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How One Startup Is Delivering Mentoring And Coaching To Women And BIPOC Entrepreneurs At Scale

The coronavirus pandemic had a disproportionate impact on small businesses, especially those owned by women and people of color.
The Covid-19 crisis and the killing of George Floyd focused the media on highlighting the disparities attributed to gender, race, ethnicity, and their intersectionality.
Women and people of color have less wealth than their white male counterparts, making it harder to bootstrap businesses. Less access to human, social, and financial capital makes it more costly and time-consuming for under-estimated entrepreneurs to start and grow their businesses. As a result, their companies are smaller and less profitable.
Melisa Bradley and Georgetown University’s research revealed that women and people of color churn accountants and lawyers at a four times higher rate than their white male counterparts. It is not just investors that don’t get their business models! It is also those who provide professional services.

“It costs one-quarter of a million dollars more for black entrepreneurs to start the same businesses as their white peers,” sighed Bradley. She is a serial entrepreneur, investor, professor, and researcher, who has developed mentorship programs, including 1863 Ventures—an accelerator focused on the new majority—where she is managing partner.

Technology advances have made it easier to deliver entrepreneurial support services. Bradley and her two co-founders—Rob Gatto and David Jakubowski—launched Ureeka in November 2019 to support entrepreneurs in three ways:

People: peers, mentors, and coaches.
Programs: training.
Connections: access to capital through direct connections

Ureeka raised $8.6 million, led by Chicago Ventures.
“Eighty percent of its users are women and BIPOC [black, indigenous, and other people of color],” said Bradley. Gatto’s expertise is in digital marketing and Jakubowski’s is in sales and customer acquisition. While at Facebook, Gatto ran some of its small business programs.
“Once people get past the startup phase and begin to grow their business, the complex challenges they face are much more nuanced and go beyond one size fits all,” said Bradley. Challenges vary by gender, race, ethnicity, industry, geography, and immigrant status. The Ureeka platform provides coaching and mentoring services tailored to individual needs. It isn’t in competition with training and accelerator programs. It’s complementary.
The company serves entrepreneurs directly and through the organizations that serve them. Like WE NYC and Native Women Lead, partner organizations can create their own communities, host events, and share information.
The platform provides technical assistance as a service. It is focused on two areas—financing and customers. During the economic shock of Covid-19, Ureeka administered grants given to small businesses from corporations, such as Facebook and Comcast. Revenues last year were more than double for this new revenue stream compared to Ureeka’s core business of coaching. It also provides free mentorship for people seeking SBA Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans.
Ureeka also gets entrepreneurs’ pitches ready and hosts competitions. Perfecting your pitch isn’t magic. There are proven techniques for giving a good one.
Ureeka divides entrepreneurs into four categories:

Discoverers don’t have revenues.
Provers generate less than $100,000 in revenue.
Growers generate between $100,000 and $1 million.
Scalers generate $1 million-plus.

“The company has grown from three people to over 40 in less than a year,” said Bradley. It can be challenging getting everyone rowing in the same direction when you’re so new. Ureeka benefited from the collective experiences of its three co-founders, who had run companies before. They all had built systems, processes, and procedures many times before and collaborated on building Ureeka’s. This allowed them to jumpstart scalable processes at the onset.
Having a healthy culture is also of critical importance. “As co-founders, we check in regularly to ensure we are in sync,” said Bradley. “We also have weekly all-hands meetings to allow all parts of the company to share progress and challenges. We have a high level of transparency around roles, responsibilities, and process to track the progress of the business.”
While some organizations and funders are waking up to the systemic barriers women and BIPOC communities face in starting and growing their companies, others are not. The Ureeka team is changing minds by highlighting its success with entrepreneurs who participate in programs. Outcome data and case studies demonstrate the value of its programs.
How will you get the support you need to start and grow your business?

2021 Google Algorithm Update: Double Down On Website User Experience

By David Hunter, CEO of Epic Web Studios and ASAPmaps in Erie, PA. He also co-founded dbaPlatform, a local SEO software.By now, it should be no secret that website user experience (UX) ultimately determines whether a website sinks, floats or takes off. A Google algorithm update is in the process of rolling out, projected to be complete by May, which is introducing new ranking signals specifically relating to UX.
The Immediacy Of User Experience 
There are many pieces to UX — pleasing design, engaging and varied content, seamless navigation and overall efficiency and functionality. When it’s right, people know it. When it’s wrong, people know it, too. In fact, they make that assessment within the first 10 to 15 seconds. In short, it doesn’t (and shouldn’t) take a background in web development to understand what a good user experience is because it’s intuitive. 

But there’s a lot going on beneath the surface that makes quality website UX a reality. And Google, in its mission to continuously serve its users the most useful and usable results, is as invested in determining and measuring those details as we are. The new Google algorithm update supplements last year’s establishment of Core Web Vitals, which measure page speed and responsiveness in those crucial first 10 to 15 seconds.

What Will Likely Be Different
Within the next few months, non-AMP content will be eligible for inclusion in the “Top Stories” carousel at the top of mobile search results. AMP stands for Accelerated Mobile Pages, Google’s open-source HTML framework geared toward near-instantaneous loading of rich content on mobile devices. After the May update, “great user experience” will take precedence over AMP, so long as the page meets Google News content policies. 

Google has also teased a new “visual indicator” that will distinguish search results with exceptional UX, although what exactly that will entail has yet to be announced.
Search Ranking Signals
Here are some of the search ranking signals to keep in mind.
• Core Web Vitals. As discussed in a previous post, Google Core Web Vitals are a series of metrics focusing on site speed. They are:
1. Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), or how quickly your largest page element renders
2. First Input Delay (FID), or the time between a discrete user input and when a browser responds to that input
3. Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS), a measure of how much page elements unexpectedly shift around the page 
To see where you stand and where you can improve in these metrics, use the Search Console report for Core Web Vitals and PageSpeed Insights and Google Lighthouse to measure your progress as you make changes.
• Mobile-Friendliness. Over 60% of Google searches are made on mobile devices, so mobile website UX should be your top priority. Using AMP pages can significantly improve loading times on mobile devices with cache-optimized results. Google recommends the AMP Page Experience Guide as a way for AMP developers to analyze and improve mobile page performance.
• Safe Browsing. Web pages that feel spammy, choppy or unresponsive are likely to cause users to turn the other way and never look back. Be vigilant for any malware, spyware or malicious scripts that may be running on your site. Watch for any ads or content that may deceive or mislead users toward harmful sites. 
• HTTPS. Data encryption is critical to today’s website user experience. A massive amount of sensitive identifying and payment information is exchanged between web users and web servers every second. A Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate scrambles this data during transit so hackers cannot intercept it. Sites with an SSL certificate begin with https:// (as opposed to http://), with the “s” standing for “secure.” Google already flags sites without an SSL, so if you have not purchased one for your site, make sure you do so immediately.
• Nonintrusive Interstitials. Pop-ups are rarely a welcome sight. The more that the content a user wants to consume is obstructed and/or disrupted, the more annoyed and turned off that user becomes. If you must use interstitials, take care to make them as minimally intrusive to the user’s experience as possible. 
Examples of interstitials you won’t be penalized for include disclaimers, cookie usage info, sensitive content warnings, login dialogs and those that are responsibly proportioned (i.e., do not block all or most of the screen).
Preparing For The Page Experience Update
While the new Google ranking signals we’ve identified are important, there is plenty more you can do to create a superlative website UX, including:
• Upgrading your hosting service
• Compressing/resizing images
• Redirecting broken links/pages
• Observing user behavior via a heat-mapping tool for cues on how to improve user flow and navigation
As Google continues to refine its ranking signals and further flesh out its Core Web Vitals, UX is only going to become more crucial to search engine optimization (SEO). Take the time to look critically at yourself and your competitors — it promises to pay off handsomely in the end.

What If A Stock Exchange Prioritized Long-Termism Instead Of Short-Term Gains?

Like many facets of the economy, traditional stock exchanges often incentivize short-term returns while neglecting to facilitate long-term resilience within companies — particularly important during periods of crisis. With expectations for relatively quick payoffs, investment money in stocks is directed to companies that may be quite profitable at the moment but that do not have a plan or the necessary tools for long-term value creation.
In addition to diminishing company resiliency, this system’s focus on short-term profits exacerbates environmental and social harm. A company that operates with narrow planning windows will often deprioritize the holistic health of the business and put profits above people and the planet.
“What I identified was the companies that are thinking much longer term, that are really focused on where we will be a decade from now, had a very different orientation than those that were overly focused on, ‘Are we going to make this quarter’s numbers?,’” says Michelle Greene, President Emeritus and Board Member of the Long-Term Stock Exchange. “And, intuitively, if you’re overly worried about this quarter, you’re not thinking enough about your relationship with your community, your impact on the environment, your investment in your long-term workers. It’s just not your orientation.”

I spoke with Greene as part of my research of purpose-driven businesses and to learn how the Long-Term Stock Exchange views long-termism in the market as it relates to better business practices. She shared with me the inner workings of the Long-Term Stock Exchange and the motivations behind creating this new public market.

Christopher Marquis: First, it would be great to hear a quick overview of how the Long-Term Stock Exchange actually works. What do you offer? Why is this new market necessary rather than making a shift to long term practices in the existing markets?

Michelle Greene, President Emeritus and Board Member of the Long-Term Stock Exchange

Long-Term Stock Exchange

Michelle Greene: The Long-Term Stock Exchange is a national securities exchange, just like NYSE or Nasdaq. We’re approved by the SEC and regulated by the SEC. The reason that’s such an important point is that your listing venue doesn’t determine your trading venue. Securities are traded across markets, so there’s equal liquidity, regardless of listing venue. We offer dual listing for companies and eventually will offer primary listing as well, but what dual listing means is that companies would be listed on another exchange and they could also be listed on the Long-Term Stock Exchange. 
And the reason we created a new public market is because we feel that the short-termist quarterly cadence of the current markets are leading to results that are not what either companies or their long-term investors would actually desire. So we wanted to create a public marketplace that was focused on long-term incentives, helping companies that are focused on the long-term and multiple stakeholders get recognized for behaving those ways by investors and other stakeholders. We saw it as a place that would enable them to better do that than the current public marketplaces. That’s really the purpose behind it and the reason that we felt that it was necessary to have a Long-Term Stock Exchange.
When we looked at the problem — and I’ll oversimplify a little bit here — but we would talk to companies and management, and they would say, “This quarterly cadence is not necessarily helping us make the right decisions for the long term.” And there’s lots of research backing that up. Short term investing can lead to some poor decision making for long-term value creation. So the companies were saying, “We’re getting these pressures from the market and the investors,” and the investors would say, “Well, we’d like to support the companies long term.” So we looked at that and said, “Well, that looks like a systems problem.” 
So how do we change the system? We felt that in order to bring about systemic change, you need to create a new system with different rules. And what do stock exchanges do? They set rules. So we really looked at this and said, “This is a way that we could create a system that has different rules: having a stock exchange.” And if you look at the stock exchange sector over time, there’s been lots of innovation on trading to make it faster, to make it slower. But there really hasn’t been innovation on the listing side to say, “How could we change this set of rules to really help companies operate with a different set of incentives in a system that’s really focused on long-term value creation and a multi-stakeholder focus?” So the reason we created a stock exchange was to create the rules that enable companies to both continue to operate that way and to have their stakeholders know that they’re going to continue to operate that way.
Marquis: What exactly are the rules you have that try to orient companies for the long term?
Greene: Great question. We actually spent years talking with folks at all different parts of companies — executives, workers, all different types of investors, policymakers, folks throughout the financial markets system and those influenced by it to figure out: What’s the right approach to this? What we arrived at was a principles based approach. So we are not prescriptive about details. Instead, we have five core principles that we think are essential for long-term companies and/or something that long-term companies have in common. And what companies need to do to list with us is they need to have policies related to each of those principles.
On a very high level, it’s about considering a broader group of stakeholders; measuring success in years and decades, rather than short time periods; prioritizing long-term decision making; aligning executive and board compensation with long-term performance; having the Board of Directors directly engaged in long-term strategy; and engaging with long-term shareholders. So that’s at a very high level, and the policies themselves have differing levels of prescriptiveness. For example, the most prescriptive is a stakeholder policy because, out of all of these conversations, we felt that long-term companies really need to be focused on a broader group of stakeholders. 
That stakeholder policy includes details like that the company’s policy has to include a discussion of the company’s impact on the environment and their community, a discussion of the company’s approach to diversity and inclusion, and a discussion of how the company invests in its employees and how it rewards its employees and other stakeholders for contributing to its success. So that one goes into some more detail; whereas, some of the others are much more broad based principles, and the idea is that the five policies that companies have to create have to comply with and be consistent with these five principles.
Marquis: What are your thoughts on the increasing interest in Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) investments and how the Long-Term Stock Exchange can support those types of investments? Does long-termism support better ESG practices?
Greene: I worked at the New York Stock Exchange starting back in 2010. This was in the much earlier days for ESG and corporate responsibility. Part of my role there was building the internal corporate responsibility team at the New York Stock Exchange and working with companies on their own programs. The New York Stock Exchange at the time did this in a really authentic way, but there were many companies in which this was kind of a siloed, separate activity that was not integrated into their core strategy. Some companies were just “greenwashing” if you will. But there were companies that were very serious, and where these practices were very integrated. But I started looking myself at, “What is it that differentiates these companies and how do you figure out which companies really intend to integrate it into their core strategy?” What I identified was the companies that are thinking much longer term, that are really focused on where we will be a decade from now had a very different orientation than those that were overly focused on, “Are we going to make this quarter’s numbers?” And, intuitively, if you’re worried about this quarter, you’re not thinking about your relationship with your community, your impact on the environment, your investment in your long-term workers. It’s just not your orientation.
So the reason I personally came to the Long-Term Stock Exchange was because after I left the NYSE, I had a personal perspective that getting companies to think more long term was a really effective way to ensure that sustainability and a perspective that took into account more stakeholders was integrated in a meaningful way into the company’s core strategy. I really want to focus on how we can get more companies to think in that long term way because, personally, I felt that was the way that we were really going to make traction on sustainability in the ESG issues. That’s how deeply I feel that they are in fact integrated. It drove my own career decisions 
To kind of generalize that more broadly, long-term focused companies take a broader perspective in terms of the stakeholders that they consider. I think the pandemic has actually been a great example of this. If you talked to companies last June, nobody wanted to be judged by the previous quarter, unless you are Zoom. Most companies did not want to be judged by the previous quarter. But what smart companies were doing was looking at this moment in time and saying, “How can we best serve our customers, our workers, our communities? Because the relationships that we develop now and the way that we behave in this moment will have long-lasting implications for who wants to work here, who wants to buy our product, and who wants us in their communities.”
I think it was a moment that actually crystallized something that was becoming more clear anyway, but it really helped companies to see that if they want to really be here for the long term, they need to be thinking about these groups of stakeholders and the environment, and they need to be vocal in that perspective, especially as we see the upcoming generations that are really weighing this even more so in their decisions about where to work and what to buy. We see worker activism where workers are not just saying, “I need a safe place to work,” they’re saying, “I want to work at a place that does something I believe in and doesn’t do things that I don’t believe in or I find offensive.” We’re really seeing a different perspective from workers about what work means and where they want to work, and from customers about where they want to buy from. 
So I think the combination of this kind of growing sentiment among upcoming generations about the importance of corporate purpose, combined with this idea that a long-term focused company almost by definition is going to think more broadly, brings the two together and coalesces them. Long-termism is in some ways more broad than some issues of ESG and sustainability because it does encompass your long-term strategic planning and your metrics — because certainly quarterly success is not how we should measure how you’re doing against your long-term plan. So it is a bit broader, but I think it absolutely aligns and helps to drive the behavior that we want to see in companies in terms of the way they interact with the world.

Spotlight: DocFly Turns a Simple Idea into a Top Tech Website

Converting documents to PDFs sounds like a pretty simple concept. But there have previously been so few options to do this efficiently, which is why DocFly has been so successful. Read about the founder and her journey in this week’s Small Business Spotlight.What the Business DoesOffers an online tool for managing PDFs.Founder Emily Shaw told Small Business Trends, “DocFly is an online document management service that allows anyone to create, edit, convert and share PDF files through their browser.”Business NicheA flexible business model.Shaw says, “The business is known for offering a variety of PDF-related tools, which can be used for free for users with one-off PDF needs. For users who work with PDF files on an ongoing basis, DocFly offers both monthly and annual paid subscriptions.”How the Business Got StartedAs a side project back in 2014.Shaw adds, “The business started out as a side project, and is something I worked on during nights and weekends. Being a web developer, I wanted to put my programming skills to use in developing a product that was needed. I had the idea while looking for a PDF editor for work.”Biggest WinGaining some paying customers.Shaw explains, “After languishing for the first few years, the biggest win for the company was achieving its initial success (and paid customers) via search engine optimization. I made significant changes to the core product whereby all the features could be used for free for one-off users. Adopting a “freemium” model helped promote the company, which ultimately led to its success.”Biggest RiskSacrificing nights and weekends to work on the business.Shaw says, “As I described above, I had very little initial success despite years of working on the product. Had DocFly ultimately failed, I would have probably lost the confidence to keep going and might have ended up permanently as a corporate employee.”Lesson LearnedGet to know your customers.Shaw explains, “This seems obvious in hindsight, but the real key to success (at least in the software business) is to keep improving your product and speaking to users. As a result, I would spend more time developing a product specifically tailored to users if I could do things again. Had I done that the first time around, I would have quickly realized the need for a freemium PDF editing service.”How They’d Spend an Extra $100,000Implementing user suggestions.Shaw says, “I would invest all of that money into improving the product in a variety of ways. Thanks to DocFly’s large number of users (we have up to 15,000 daily users), we receive a lot of feedback on how to improve our product. Thus the most valuable thing we can do is to keep improving the service.”Biggest SurpriseRanking among top tech websites.Shaw adds, “DocFly is one of the world’s largest technology websites by number of daily users. Based on data from independent sources (such as SimilarWeb), the site is regularly in the top 1,000 technology sites by website traffic. While I had a sense that online document management would experience a bright future, I had no idea how many people needed this kind of service!”Favorite Quote“The way to make your startup grow, is to make something users really love.” – Paul Graham* * * * *Image: DocFly, Emily Shaw

How to choose a seller name for your brand

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.

Branding is one of the most important marketing strategies, but it is also one of the most valuable intangible assets of an organization. So much so that, for example, a large part of the business of a franchise has to do with other entrepreneurs being willing to pay royalties for using their brand or commercial name, which is recognized and is already positioned in the market. If you want your company to have a selling brand, the first thing you have to consider is that it should be easy to remember and pronounce , both in Spanish and in other languages. In addition, it must be associated with some special attribute or benefit of what it represents. That is, bring to mind specific qualities or associations regarding the product or service. “It must be taken into account that, in accordance with Mexican legislation on industrial property , a trademark cannot be descriptive or evocative of the products or services to be protected,” explains Rafael Manterola, lawyer and specialist consultant in industrial and intellectual property. For example, avoid words like comfort for furniture, creamy for creams, or crunchy for snacks. You should also be careful with generic words, those that necessarily designate the product by its common name. As skimmed, it designates a type of milk. In addition, it is essential that, together with the logo, your brand projects the image of the company. Remember that these elements contribute to those first impressions that consumers form when they know a product and that they weigh so much in purchasing decisions. Here, one of the most recognized cases in the world of marketing: the Escudo soap . Does it sound familiar to you? Everyone in Mexico knows it, even if they don’t necessarily use it. And it is that Escudo is one of the best positioned brands within the universe of personal care products in the country. But it is also one of the biggest mistakes in the history of Mexican marketing. At the end of the 80s, the company Procter & Gamble (marketer of the product) made the decision to integrate many of its brands in various countries. As a result, Escudo soap and all its variants in other countries were unified under the American brand Safeguard. This canceled years of positioning and trust on the part of the brand, which was replaced by an unknown, strange and difficult to pronounce name for the Hispanic market. The result: soap sales plummeted, until the multinational company resurrected Escudo a few years later. What a good brand needs Remember that your brand will be the clearest expression of your business. It should work well in all formats, including product packaging, letterhead, and non-visual media, such as the telephone. These are the eight rules that you cannot ignore when choosing the name of your business. 1. It must be memorable. Here the goal is to stay in the mind of the consumer clearly and without competition with other stimuli. Some examples of well-positioned brands are the Miguelito chamoy and the Mi Alegría toys . Another case is the Vips cafeterias: in just four letters and with a single syllable, this name brings us the memory of the atmosphere, smell and decoration of those restaurants. Another interesting example is Gansito Marinela, which owes its positioning, in large part, to its slogan: “Remember me.” 2. It should be easy to pronounce. If consumers cannot pronounce the name of the product, they will be less likely to buy and prefer it. What sounds strange and alien will hardly become an essential part of daily life, although it is not impossible. Some examples of brands that faced this challenge but managed to position themselves in Mexico are Häagen Dazs or Facebook . 3. It must be compatible with the rest of the company’s brands. In the case of individual brands for specific products or services, they must fit into the linguistic universe of the company to which they belong. A good example is Sabritas’ Fritos, Doritos and Cheetos snacks, which have separate names but are compatible in terms of image and positioning. 4. It must correspond to your target market. Take into account who your typical buyer is. Are you male or female? Young or mature? Sophisticated or traditional? The brand must talk about these valuations. Burberry sounds different from Baby Creysi, because its market segments are very different in terms of gender, age and socioeconomic status. 5. It must make global sense. This means that it should be easy to pronounce in other languages, especially English, Chinese or the language that is spoken in that market where you want to land. This will facilitate the process of expanding your business abroad at some point. But also, it is important that the brand is not confused with negative words. The Bimbo bakery had to change its brand in the US market because the word bimbo , in English, is a derogatory term against women. 6. It must convey the essential values of the product or service. Your brand must communicate the core benefit of your offering in an attractive and original way. The Ciel brand transmits clarity and lightness, while Suavitel promises with its name that the clothes will be soft. But this transmission of values does not have to be so literal. Many times you can imply what your product is about in an indirect way, by the way it sounds. Tin Larín is a play on words that sounds fun, friendly and nostalgic, as is the chocolate it refers to. 7. You must register. Your brand must be unique and inimitable. It is key that you do not look like any other and that you say what you have to say in the best way. To protect it, it is important that you register it with the Mexican Institute of Industrial Property (IMPI) . In addition to shielding the identity of your company and your products, it will eventually allow you to market the brand through franchise or licensing systems. By the way, before opting for a trademark, it is worth investigating whether it has already been registered by someone else. This will save you unnecessary design, stationery and labeling expenses if it already belongs to a third party. It is also important that it can be articulated as a domain name for your website. You can do free searches for availability on sites like GoDaddy . 8. You must like it. Finally, before deciding on a name for your company or for your new product, discuss the options with friends, family and trusted customers. This way you will know which one has the greatest acceptance. You can do a small survey in your area or electronically. And, because most purchases depend on emotional criteria, brands must also have that “something” that makes them attractive. There are names that “sound good” and others that do not. So take into account the opinion of the market. The brand is a communication tool, and that is why you must make sure that the message reaches the receiver … and that it arrives well! The Bimbo bakery had to change its brand in the US market because the word bimbo, in English, is a derogatory term against women / Image: Bimbo via Instagram. The DNA of your brand One of the tests that experts do to qualify trade names is to find their “genetic code.” You can also do it with your brand. It analyzes the cultural, emotional, linguistic, historical and symbolic associations of the word and the logo, as well as their semantics and structure. If you already have a potential brand (with name and logo), submit it to the following questions: A What are the cultural references of the brand? Example: Google evokes the number googol (10 to the hundredth power), which illustrates an unimaginably large number, similar to infinity, a central value to the cyber search service. The fact that the letters “o” are multiplied according to the number of search results refers us to this mathematical elasticity. B What is the emotional weight of the brand? Example: Tía Rosa is, in emotional, textual and visual terms, a warm, homely, Mexican and soft brand. C What are the linguistic references of the brand? Example: Juice brand Snapple sounds like apple. It also sounds like snap (the act of snapping the fingers), to give an idea of speed. The linguistic result would be the fact of obtaining the flavor and nutrients of an apple quickly and without effort. D What symbols does the brand use? Example: the Televisa logo is constructed from three symbols: the sun, the eye, and the horizontal stripes. The sun symbolizes that which, without fail, rises every morning, in addition to allowing us to see each other. The eye obviously represents the act of looking. And the horizontal lines represent television static. These three elements are part of the brand’s values.

21 low-cost marketing tips

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.

With 100 employees and US $ 10 million in annual revenues, Cynergy Systems – a software developer in the United States – applies effective and economical advertising techniques. Its founder and president, Carson Hager, is blunt: “In reality the traditional means of marketing do not work for us. Also, we do not have a large budget for it.”The lesson from Carson, 36, is simple: Before starting an expensive ad campaign, consider cheaper, but just as effective, options. Here are 21 tactics, which require a minimal investment or have no cost at all. And that they will surely bring very good results to you and your business.1. Get involved in social media. Aside from posting a profile about your business on sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, you also have the option of creating your group. The advantages of this tool: it is free and allows you to publicize your brand among a large number of people who are fond of visiting these types of sites on the Internet. In addition, the name of your group will appear on the profile page of each of the users.2. Reward referrals. When clients of Choice Translating – a translation firm in North Carolina, USA – recommend the services of this company to others, they get a gift. “And best of all, each gift – which is a small handmade craft – costs no more than $ 5 and people love it,” says Michelle Menard, a partner at the firm.3. Create a blog. This resource is becoming more and more popular. Today you can have your own blog for free on sites like Wordpress.com or Blogger.com. “This is the perfect space to write comments related to your business,” says Hager. To increase traffic, participate in other blogs related to the subject you handle and include in each of them a “link” that refers users to your blog.Don’t know how to do it or don’t have time? Wendy Kobler, founder of the advertising firm Kobler Communications, suggests that you get in touch with bloggers in your field. These experts can advise you to become an “online” communication professional. Or, ask them to write about your business in different spaces. Sometimes bloggers have such a reputation that their name is recognized in the virtual world; therefore, his words go further than you can imagine.4. Cultivate the relationship with your customers. “Loyalty programs motivate consumers to come back more often,” said Denise Dorman, public relations expert and founder of WriteBrain Media. “Create a space on your blog for customers to enter their data and immediately start receiving exclusive products and promotions.”Reward with discounts and gifts to those who make the most purchases. Remember that once you establish an emotional bond between your business and your consumers, you will become a brand for them.5. Speak louder. Kobler recommends that you become a speaker at trade shows, exhibitions, and industry association meetings to make yourself known. You can even organize an event at your business premises and invite your clients (current and potential) to learn about the different lines of products and services that you sell. Also involve your suppliers to participate as sponsors. Thus, everyone wins.6. Distribute content. Tools to distribute content and news for free or investing a minimal amount of money, such as PRWeb.com, can help you promote your business “online”. Other free news services on the Internet are i-Newswire.com, Mininova.org, and TheFreeLibrary.com. In Spanish, some options are Ambosmedios.com and Abastodenoticias.com. You choose which is the best for you.7. Exploit your information. To streamline the operation of their Green Tango salad restaurant, Billy and Alissa Maupin began taking orders via the Internet and text messages. The result: in addition to satisfied diners, this system helped them to know the purchasing habits, the volume of consumption and the type of products that the 4,000 registered customers in its database demand the most. With this information, entrepreneurs can calculate the amount of supplies they must buy, as well as measure the effectiveness of the promotions they carry out.8. Learn how to send emails. “Once you know what the buying patterns of your consumers are, thanks to the database you formed, take advantage of it,” says Scott Cooper, marketing consultant. For example, the Maupins review the consumption habits of customers who order via the Internet to design emails with offers and promotions tailored to each one.9. Build a team of super salespeople. The employees of the Green Tango restaurant wear T-shirts, hats, aprons and buttons with different messages about the brand. “When we launch a new product, we use the staff uniforms to promote it,” explains Billy Maupin. But not only that. They also train their collaborators to promote certain dishes on the menu. Tip: prepare all your employees to become expert marketers of your brand.10. Do quality surveys. Develop new advertising hooks by conducting opinion polls. To do this, ask your consumers what are the issues or topics of importance to them. Then, use the results to publish (on your website or blog) a note related to what, precisely, your business offers. For example, maybe your audience likes reading. Then you can announce that your coffee shop will soon have comfortable armchairs and perfect lighting to spend a pleasant time reading a book. 11. Become a specialist. The Maupins based the design of the Green Tango menu on salads, “as the saying goes: choose one thing and do it well,” says Billy. “Our goal is for the public to know us as the best in this specialty.” Therefore, it is best to get certified or have the recognition of an institution or association that endorses you as a prestigious business in a certain area.12. Make the most of your resources. For example, use your regular correspondence – be it traditional mail or electronic mail – as an opportunity to advertise. Offer exclusive promotions every time you send a letter or email to your clients. Make sure to include basic elements such as your business logo so that they are always present. Or, attach the “link” to your website or blog so that users have access to special offers and prices on some products or services you sell.13. Promote yourself in the media. Take advantage of the last months of the year to consult the editorial calendars of the following period of some media. “Generally, you can find this information on the magazines’ website, either in the” Media Kit “or” Advertise with us “section, says Dorman. Find out what are the topics that each information source will deal with and set a date limit to write a relevant story about your company (and that you think could be published).14. Compete and take the opportunity to advertise. When Green Tango was a finalist in the “Best Salad” contest, organized by the local newspaper, the Maupins took the opportunity to spread the news: they sent an e-mail to all their customers. Remember that participating in competitions sponsored by the media, associations and institutions is an effective tool to promote your brand on a large scale.15. Spread a video of your business. A simple VCR is all you need to create videos about your business. Then upload them for free on YouTube, Google Video, and other sites. Cynergy Systems recorded a simple internal video to promote its Cynergy Labs program, which provides funding and support for employees to develop ideas and proposals. One of them emailed the material to a friend. In just 10 minutes, the video was downloaded hundreds of times -214,000 times so far.16. Write a story about your business. If a relevant event occurs around your company, it is recommended that you write something about it. A short note is sufficient. The important thing here is to make it known. But if some medium – be it a newspaper, magazine or website – publishes the story using their own contacts, at least make sure they know that you wrote something related too. In this way, you will enter the editor or producer’s radar as a source of information to take into account in future occasions.17. Use the Internet to your advantage. Dorman believes that you should include your business website on free sites that help you increase your traffic, such as Delicious.com, Digg.com, Squidoo.com, and Yelp.com. “But the key is to get the customers of your product or service to promote you there as well.” In addition, local newspapers and websites have free “online” calendars where you can announce an event, celebration or anniversary related to your business.18. Go out and find your clients. Menard, from Choice Translating, took advantage of the approaching Valentine’s Day to visit his clients, give them chocolates and express his goodwill. The gift was accompanied by a fun holiday-related card, asking for referrals from potential new customers. Also, the entrepreneur sent a gift by mail to those who could not see personally. The effort resulted in a $ 22,000 increase in sales in a matter of one month.19. Take advantage of your location. If you have a high-profile store, that is, one that is located on a busy street or on a corner, what are you waiting for to place ads on the facade and thus attract people’s attention! Note: first find out what the rules of your locality are in this regard and process the corresponding permits. Billy Maupin uses small advertisements that can be attached to the floor, which require an investment of between US $ 20 and US $ 30 and are a good medium to advertise seasonal promotions.20. Take into account the opinion of your customers. Invite your consumers to contribute their comments on various points related to your business, from the design of the store to the last advertising campaign you ran. They can also contribute ideas to develop new channels to keep you in touch with them and to win more customers. Reward this help with a small gift or a special discount.21. Create strategic alliances. Investigate what other businesses – other than your direct competitors – are directed to the same target market that you serve and propose the creation of a partnership that suits both parties. The Maupins partnered with a fitness center to promote their natural products to customers concerned about healthy eating. Thus, the people who come to their training sessions place their order before starting the class and, at the end, their dish is ready.

8 Job Scams and 10 Signs to Watch For

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This story originally appeared on Zippia.com.
If you’re pursuing a job on the online market, it’s easy to feel bombarded by the sheer quantity of search websites and career options available to you.
When you’re looking through all this information, it’s not always easy to tell the difference between a legitimate job and an unforgiving scam.
Not to mention that scammers continue to get more sophisticated and find new ways to take advantage of job seekers.

With all that in mind, it’s vital to be aware of common red flags you might encounter. After all, your best defense is your own knowledge and research.
Following are critical ways you can identify and avoid job scams.
While it’s unfortunate that there are people out there who take advantage of others, knowing these common red flags can save you irreplaceable time and money.
What is a job scam?
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Unfortunately, there are a variety of job scams out there with different goals in mind.
Scammers can attempt to steal your identity by collecting confidential information, try to get you to cash fraudulent checks or send them money, or get you to pay for services and supplies they want.
Often, scammers target social media sites, job boards, and forums, so you should pay attention no matter where you’re looking.
Frankly, whether you’re on Craigslist, Facebook, Twitter, or any site in between, you’re always at risk of running into scams. You can even receive unsolicited emails from people with dubious intentions.
With that in mind, here is a list of common job scams you might encounter in the job market.
1. Data entry scams
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Data entry scams are a classic case of “it’s too good to be true.” These scams offer you a high-paying job that requires very little to no experience.
Typically, these scams require an upfront payment for processing or training and very rarely pay as well as advertised. While there are legitimate data entry jobs out there, they will rarely offer extravagant wages.
2. Pyramid schemes
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As the title would suggest, pyramid schemes require the recruitment of and payments made by many people to support only a few.
Typically, there is no product involved in a pyramid marketing scheme, only the exchange of money from the lower-level members to the higher-level ones.
For someone to make money with a pyramid scheme, someone else must lose funds. Often, that someone might be you if you’re newly recruited.
For that reason, these scams are illegal in the United States and many other countries.

3. Bait and switch scams
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With these scams, scammers try to reel you in by offering you an interview for one job, while actively planning to have you interview for another.
If you attend the interview, you may discover that the job you applied for doesn’t exist and that the company is trying to get you to accept a completely different position.
Generally, companies perform this type of scam when they have a job they’re sure no one wants. They may believe that it’ll be easier to convince someone to take the job if they discuss it with them in person.
4. Credit report scams
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In this scenario, fake employers demand your credit score as a part of the hiring process.
Typically, the “employer” requests that you use a specific service for this that will cost you money, even if they claim that the process is free.
Ultimately, no part of this is legitimate, and they’re attempting to get you to pay for a credit report. Even worse, the scammer may be able to use the information they want to steal your identity.
5. Wire transfers
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These scams are popular with thieves worldwide, as the money transferred is instant and nearly impossible to track.
To make things worse, these transactions are extremely difficult to reverse, meaning you might never be able to recover your lost funds.
Even if the transfer request may seem legitimate, scammers have been known to pose as company executives, managers, and other people in influential positions, so you shouldn’t trust titles.
In reality, these scammers use several fake phone numbers, accounts, etc., so you should never wire transfer money to someone you don’t know.
6. Direct deposit scams
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Similar to a wire transfer, these scams are tough to recover from. For this scam to work, a fake employer will provide a job offer that’s “too good to be true.”
If you were to take the phony position, the scammer would then say that they can only deliver your paychecks via direct deposit and, therefore, require your bank account information. Unfortunately, after the “employer” receives this information, they will likely steal all of the money in your account, and you will never hear from them again.
7. Phishing scams
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Usually, this scam involves someone sending you an email that says you’d be a perfect fit for a fake company/position.
However, you’ll find that if you can’t apply directly for the position in question, and instead, you’ll be given a link to an unrelated website.
This website will ask you to fill out a form with your contact information and other personal information.
If you were to fill this out, the scammer would have access to your personal information, which they can use to either sell to a third party or steal your identity.
8. Unemployment scams
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Scammers can also use unemployment insurance and benefits to lure you into their scam. A person or fake company may offer to complete or file your unemployment insurance claim for a one-time fee.
They’ll try to come across as professional as possible and claim to be connected to your State Labor Department, but that alone isn’t a reason you should trust them.
Top 10 job scam warning signs
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Given the sheer variety of job scams out there, it’s essential to recognize the red flags that most scams will share. Here are the top 10 warning signs you should watch out for.
1. Unsolicited offers
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Whether you’re being called, emailed, or messaged on social media, receiving unsolicited employment offers is generally not a good sign.
These offers are often for positions you’ve likely never heard of or applied to before, and offer either immediate employment or the opportunity to interview for a great job.
Scammers can claim to be from reputable job boards and social media sites alike, so you should never trust them based on their credentials or supposed source.
While a legitimate recruiter may reach out to you about a real job, you should always take caution when receiving unsolicited offers. Treat every unsolicited offer as a job scam — no matter where it comes from.
2. The job is “too good to be true”
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One of the easier ways to spot job scams is by evaluating the promised quality of the job with how simple the position requirements are.
When you compare these two aspects of the offer, you may find that the job is “too good to be true.” Here are a few examples of this:

You’ve been offered an entry-level position with significantly above-average pay.
The position requires little to no experience.
There’s a lack of application and interview processes.
You can start working immediately.
You were contacted first.

Even if there are amazing jobs out there, it’s good to be cautious if you feel that an offer you’ve been given ticks off some of the signs on this list.
Evaluate your own experience and expectations before you start job hunting, so you have an idea of what positions realistically fit your qualifications.
3. The job description and requirements are too vague
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Even though scammers will attempt to create a believable job posting, they will tend to make the job description and requirements too ambiguous.
This is because they want the criteria to apply to as many people as possible, so more people are attracted to the scam.
For example, they may write that you must be 18 years old, a citizen of your resident country, or that you need access to the internet. They will almost never mention years of education or experience as a requirement for the position because that would rule out a large number of people who could fall into their scam.
Generally speaking, trustworthy job postings will have fairly specific requirements. When in doubt, do some online research on what is expected in certain fields or at individual companies.

4. Your research doesn’t add up
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When you’re deciding whether or not you want to pursue a position you’re interested in, you should do some research on the employer and company in question.
If you’re dealing with a real company, you should be able to find their website, social media page, or other sources that validate their legitimacy. Don’t trust a company you can’t find any information about.
Skilled scammers may set up believable fake websites, but in this case, be wary of either duplicate sites or utilize the site’s domain or IP address to trace how old it is. Typically, company websites that are under a year old aren’t very trustworthy.
Additionally, you might find that there are scammers who pretend to represent real companies. Doing research can help you uncover discrepancies in these fraudulent offers as well.
For example, if you were to receive an email from a well-known company about a job offer, look into how that company usually posts their job offers.
If the descriptions you were given don’t match the descriptions the company usually posts on job boards, you could be dealing with a scam.
5. Lack of contact information
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If you’ve received an email or found a job posting that interests you, be on the lookout for the employer’s contact information.
For example, it’s extremely unprofessional and unlikely that a company would send an email that doesn’t include their address, return email, and phone number at the bottom.
Further, don’t believe anyone who tells you that they have to email you on their personal email because the company’s servers are down or because the company has yet to set up their email system.
To be safe, copy and paste the email address from the email you received into your search bar and examine the results. You may find spam reports or the email address of the real company someone is imitating.
6. Spelling and grammar discrepancies
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When you’re looking over a job listing or reading an email you’ve received, be on the lookout for improper spelling and grammar.
Overall, a company would never post or send out professional job offers without doing a once-over. Professionalism is important to any valid company.
With that in mind, here are discrepancies you should be mindful of:

Spelling errors. While this is the most unlikely error you’ll run into, you definitely shouldn’t trust an email riddled with misspelled words.
Grammatical errors. Proper grammar can sometimes be difficult to pinpoint, so you should be even more vigilant with that in mind. For example, “You’re invited to join us” is correct, whereas “Your invited to join us” is not.
Capitalization errors. Companies are careful to capitalize certain things. Company names, titles, and locations should all be capitalized: “Google,” not “google.”
Punctuation errors. Things like commas, periods, and parentheses should always be followed by a space.

7. You’re offered an online messaging interview or allowed to skip the interview
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Some scams will tell you that your job interview will be done using an online instant messaging service or might even try to convince you that you can start working right away without an interview.
Even if you were offered a remote working position, this is not normal, and if the “employer” refuses to offer you a phone interview or in-person interview, you may be dealing with a scam.
These scammers may also include instructions for contacting the hiring manager that require you to share confidential information.
If you decide to agree to a messaging interview, you’ll want to ask detailed questions about the position during the interview. Don’t be fooled just because the interview questions sound legitimate, and watch for any overly personal questions that involve your Social Security number, bank account, or credit card information.
8. They request confidential information
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In the case of many job scams, the scammer’s goal is to obtain information about your identity, bank account, or credit cards. With this information, they can steal your identity and your hard-earned money.
With this in mind, never trust a job offer or employer who’s quick to request your private information, such as your Social Security or credit card numbers.
For instance, scammers may attempt to send you to websites where you’re expected to fill out this information, even if you haven’t received an interview or any other credible information about the company.
While there are instances where you have to provide personal information, these steps are far along in the hiring process, when you should be well-aware of the company’s legitimacy.
Overall, you should check to make sure websites are secure and do your research.
9. You’re expected to pay for something
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No legitimate company is going to ask for you to pay for a part of the hiring process. If they do, you should refuse.
Here are some things scammers might ask you to pay for:

Buy and download this program/software. If an “employer” tells you that you need to pay for access to some program or software required to progress in the job hiring process, beware. You should never have to pay for the software or programs you need to work a position, and you shouldn’t trust anything they tell you to download.
Pay for a credit report. As mentioned previously, fake employers may ask you to use a specific service to generate a credit report. Even if they claim this service is free, requesting you provide a credit report is not a normal part of the job hiring process, and you shouldn’t trust it. In the worst case, the scammer may even be trying to steal your identity.
Pay to have your resume improved. Scammers may tell you that you need to update and enhance your resume so you can reapply for the position. They may refer you to a service or person who can review your resume and give you an estimated cost. No real employer would want you to do this.

Regardless of the request, you shouldn’t trust an “employer” who needs you to pay for something before you can get the job.
10. Trust your instincts
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No matter how clever the scammer is, job scams will generally feel unsettling from the start.
Do your research, ask questions, and pay very close attention to the answers you’re given. Often, you can catch little discrepancies right from the start.
Never let someone pressure you into doing something you’re not comfortable with. Trust your gut and stop talking to anyone who makes you feel uneasy.

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