change often, and the more detailed the plan, the higher the chance it deviates from reality.
This claim is supported by the fact that business plans are more effective for existing companies rather than for new startups. A company with at least a few years of history is far more likely to have a deeper understanding of their customers, allowing for more accurate plans firmly based on reality.

So, simply put, if you have an innovative app idea, you should write a concise, high-level go to market plan. For the plan to be helpful in practice, it needs to be designed in a way that makes it easy for your startup team to be on the same page while at the same time being easy to update.
In the startup world, the so-called Lean Canvas is becoming very popular to satisfy this need. To a degree, it is replacing the traditional business plan. It is designed to fit all the necessary information in a single A4 sheet of paper, which makes it easy to share and update.
The sections in the lean canvas are designed to help you summarize the most important aspects of your business idea.
Problem: Arguably the most important section. Understanding the problem in depth is what would allow you to build a commercially viable solution. In an ideal world, you’d be able to define the problem accurately right from the start. In reality, however, you would most likely have to update your definition of the problem as you gather insights from your customers.
Solution: The second half of the main equation. The definition of your solution would most likely change more often than the definition of your problem in the search for product-market fit. Those changes would usually be very rapid during the period of testing different ideas (solutions) in the early stages of the startup.
Key Metrics: Ideally, you will be able to find a single metric that clearly reflects if customers are finding value in your product or service. It usually is some kind of usage metric specific to your business. Don’t chase vanity metrics (social media followers, capital raised, website visitors, etc.) because they are often deceiving and have weak correlations with the success of the company.
Unique Value Proposition: What distinguishes you from the other solutions available on the market?
Unfair Advantage: Why are you in a position to be successful instead of someone else?
Channels: How would you reach your customers? Keep in mind that as a startup, you usually don’t have a lot of resources. This means that it is usually better to focus strongly on one channel rather than diffuse your efforts into multiple channels.
Customer Segments: Who is your ideal customer? Again, as a startup, it is usually better to focus. Solve the problem of one customer profile (your minimum viable segment) rather than trying to satisfy the various demands of numerous market segments in futility.
Cost Structure: Quite self-explanatory, it helps you visualize and think through the financial specificities of your business.
Revenue Streams: What’s your business model and how would you earn money? Refining this is very important to make your business sustainable and scalable. However, try to focus on this point only after you have found a problem-solution fit in practice. It doesn’t matter what your business model is if people don’t need what you are offering.
In conclusion, for a startup venture seeking to introduce an innovative solution, a plan is comprised of a series of hypotheses or educated guesses. Spend less time guessing and more time validating. The lean canvas is an excellent tool that allows you to plan, execute and adjust quickly.

Why Buyers Are On The Hunt For One-Person E-Commerce Businesses

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2021 could be a boom year for e-commerce business owners who want to sell. With U.S. e-commerce sales up 40% in 2020, according to Digital Commerce 360, buyers are circling. 
Gary Huang, a seasoned e-commerce seller on Amazon and eBay and founder of the 7-Figure Seller Summit, a free community event now underway, says one of the biggest trends this year is the desire of well-funded institutional investors such as the unicorn Thrasio in buying and consolidating small e-commerce stores. Buyers in this sector have been raising cash to invest since approximately 2018 but the trend has picked up in recent years, he says.

E-commerce merchant Gary Huang, founder of the 7-Figure Seller Summit
7-Figure Seller Summit
Many are focused on Amazon businesses, he says. Institutional buyers like Amazon stores because they tend to generate steady cash, he says. “Every two weeks, you get a payment from Amazon,” he says.  

Why is there so much interest now? “Because e-commerce is booming,” says Huang. “In the pandemic, many shoppers are shifting their spending to online.” 
That trend is expected to continue, as new groups of shoppers continue to gravitate toward e-commerce. “Americans over the age of 65 are the fastest-growing group of online shoppers,” notes Huang. And with the pandemic acting as a “growth serum” to businesses on Amazon, which controls close to one-third of online retail sales—buyers recognize that the trend is going to continue.
At the same time, with many brick-and-mortar retail chains filing for bankruptcy protection “online is far outpacing offline retail right now,” says Huang. “Investors are realizing this.” 
That’s good news for owners of tiny e-commerce businesses. “For the one-person business, this is their most valuable asset,” says Huang. “It could be worth more than their car or home. By selling their business, this could be the biggest sum of income they ever get.”

If you’re running an e-commerce business, how do you make the most of the trend? Here is some advice, based on my conversation with Huang. 
Consider whether you are willing or able invest the capital it would take to grow your business. Many owners of businesses with growth potential find that it will cost them more than they think to take their store to the next level. “To get from the seven-figure to the eight-figure level takes a huge amount of money,” says Huang. “Many entrepreneurs are not willing to make that investment.”
Understand market trends. Among the most popular categories of online retail right now are baby products, health and fitness, and workout gear, says Huang. Less desirable is fashion, which has been on the decline, and electronics, which has thin margins, says Huang.
Go beyond that one killer product. Buyers tend to avoid stores that have a single “hero” product that generates most of their sales, according to Huang. “You’ve got to diversify,” he says. 
Make sure you can make a strong financial case for your business. Successful sellers generally will have steady or growing sales above $1 million annually and ideally $3-5 million, he says. Typically, these sellers are pricing their business based on 12- to 24-months of proven sales. “You have to have really strong performance,” says Huang. “They like solid margins of at least 30% profitability.” 
Good record-keeping is essential. The sellers who are finding buyers have a profit & loss statement, balance sheet and other records ready. “You’ve got to have clean books and know your numbers,” says Huang. Sellers with attractive businesses are seeing multiples of 2.5-3.5 of earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBIDTA), he says. 
Determine if your business can be optimized. Many institutional buyers want to roll up similar one-person businesses and combine them into a single larger business, according to Huang. Buyers are looking for small stores that offer some room for improvement. “They want to make them more efficient and take advantage of the economies of scale,” he says.
Their end game, he says, is to increase the businesses’ valuation by doing things such as increasing the size of the average sale and flip them later, he says. If you have not been able to invest in doing that through increased advertising but there is potential there, your business could be attractive to a buyer.
Be candid. Make sure to be forthcoming about any challenges in the business. “Buyers don’t like surprises,” says Huang. Deals can fall through if buyers are not compliant with Amazon’s rules and, for instance, have asked for incentivized reviews or used a lot of rebates to generate sales. “They’re not sustainable from the buyer’s perspective,” Huang says.  
That said, if you have all of the pieces in place, it’s a good time to speak with a business broker, he says. “A lot of investors have cash and are ready to buy,” says Huang.

How to Stop Obsessing Over Your Mistakes

This article was translated from our Spanish edition using AI technologies. Errors may exist due to this process.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Are you also one of the people who keeps going over past situations? Surely you repeat over and over in your mind as ways you could have done better. Something less silly than to say or not to ” drop the ball” in that project.
Doing this too much is known as “ruminating.” It is a form of negative meditation that can block you from advancing in your goals. This is because by remembering events in the past you evoke the same negative emotions in the present. You can come to punish yourself for that gap that exists between the ideal and reality. You blame yourself for not being more organized, ambitious, smart, disciplined, etc.
Rumination is not only an unpleasant activity, it is also linked to a decrease in problem-solving ability, increased anxiety and even depression.
Do not worry. The good news is that breaking this cycle is much easier than you think.
The first step is to identify the triggers
It’s easy if you make a list of what was happening from the last times you experienced something that you tend to rethink a lot.
Usually your trigger list can have things like:
Taking bad financial advice
Make a big career change
Collaborate with people you didn’t trust
Working with people who seemed smarter than you
Solve it by creating distance
Now, create a little space between you and the thought that you review so much. It is a technique that works very well in meditation to gain clarity about reality.
For example, if you tend to develop anxiety when you rethink about the time you failed to complete a task perfectly, pay attention to your thinking. Instead of thinking “I am not competent”, change your internal speech to something like “I have the feeling of not being competent.” You can even create more space by saying “My mind has the feeling that I am not competent.”
This will help you recognize that no matter how powerful your thoughts are (as they affect your reality), you are not them. Identify that wanting everything to go perfectly is an impossibility. And obsessing over something that can’t be is just a waste of time. In this case, also energy that you can invest to improve the next time.
Distinguish rumination from learning
Reviewing situations from the past is a great way to learn to improve. But in the case of rumination, the returns are diminished the more you do it. It quickly becomes a source of anxiety rather than learning.
For example, a study published in the Journal of Social & Clinical Psychology found that women who tend to ruminate took a month longer than the average person to seek help after detecting abnormalities in their breasts.
To change your mind from ruminating to learning, simply ask yourself, “What is the best decision right now?” Start with the first step, it doesn’t matter if it’s not perfect or as detailed as you can do. This is extremely helpful for people who are perfectionists and are paralyzed by fear or anguish of making a mistake again.
Train your mind to detach
As soon as you identify that your mind has entered a ruminant state, physically distract yourself for a few minutes. Focus your mind on some other activity that demands your attention, but is not strenuous. It could be cleaning your inbox, filling out an expense report, or even going for a walk. When finished, go back to the task you were doing before your mind began to ruminate.
Practicing yoga or meditation is another great way to train your mind. It is impossible to stop the thoughts that your mind offers you. It is precisely through meditation that you can train your mind to attend to thoughts, correctly identify them and separate them from reality, and finally return your mind to the present. Ultimately this (bringing your mind back to the present) is exactly what you need your mind to do when you ruminate.
Look for errors in your thinking
Sometimes rumination is activated by errors in our cognitive process. The problem is that we are usually not good at detecting these errors. Particularly when we are already ruminating, because this already clouds our thinking.
The solution in this case is to develop a good understanding in advance of the errors in our logic. Over time, those moments of calm we can have greater clarity. Pay attention to what your logic dictates in these moments to be clear in moments of anxiety.
For example, Alice Boyes, PhD in clinical psychology and author of The Healthy Mind Toolkit gives us a personal example in a book.
“Often when reading work-related emails I am faced with one or two statements that annoy me. As a result, I end up invalidating or misinterpreting the rest of the message. But as I am aware of this pattern in M i, learned not to ruminate on my first impressions. Instead, I reread the mail the next day, and I realize that my first impression was wrong. ”
Another cognitive error is usually having very high expectations of ourselves, or misinterpreting the expectations of others. We tend to underestimate the possibility that people equal or more capable than us also have acceptance problems. We drown in a glass of water.
If you start to ruminate on the behavior of others and attribute a cause to that behavior, at least keep the possibility that your explanation of the cause may be wrong. Or accept the possibility that we may never know the real reason. The latter is a great way to escape the trap of constantly rummaging for imaginary reasons.
Conclusions
Rumination is a fairly common problem. More than we would like to acknowledge. The first step in breaking the cycle is recognizing when your mind begins to ruminate unproductively. Then have strategies ready and at hand for when you have to return your mind to the present.
This training will take a little time, but it is a great skill to increase your productivity and emotional well-being. You can change your mentality from “I should have …” to a “The best thing to do now is …”

5 of the Wildest, Craziest Marketing Stunts We've Seen from Taco Bell

February 13, 2021 8 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Easily one of the most popular consumer brands in the United States, Taco Bell is a name practically every American knows for its distinctive gastronomic offerings. “Taco Bell is unique in the sense that there’s not really a major competitor to it in that space,” Georgia State University Franchise Entrepreneurship Professor Benjamin Lawrence said in our feature article about the company topping the 2020 Franchise 500 ranking.
This year, despite the challenges brought about by the pandemic, Taco Bell retains its top spot on Entrepreneur’s 2021 Franchise 500 ranking. The advantage of being in a “category of one” appears to remain strongly in effect.
It’s also noteworthy that Taco Bell has a clear understanding of its target market — millennials. As it shifted its target customers from family diners to working and job-seeking millennials, it continuously innovated and delivered enhanced customer experiences. Of note, Taco Bell took digitalization so seriously that it became the first quick-service restaurant to offer an order-and-pay-ahead scheme through a mobile app.
“There is no one out there like us,” said then-Vice President of Technology, Rafik Hanna, in a keynote presentation at the ICX Summit in Dallas. “We march to the beat of our own drum. Innovation and creativity are part of our DNA.”
Related: How Taco Bell Is Becoming the World’s Most Innovative Franchise
But enough of Taco Bell’s history. In light of the company’s top franchise citation, it is worth revisiting five of the most creative and attention-grabbing marketing campaigns Taco Bell has done so far. The company, founded by Glen Bell in California, does not excel only because of its relatively unique position in the fast-food market. It also has a knack for hosting some of the craziest and wildest marketing stunts. Let’s count down their top five crazies.
1. Debris pitch game on the Pacific Ocean
Russia’s modular space station Mir was scheduled to deorbit on March 23, 2001. Taco Bell’s marketing team took advantage of this globally-covered event to launch a ridiculously impressive promotion.
The company set up a gigantic floating target board into the Pacific Ocean, where Mir’s debris was expected to fall. According to the announced promo mechanics, everyone in the United States would be entitled to get a free Taco Bell taco if a piece of the space station landed on the floating target board.
This stunt was extremely risky for the company’s finances so Taco Bell purchased a sizable insurance policy to cover the potential costs of giving away more than 280 million free tacos. The insurer estimated the cost to be around $10 million.
All of Mir burned up as it entered Earth’s atmosphere, so no part of the space station reached the floating target. Taco Bell won the risky gamble as it gained global media coverage for the stunt and increased brand awareness and sales.
2. Steal a base, steal a taco
In 2007, Taco Bell started another free-taco-for-everyone promo linked to the World Series. This time the likelihood of Taco Bell “losing” and customers “winning” was dramatically higher. Taco Bell announced that if any player from either of the competing teams stole a base in the World Series, everyone in the United States would get free tacos.
Boston Red Sox’s Jacoby Ellsbury managed to steal a base in Game 2 of the 2007 World Series. The company delivered on its promise and gave away tacos to American customers on October 30, 2007. 
Taco Bell apparently realized that the promo to give all Americans free tacos does not cost as much as they earlier projected in the Mir space station stunt. Not everyone goes to a Taco Bell store and asks for the prize. Also, the company imposed a one taco per person limit and a 2 pm to 6 pm duration for claiming the free taco.
The company decided to do the same marketing campaign for several other World Series events, the latest of which was in 2020, where Los Angeles Dodgers’ Mookie Betts stole a base in Game 1. This was the ninth time Taco Bell gave away free tacos.
3. The Hoax Coax
In mid-2012, Taco Bell learned about a hoax spreading in Bethel, Alaska, which claimed that the company was set to open in the town of a little over 6,000 people. The company clarified it was not true and went beyond by doing something the national media and social media sites were sure to cover.
Taco Bell’s Irvine franchise sent a Taco Bell truck to the remote town using a helicopter. The truck had enough ingredients to prepare up to 10,000 tacos. It carried hundreds of pounds of beef, sour cream, tomatoes, lettuce and cheddar cheese.
Today, there are still no plans to open a Taco Bell franchise in Bethel. However, the well-received act was surely remembered by those in Alaska, some of whom said it was the first time they tasted tacos again after decades. The story also continues to appear online in various publications.
4. Pop-up hotel with unlimited free tacos
Before Covid hit, Taco Bell successfully launched another promotional campaign that attracted widespread interest. In May 2019, the company announced the opening of a pop-up hotel in Palm Spring, Calif. The fully furnished Taco Bell themed hotel was set to be open for only four days and came with the guarantee of free unlimited tacos for guests.
In less than two minutes, the hotel was already fully booked. The rooms started at $169 per night. The hotel had a salon as well as a gift shop that sold Taco Bell themed clothes and other merchandise.
Taco Bell once again gained free media coverage with many online news sites and at least one TV station featuring the story. Notably, the headlines focused on how the short-lived pop-up hotel sold all of its vacancies in a couple of minutes, showing how many customers are interested in the brand.
5. The April Fools’ Taco Liberty Bell
Even back in 1996, when internet penetration was not that high and social media was nonexistent, Taco Bell already showed an affinity to viral marketing. The company launched an April Fools’ joke that turned out to be a bit controversial but somehow worth doing for the sake of free media coverage.
On April 1, 1996, the company ran an ad in The New York Times that boldly declared, “Taco Bell Buys the Liberty Bell.” The rest of the ad expressed the company’s pleasure of having purchased one of the symbols of American independence, saying that “it will now be called the ‘Taco Liberty Bell’ and will still be accessible to the American public for viewing.”
The prank ad resulted in thousands of people calling the National Park in Philadelphia to complain about the sale of the national treasure. Taco Bell eventually revealed the joke. The hullabaloo was a win for the company as it saw its revenues increase by $500,000 on the day of the stunt and a higher increase of $600,000 the day after. Entrepreneur considers this one of the most successful marketing stunts ever.
Viral marketing is said to have started in the mid-1990s. Arguably, Taco Bell is one of the earliest users of this promotional strategy as evidenced by the prank ad. The company has since continued taking advantage of this style of indirect advertising and has been successful in doing so.
Related: Taco Bell Is Working With Beyond Meat to Create a New Plant-Based Protein
Initiative to take on big ideas 
What makes Taco Bell different in its approach to viral marketing, though, is the willingness to try explosive ideas others have not tried before or are afraid to attempt doing. Instead of fearing the possible backlash, the company explored fresh concepts many would likely find ridiculous but inevitably pay some attention to.
Taco Bell knows how to make people talk about its brand. For the company, it appears the objective is to launch something that people will notice and discuss instead of putting out creative campaigns that eventually become viral.
This is in line with the company’s focus on targeting millennials. In the age of widespread internet access and social media, Taco Bell acknowledges that the traditional advertising styles of fast-food chains handing out flyers and posting print and billboard ads are no longer as effective as they used to be.
Taco Bell understands its market and knows how to leverage social media. “The way I believe our brand is positioned is it’s a brand that drives culture,” said Taco Bell President Brian Niccol in an interview with Entrepreneur.
Modern culture is largely shaped by social media and the online world. With its strong social media presence, Taco Bell sees to it that it catches the attention of its potential customers while riding on free coverage and the benefits of word of mouth marketing through the internet. Taco Bell is being regarded as a social media superstar with more than 10 million Facebook likes and nearly 10 million followers, more than 1 million Twitter followers, and hundreds of thousands of followers on Instagram.

SBIR – STTR Summit Training for Government Contracting

Federal contracts are some of the most lucrative contracts a small business can receive. However, there are many challenges in being accepted as a federal contractor. The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) summit is providing a workshop on Government Contracting.
The SBIR and STTR are competitive programs that provide grants to small businesses ready to engage in Federal Research and Development (R&D) that has the potential for commercialization. The SBIR/STTR market is an underutilized path of opportunity for small businesses to form relationships with the federal government.
This live online meeting is going to help small business owners enter the market by learning from successful subject matter experts. The SBIR/STTR Summit will bring together innovators, creators, and entrepreneurs from commercial, government, and academia.
The workshop is going to be held on Feb. 23 from 9 am to 3 pm (CST), so click on the red button and take advantage of this workshop.
Register Now

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Learn how to build, segment, and nurture your email lists in order to improve engagement and retain quality campaign subscribers. In this webinar you will also gain a better understanding of GDPR, avoiding spam filters, and the importance of keeping your lists clean.
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Learn how to create automated email marketing campaigns to streamline your customer acquisition process. You’ll also learn about managing your sender reputation score, as well as key email marketing metrics to track to make sure your emails are performing as well as they can.
WEBINAR: What Business Structure is Right for You?April 28, 2021, Online
Picking a business structure is usually the first big legal decision for a new business owner and one of the most confusing. However confusing, it is an essential step to protecting your personal assets from any liabilities of the company. In this webinar, Nellie Akalp CEO of CorpNet.com, will share insight on business entities to help guide you to the best decision for your new venture.
WEBINAR: Best State to IncorporateJuly 28, 2021, Online
Some say Delaware, others say Nevada while someone else may say your home state. What is the best state to register a business in? What if your business is expanding into new territory? At what point should you Foreign Qualify? Nellie Akalp, CEO of CorpNet.com, will go in-depth to answer these questions and more in this webinar.
WEBINAR: Steps to Start Your BusinessOctober 20, 2021, Online
Starting a business can be an exhilarating time, where everything seems full of potential and purpose. But navigating the logistics of launching a business can be daunting. In this webinar Nellie Akalp, CEO of CorpNet.com, will outline the steps necessary to legally start a business and get up and running on the right foot.
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10 Ways to Improve Customer Communication to Make More Sales

Communicating with customers is key to converting sales and growing your business. And there are many ways to improve your communication strategies with customers and prospects. Learn how to make the most of your marketing with these tips from members of the online small business community.

Find the Best Lead Magnets for Your Marketing
Effective marketing requires finding relevant leads who may turn into recurring customers. Lead magnets help to bring in these potential customers. So what are the best lead magnets for marketing a small business? Ivana Taylor of DIY Marketers dives into the topic here.
Increase Contact Form Conversions
Contact forms are commonly used by customers who have questions about products or services. And the way you communicate with people after that initial contact can make a major impact. Learn how to increase conversions in this Funnel Overload post by Matt Moran. Then head to the BizSugar community to see what members are saying.
Utilize Google My Business Messaging on Desktop
Some customers prefer to reach out to businesses by phone or email. But online messaging options are becoming increasingly popular. Making it easy for customers to reach you can be a major benefit. And a new option from Google may help small businesses achieve this goal. Learn more in this Search Engine Land post by Barry Schwartz.
Improve Customer Relationships with Data
Learning about your customers can help you communicate with them more effectively. That’s just one reason why gathering data is so important. If you want to improve customer relationships and communication, read this Sprout Social post by Jenn Chen.
Take Advantage of the Rise of Influencer Marketing
Sometimes, the best way to communicate with customers is through a third party. An influencer they trust may be the perfect way to get a message across. That’s just one reason for the recent rise in influencer marketing. Ivan Widjaya discusses the trend further in this Noobpreneur post.
Find the Best Social Media Tools for Marketers
Social media has become an increasingly popular method for communicating with customers. But the sheer number of platforms can seem overwhelming to some. So how do you find the best options? This Content Marketing Institute post by Aaron Orendorff features a lengthy list.
Get the Best Bang for Your Buck on Social Media
Social media sites are often free to use. But they have to make money somehow. That’s why many charge for advertising and other features that improve your ability to communicate with customers. If you want to increase your reach, a small investment may be worth it. Neil Patel shares how to maximize your investment here.
Make Use of Offline Marketing
There are so many ways to communicate with customers online. But offline marketing still offers plenty of benefits. In this Inspire to Thrive post, Lisa Sicard discusses the power of offline marketing. And BizSugar members shared their thoughts on the post here.
Reduce Customer Attrition During a Crisis
A crisis may dramatically impact the way customers view your business. But the way you communicate with them may help you avoid loss. Learn how to minimize damage in this Process Street post by Leks Drakos.
Win Customers with Reassuring Design
Words aren’t the only way to communicate with customers. Design can also share a message about your brand. So it’s important to learn about the psychological aspects of designing branding and marketing materials. Katie Lundin discusses the concept in this Crowdspring post.
If you’d like to suggest your favorite small business content to be considered for an upcoming community roundup, please send your news tips to: sbtips@gmail.com.
Image: Depositphotos.com

The 3 Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Get Out of Bed

What is the first thing you think of when you wake up? Use those minutes before starting your day to reflect and prepare for job challenges.
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This article was translated from our Spanish edition using AI technologies. Errors may exist due to this process.

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The first hours of the morning are ideal to clear your mind for the rest of the day.
As an entrepreneur, one of the best practices is to start your day with upbeat and daring questions that will allow you to visualize what comes next. This helps you be prepared for opportunities throughout the day, opening your eyes for when inevitable challenges appear. We recommend you ask yourself these three questions before leaving bed:
1. Who can I help today? There is a famous phrase of Plato that says “Be kind, because each person you meet is fighting a tough battle.” It’s easy to wake up and have your first thoughts be “I didn’t get enough sleep” or “I’m busy … how can I finish it all?”
Although these thoughts are normal, they are not very inspiring. All people have something different to offer us. When you start your day asking how you can help, it is equivalent to saying ” I have something to offer and something to give .”
That is a more empowering path: offering value. Spend a few minutes thinking of new ways you can help people and pay attention throughout the day when new opportunities may present themselves.
2. What can I improve? This can be as specific as you want, but the point is that you conceptualize what positive actions you can do today to be a little better than the day before.
Did you get lazy going to the gym when you needed to go? How can you take a positive step to make sure it doesn’t happen again? Did you lose your patience with someone at work and would you have preferred to handle it better? Think about how you can get closer to that person and, if necessary, apologize for your bad behavior.
It is not about being perfect or false, but about trying to make a greater effort every day than yesterday. Just as success doesn’t happen overnight for your business, you won’t quickly become a great leader or entrepreneur. Every day you will have more wisdom and a greater commitment to improve in your own life.
3. How can I create value today? Although this sounds similar to asking “Who can I help?” This is about creating value in your work. It is important to think of ways in which your work helps others.
It can be through a quality service or a product that you offer or even by sharing content, the form is not important, it is the value. The courage that you are motivated to create will instinctively join your mission to have better results.

AIOps: How To Get Started

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AIOps is about leveraging AI (Artificial Intelligence) and ML (Machine Learning) to automate various parts of an organization’s IT operations. “This provides modern ITOps teams a real-time understanding of any type of issues,” said Venugopala Chalamala, who is the founder and CEO of Atlas. “Traditional IT management solutions can’t keep up with the volume as well as provide real-time insight and predictive analysis.”
The need for AIOps has accelerated because of the growing complexities of IT systems, the explosive growth of data and the sudden increase in remote working arrangements. Gartner forecasts that the exclusive use of tools for this category will go from 5% of large enterprises in 2018 to 30% by 2023. 
So then if your organization is looking at AIOps, how do you get started and what are some of the strategies to consider? Well, to see, I have reached reached out to various tech experts to get their advice:

Wilson Pang, the Chief Technology Officer at Appen:
Clearly define the problem you want AIOps to solve. Is the goal to detect anomalies that are hard to find by a human? Or do you want a tool to enable your OPS team to identify root causes quickly when an issue occurs? Or do you want to deploy some automatic recovery mechanism through AI? AIOps can help in many different areas. This means you need to define a clear goal that will help you understand the potential ROI (Return On Investment).

Rosaria Silipo, Ph.D., who is the principal data scientist at KNIME:
You need a good understanding of what is necessary to monitor and store. The more AI models, the more complex the monitoring strategy. Then, you need to define the criteria of acceptable performances by a model or a group of models. Finally, a strategy is needed to retrigger training when performance drops below an acceptance threshold.
Ali Siddiqui, the Chief Product Officer at BMC:
The value of an AIOps tool increases with the broad range of data that you can observe and analyze. It is also important that there is an open approach that can integrate with your existing IT tools and data sources. Once you have your tools, identify the right processes that support agility and collaboration across functions to integrate across Dev, Ops, and security. Finally, organizations have to think about the people–redeploy your most valuable resource to ensure the right tools and processes are in place and you can act on insights.
Muddu Sudhakar, the founder and CEO of Aisera:
The key is to have a good incident management system. You also need to have a very good logging system in place. Also, there should be proactive and predictive management of incidents and outages. You don’t want humans doing this.
Annette Sheppard, the Senior Product Marketing Manager at New Relic:
When it comes to something as transformative as AIOps, start small. Choose a low-scale test case, learn, adapt, tweak, and grow from there. That way, if things go wrong, the consequences won’t be quite so disastrous.
Tej Redkar, the Chief Product Officer at LogicMonitor:
Look for an AIOps platform that can perform automated procedures based on analytics drawn from your pools of data. Oftentimes, this data is already housed within your organization’s monitoring solutions. Then ask if the platform has dynamic thresholds, root cause analysis, forecasting and anomaly detection capabilities.
Eric Tyree, the head of AI and Research at Blue Prism:
AI is easy, Ops is hard: AIOps is all about automation, so make sure you are thinking about the whole automation toolbox. Mature automation programs should look to achieve a formula along the lines of 1/3 systems (AI, BPM, straight through processing), 1/3 human and 1/3 Digital Workers.
Chris Burchett, the Group Vice President of Product Development at Blue Yonder:
AIOps requires lots of logfile data in order to train the Machine Learning to recognize what is an exception and what is a normal operation. Typically many weeks of normal data are needed in addition to specific data when anomalies occur. So a good log aggregation and management practice should be in place in order to adequately use AIOps. 
Jim Richberg, the Field Chief Information Security Officer at Fortinet:
For AIOps to be successful, it starts with consolidation and integration. Instead of siloed systems, a unified platform is important to provide rapid response and wider network visibility.
Michael Procopio,Product Manager at Micro Focus:
Before implementing AIOps, it’s important to have buy-in and support from C-suite leaders. To do this, develop a small test project to solve a single pain point and show the C-suite tangible benefits of AIOps. From there, IT professionals can leverage this success to recruit the executive team’s support and alignment to further integrate AIOps into the enterprise. Once you have executive buy-in, observe and incorporate all accessible data from all networks, servers, applications, etc. AI works more efficiently with more data, and the more data you collect the more likely you are to find the source of the problem faster. After businesses have conducted a holistic integration of business data, make sure to take a domain-agnostic approach to AI–that is, ensure you can use AI to diagnose issues across domains. If you’re alerted to an issue in one domain, but the root cause of the problem is in another domain, you need to see this correlation–which is only possible when AI isn’t working in siloes.
Bob Friday, the Vice President and Chief Technology Officer for the AI-Driven Enterprise at Juniper Networks:
Great wine starts with great grapes; similarly, great AIOps starts with great data. The first step on the AIOps journey is data, and a company’s first step should be an audit of their networking equipment and making sure it has the support for telemetry and streaming data back to an AIOps platform. The second step is choosing between a domain agnostic or domain specific AIOps platform. While domain agnostic platforms are more flexible, most companies will find a domain specific platform a quicker path to ROI.
Jeff Hausman, the Vice President and General Manager of Operation Management at ServiceNow:
The best way for an organization to embark on its AIOps journey is to start with a focused approach, and then scale as needed. Organizations should take a look at their IT incidents and identify issues that regularly occur to determine where an initial AIOps deployment would deliver the biggest ROI. For example, we have seen success with customers deploying AI-powered virtual agents to help resolve and reduce the influx of incident reports amid remote working. We also provide customers with a framework that helps them identify the most impactful use cases for their product, ensuring customers will see a positive business impact and are set up for long term success from these new solutions.
By starting focused, IT leaders can showcase their initial AIOps deployment and begin to establish the data-driven cultural mindset that is needed when first deploying solutions like this.
Tom (@ttaulli) is an advisor/board member to startups and the author of Artificial Intelligence Basics: A Non-Technical Introduction, The Robotic Process Automation Handbook: A Guide to Implementing RPA Systems and Implementing AI Systems: Transform Your Business in 6 Steps. He also has developed various online courses, such as for the COBOL and Python programming languages.

Millennials Can't Get Enough of This Tableware Brand

Kathryn Duryea didn’t want Ikea dishes, and she didn’t want fancy china. And she bet other people her age felt the same.

March 10, 2020 4 min read
This story appears in the March 2020 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »
The tableware industry is enormous and old — a $7 billion space dominated by high-end legacy brands and low-cost plates from the likes of IKEA. Is there room for more? Kathryn Duryea once worked in brand management at Tiffany & Co., where she was part of that old guard, but then she saw a new opening: “We’re in a moment of women embracing leadership and entrepreneurship, but there’s still a desire to build community at home through entertaining,” she says. That led her to create Year & Day, a modern, minimalist tableware brand that has raised $3.5 million in funding and attracted a celebrity clientele, and is growing revenue 40 percent every quarter. Here’s how she created a new place at a very crowded table.
1. Spot the opportunity.
Duryea had inherited her mom’s beloved dinnerware, but it all shattered during a move. That’s when she decided to build her own collection. “It felt like a right-hand-ring moment: I was a woman of a certain professional stature, and I wanted to treat myself,” she says. But the marketplace wasn’t serving her need. Everything felt outdated, generic, and suited to a lifestyle she couldn’t relate to. She — and other women her age — didn’t want boring everyday dishes and fancy dishes for special occasions only. She wanted tableware for every day and every occasion, and she wanted it to feel like a treat. 
Related: 6 Ways Millennials Have Changed Business Practices
2. Fill in the gaps.
Duryea’s background is in branding and business; she worked with nearly every department at Tiffany & Co., and has an MBA from Stanford. She quickly assembled a small team of copywriters and art directors to help build her brand aesthetic, and she designed her ideal product herself. From there, she knew she needed help. “Production was the area where I had zero expertise,” she says. “So I networked and networked until a friend connected me with someone who could help me navigate that world.” 

Image Credit: Courtesy of Year & Day
3. Defend your vision.
To appeal to her target customer — young, professional, socially minded — she wanted to create an ethical supply chain. She toured nine factories in Europe to find her match, armed with an obsessively detailed pitch deck to convince storied suppliers to work with her. But once she had an agreement, she still had to fight for respect. “Our supplier kept pushing our product back,” she says. “My husband and I were overseas for a wedding, and I showed up unannounced at the factory because I was like, I still haven’t seen samples. That got the process moving.” 
Related: Larabar’s Founder Stocked Shelves at Whole Foods to Learn About Retail
4. Invest in experience.
Year & Day would sell direct to consumer, but Duryea wanted to do more than just present a bunch of dishes, glasses, and flatware online. She wanted to help shoppers understand their own needs across multiple categories. “That’s why we did not build on Shopify,” she says. “We couldn’t get that kind of customer-focused functionality.” She met with more than 50 web design firms before partnering with one called Dynamo, which helped build, for example, a playful quiz to guide customers to their ideal product combinations, which has been taken more than 100,000 times.
Related: 8 Examples of Brilliant Instagram Marketing
5. Target ideal influencers.
Ahead of launch, Duryea saw Eva Chen — a fashion exec and personality with 1.3 million Instagram followers — post that one of her life goals was to have matching dinnerware. When we launch, we’re sending this to Eva, Duryea thought. She did, and Chen unboxed her plates on Instagram, helping Year & Day’s visibility skyrocket. “I credit her with breaking the brand,” Duryea says. Mandy Moore, Cara and Poppy Delevingne, and others soon followed.

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