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Jeff Bezos Net Worth Now North of $one hundred Billion

Jeff Bezos has lots of XMAS cheer … as a result of he simply crossed the $one hundred BILLION mark because of Black Friday. Amazon inventory shot up P.H% Friday, …

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9 AI Applications That Will Streamline Your Business

One of the promises of artificial intelligence is the ability to sort through data faster to automate decisions that do not require deep creativity. Programs can sort through information, filtering it for insights that organizations need to make daily decisions. How well is your marketing message working? Who’s available at what times for a meeting next Tuesday? How can you best autofill forms and data fields to save hours of effort, as well as reduce human transcription errors?

The nine applications below, shared by members of YEC (Young Entrepreneur Council), represent areas where AI can help your organization streamline business operations, freeing up time so your skilled staff can focus on more crucial tasks. Here’s what these entrepreneurs are excited about.

1. Chatbots

“Chatbots will start to play a huge role in your business development strategy. Adding a chatbot to your landing page will create an automated process that identifies customer needs, as well as gathers all the information you need to hone your follow-up approach. Knowing exactly what the customer is looking for will allow you to streamline your client acquisition process.” – Duran Inci, Optimum7

2. Content creation software

“My agency creates tens of thousands of pieces of marketing content a month. We’ve just started using AI software to help us create content, and that has already drastically improved our quality of life and the impact our content has on our clients. I’m excited by where this type of software can take us, as I expect more data-driven decisions in a workflow that’s more fun for the team.” – Brennan White, Cortex

3. Customized content

“AI and machine learning offer an incredible opportunity to identify, promote and present the right pieces of content to buyers, customize content for the audience, and deliver a highly personalized one-to-one marketing experience. With brands producing more content, customization will be key to breaking through the clutter. AI holds the key to scaling content aligned to each buyer segment.” – Dan Golden, BFO (Be Found Online)

4. Form-filling bots

“I am most looking forward to form-filling bots. There is so much filing as part of the patent process, and it would be a huge help to patent agencies, startups and academics alike for it to be taken care of as quickly as possible. This would keep the process piece to a minimum so everyone involved could focus on their work.” – Dan Hussain, American Patent Agency PC

5. Information filtering

“How do you know what you need to know? Entrepreneurs and business owners need to know a lot: what the competition is doing, legal issues, technical issues, business performance, news and much more. Today, I look at a ton of information I don’t need to know to find the useful kernels. I’m hopeful machine learning can filter the superfluous material, presenting what I need to know and nothing more.” – Justin Blanchard, ServerMania Inc.

6. Legal documents

“As CEO of a legal technology company, I would have to say that I am most excited about the applications of AI and machine learning in the legal space. Not only will it improve consistency and reduce errors, but it will save lawyers a lot of time, which will make the legal industry more accessible to people who need legal help.” – Tucker Cottingham, Mystacks Inc.

7. Meeting scheduling

“Scheduling emails are laborious and a thing of the past. Technology like what x.ai is offering is the future. No more back-and-forth and no more missed meetings. Artificial intelligence is going to make running a business much easier, and I’m anxious to see where else it can take us.” – Corey Eulas, Factorial Digital

8. OpenAI

“I’m most excited about Elon Musk, Peter Thiel and Y Combinator’s new nonprofit, OpenAI. They are working on technology that will help us with our daily chores. We spend so many hours of our lives doing chores, so this timesaver will allow us to spend more time on doing the things we love.” – Jared Atchison, WPForms

9. Post Intelligence

“To get better engaged with our social media followers and understand their trends, I have become a fan of Post Intelligence. It’s great for improving our social media strategies and brand awareness. It allows me to know exactly what my users want to see and engage with.” – Stanley Meytin, True Film Production

 

The Top Customer Engagement Strategies That Generate Sky High Revenue

In order to run a successful business, you’ll need to do more than just acquire customers. You’ll need to retain them.

One of the best ways to have a successful customer retention strategy is by creating customer engagement.

That goes for all companies across every industry.

Whether you have a brick and mortar location in a small town or have a global ecommerce distribution network, the customer is the lifeline of your business.

While it may not seem like an issue or concern right now, failing to keep your customers engaged could be detrimental to your business.

Fortunately, it appears as though you’ve recognized the importance of customer engagement and that’s what brought you here.

You’ve come to the right place.

I’ll show you my proven strategies to help you improve your customer engagement.

Following these techniques will show the customer how much you care about them.

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When customers don’t think you care, they’ll stop using your services and find another company to treat them better.

Part of successful engagement and retention involves going above and beyond the basics to connect with your customers.

Big retail companies are even spending upward of $1 million on artificial intelligence technology to improve their customer engagement strategies.

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It’s the top expected benefit from such a big investment.

I’m not expecting you to do this, but I wanted to show you how much emphasis big brands are putting on improving their companies.

My strategies are much more cost efficient and will yield a high return on your investment.

They don’t require too much time or effort either.

You can implement these tactics right away.

Here’s what you can do to get started.

Create interactive emails

How much time have you spent in the last few months making sure your email marketing strategy is performing at a high level?

I see this mistake far too often when I’m consulting various businesses.

They send the same boring weekly newsletters and promotions.

While your customers definitely want to hear from you, sameness won’t keep them engaged.

That’s a problem.

You can spice up your email campaigns by incorporating interactive emails into your messages.

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One way you can accomplish this is by getting your email to mimic the look and design of your website.

Include different menus, giving the subscriber a reason to click on something to find out more.

Accordion menus work well too.

It allows you to pack more information into a small space.

When a customer sees something they like, they can click to expand the accordion.

This also improves the chances that your subscribers will see more of your content because it eliminates the need for scrolling.

Adding GIFs and videos to your messages can help increase engagement as well.

It’s much more exciting than just reading a plain email.

If you have a retail or ecommerce business, you should include live shopping carts in your messages too.

This is a great strategy to improve your shopping cart abandonment rates.

When a customer doesn’t finish the checkout process, send a follow-up email with the shopping cart embedded in the message.

That way the consumer can complete the transaction without having to go back to your website.

It’s quick and efficient for everyone, which will help generate more revenue for your company.

Use Facebook Live on a regular basis

Facebook Live is one of my favorite trends of the year.

It’s the perfect resource for businesses to engage with their customers.

More than half of marketing experts agree that video content yields the highest return on investment.

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Why?

First of all, it’s easy.

Second, if you’re using Facebook Live to promote video content, it won’t cost you anything except for your time.

Treat your live stream as if it were a television show.

Don’t just come on randomly whenever you feel like it.

Set a scheduled time once or twice a week to go live.

This will help you build a loyal audience, which will impact your conversions and revenue.

One of the best parts of going live on Facebook is the ability to interact with the viewers in real time.

As you broadcast, users have the option to comment on your stream.

These comments could be directed towards you or other people watching the stream.

Make sure you respond to those comments.

Acknowledge those users.

“That’s a good point, John Smith. I’ll keep that in mind.”

It’s simple.

That recognition will help make the viewers feel special.

It encourages them to keep watching each week, and it inspires others to comment as well, knowing they could also get mentioned.

Facebook live videos are native, which means they are embedded on a page or feed as opposed to an external link.

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Native formats increase the share rate of your content compared to other channels.

Don’t do a quick stream.

Longer live videos increase your chances of getting a larger audience.

Facebook allows you to go live for up to four consecutive hours.

You don’t have to stream for the full four hours, but I’d recommend doing at least two or three hours.

Not sure what to talk about during this time?

Don’t worry about it.

Just be yourself.

Obviously, you want to keep things professional, but this stream will give your customers a chance to see the human side of you.

Recognizing there’s a real person behind the brand name will help them establish a closer connection with you.

This can ultimately increase customer loyalty.

Here’s something else you’ll want to keep in mind: 85% of videos on Facebook get viewed with the sound turned off.

Use lots of visuals in your stream.

You can also add captions to your video so the viewers can read what you’re saying.

Take a look at some of the top Facebook video statistics from 2016.

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All these numbers support my point.

Add this strategy to your marketing campaign to improve the relationship between you and your customers.

Run a contest or sweepstakes

Promotions are a great way to get the attention of your customer base.

Everyone wants something free, so give the people what they want.

First, you have to understand the difference between a contest and a sweepstakes.

A contest means the customers need to put in some sort of effort to win.

There’s a judgment involved in selecting the winner based on skill.

A sweepstakes means the winner is chosen at random.

I recommend running a contest as opposed to a sweepstakes because it gets the customer more involved and genuinely interested in your brand.

If they enter a sweepstakes, all they do is enter and forget about it.

I would recommend running your contest through social media platforms.

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When analyzing the top benefits of social media marketing, we can see the list applies directly to our discussion about customer engagement.

Developing loyal fans will help increase your revenue.

Running your contests on social media will also increase exposure for your brand.

One suggestion could be a photo contest on Instagram.

I like this technique because it’s easy.

Plus, it encourages user-generated content.

Tell your customers to post a photo that relates to your business.

The user who has the most likes on their picture will win the contest.

Now your brand is all over social media exposed to people who may not have known you before.

In addition to improving engagement with your existing customers, you have the opportunity to acquire new customers at no cost.

Here’s an example of a contest Infiniti ran on social media:

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Using a hashtag to enter the contest can also help increase the chances of your promotion going viral.

Contestants know their photo will be compared to those of other customers, so they’ll check out all other entries as well.

Here are some tips to keep in mind when you’re running a contest:

  • make sure the rules are clearly posted
  • set a deadline
  • the prize needs to be relevant to your brand
  • allow mobile users to participate
  • your hashtag should be creative and unique
  • make sure the contest is shareable on social platforms
  • announce when you’ve selected a winner

Since contests are so easy and inexpensive to run, I recommend doing this frequently.

Just because the contest is over doesn’t mean you can’t start another one right away.

In fact, running these promotions often will give your customers a reason to keep entering, and they will continue to be engaged with your brand.

Post on your Instagram story

Take advantage of everything Instagram has to offer.

Don’t just post to your profile.

Add photos and videos to your story as well.

Similar to Snapchat, anything on your Instagram story lasts for 24 hours.

So be active, and add to it every day.

These are my top suggestions for what you should put on your story:

  • promotional information and discounts
  • social proof
  • content from your website
  • behind the scenes clips of your company workspace
  • new product launches
  • introductions of your staff

These posts will keep your followers engaged with your profile.

If you want to run an enhanced version of Instagram story, you can go live on this platform as well.

I already discussed the importance of this strategy when I talked about Facebook Live.

I recommend using Instagram live story for something different than your Facebook strategy.

With Facebook, you should host a weekly stream.

But with Instagram, you should go live when you’re at an event or doing something cool.

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This will create an authentic interaction with your viewers.

As a result, they will stay engaged with your profile and brand.

Write a double opt-in landing page

Here’s a strategy often overlooked.

To increase customer engagement, you need to acquire customers who want to be engaged in the first place.

Here’s what I mean.

If your customers can create a profile or join your subscription list with just one click, you may get some people who aren’t genuinely interested.

Making customers take an extra step to join a list will increase engagement.

The best way to do this is with a double opt-in landing page.

When a customer subscribes to your email list from your website, make them confirm their subscription with a welcome email.

It will help you filter out people who don’t want to be engaged.

Double opt-in emails will also improve your open rates.

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While you may end up with fewer subscribers, you’ll get more active subscribers.

This will make it much easier for you to apply the other engagement tactics we discussed.

Conclusion

Improving your customer engagement strategy will positively impact your revenue.

Not sure where to start?

Follow the tips I outlined in this post.

Start by developing interactive emails.

It’s easy. Just continue to email your current subscriber list but include videos, GIFs, live shopping carts, and menus to increase engagement with each campaign.

Schedule a time each week to go live on Facebook.

Interact with the viewers who comment on the stream. This is a perfect opportunity for you to connect with your customers in real time.

Run a contest or sweepstakes that encourages UGC.

Contests will give the customers a reason to interact and engage with your brand.

Take advantage of the Instagram story feature as well.

Another way to make it easier to engage with your customers is by filtering the most viable candidates to your subscription list.

Create a double opt-in landing page to ensure your customers are interested and actually want you to keep engaging with them.

What type of content will you include on your Instagram story to increase engagement with your current customer base?

Intuit, Shopify Unveil New Features and Innovations


The tools and services you use to run your small business can make a huge impact. Intuit and Shopify are both popular service providers for small businesses. And this week, both announced new features and innovations that could make some small business operations easier. You can read about those updates and more below in this week’s Small Business Trends news and information roundup.

Small Business Operations

Intuit Introduces Innovations at QuickBooks Connect

I just returned from the fourth annual QuickBooks Connect (QB Connect), an annual conference hosted by Intuit’s QuickBooks in California’s Silicon Valley. The event was the perfect combination of information and inspiration for small business owners and the accountants who help them.

Shopify Integrates UPS Services into Its Ecommerce Platform

Shopify (NYSE:SHOP) has partnered with UPS (NYSE:UPS) to offer fast and affordable shipping for merchants. With UPS and Shopify Shipping, merchants that use Shopify can take advantage of guaranteed delivery dates. Businesses can also enjoy competitive rates of up to 52 percent off list rates.

Only  4% of U.S. Small Businesses Are Exporting, Missing Out on a $424 Billion Opportunity

Foreign markets such as China and Malaysia hold immense potential for small businesses in the U.S. Yet only a small percentage of businesses are exploring this opportunity. According to data compiled by London-based financial services company WorldFirst, the total value of worldwide B2C cross-border ecommerce is expected to reach $424 billion by 2021.

12 Examples of Invoicing Mistakes – and How Cloud Services Help Avoid Them (INFOGRAPHIC)

You send an invoice to a good customer and it has taken longer than usual to get paid. You go back to review the invoice and you realize you have made a couple of mistakes. Being able to catch these mistakes while you are in the process of filling out the invoice can save you a lot of headaches.

Last Minute Business Flights Could Cost You on Average 44% More

Travel is usually more hectic as you approach Christmas. According to a report by Concur Technologies (Nasdaq: CNQR), a SaaS company providing travel and expense management services to businesses, waiting until the last-minute to book your business flight could be a very costly move.

Economy

Confidence in the Local Economy Fuels Small Business Optimism, Survey Reports

For the second consecutive quarter, the MetLife (NYSE:MET) and Chamber of Commerce Small Business Index revealed an increase in optimism among entrepreneurs. The second and third quarter of 2017 showed the index at 60.6 and 62.3 respectively, with the fourth quarter coming in at 63.2. MetLife and U.S.

 

Retailers Continue to See Slow Growth in October

The holiday shopping season couldn’t come soon enough for brick-and-mortar retailers in the US. There may be an economic upturn coming, but small retail businesses in the U.S. have yet to sit. According to the October RetailNext Retail Performance Pulse, sales at these retailers were down once again by 10.9 percent.

Franchise

Wendy’s and Other Top Brands on Fast Food Survey Offer Franchise Opportunities

Americans have ranked the country’s favorite fast food restaurants, and Wendy’s restaurant takes the top spot. The burger joint just recently began offering franchise opportunities to investors as it looked to expand. And it wasn’t the only franchise restaurant that topped the chart.

Management

Brother Business Survey Highlights Challenges of Small Business Management

When starting your small business, you hoped you’d be able to create a new culture leaving behind some of the problems of the big corporate world. Well, the results (PDF) of the 2017 Brother (TYO:6448) Business Survey show that small business and big business alike share some of the same problems just on a different scale.

Small Biz Spotlight

Spotlight: Circle of One Marketing Focuses on Events

Events can be a great way to market a business. But it takes a special type of entrepreneur to really make the most of event marketing. Suzan McDowell discovered her love of marketing and event planning by accident while working for a radio station. Read about her journey and how it led to her company, Circle of One Marketing, in this week’s Small Business Spotlight.

Small Business Loans

39% of Small Businesses Have Never Heard of Alternative Financing (INFOGRAPHIC)

One of the biggest obstacles to growth for small businesses is access to capital. But with so many options, more than two thirds or 39 percent of small businesses have never heard of alternative financing. This is according to the November 2017 Reliant Funding Small Business Report and infographic.

Small Business Loan Approvals Hit Another Post-Recession High, Biz2Credit Says

Small business loan approvals at big banks improved again last month to reach another post-recession high. According to the Biz2Credit Small Business Lending Index, big banks approved 25 percent of small business loan applications in October 2017, up two-tenths of a percent from the previous month’s high.

Technology Trends

PayPal  and Synchrony Financial Offer More Small Business Options with Expanded Partnership

When it comes to growing your small business, getting the right credit offering can make all the difference. PayPal (NASDAQ: PYPL) and small business online lending company Synchrony Financial (NYSE: SYF) have announced they are expanding their partnership to offer you just that — more options to get credit.

$10M Worth of Apps: Zoho Creator’s #GivingTuesday Gift to Non-profits

Be it a calamity that catches the world unawares, or a chronic issue that’s been going on for decades, there’s no dearth in the help pouring in from all quarters. #GivingTuesday celebrates this philanthropic spirit by inviting individuals and organizations to take part in the joy of giving.

65% of Your Customers Expect More Automation in Businesses of the Future

The latest Pew Research Center survey revealed 52 percent of Americans believe stores will probably be fully automated in the next 20 years. But 13 percent said it will definitely happen, bringing the total number who see automation having an impact in the segment to almost two-thirds or 65 percent.

Right  Networks Has 3 New Cloud Solutions for Small Businesses and Their Accountants

Right Networks has introduced three new cloud solutions for small businesses and their accountants. The Right Networks Cloud is designed to streamline business operations and accounting by making it easier to use third party web applications in the cloud. Here’s why that matters to small businesses.

OnePlus 5T May Offer Small Businesses High End Phone at Budget Price

The OnePlus 5T has been released just five months after the OnePlus 5. In that short time, the company has made some improvements to put the 5T on par with other high-end phones. And all this is delivered for a list price between $499 and $549, depending on specs.

Image: Wikipedia

This article, “Intuit, Shopify Unveil New Features and Innovations” was first published on Small Business Trends

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How I Recruited 19 People In 30 Days Into My Business 🔥

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Holiday Marketing Strategies Every Small Business Can Deploy

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Holiday marketing doesn’t have to mean big-budget TV ads or buying a float in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. There are plenty of holiday marketing strategies that businesses of every size and budget can deploy to drive more holiday sales. Here are six easy and budget-friendly marketing tactics to try this season.

1. Holiday product imagery

Between your business’s social posts, email outreach, and holiday landing pages, feature seasonal product shots. Place your products in the snow, surrounded by tinsel or ornaments, or in gift boxes to get your customers thinking about your products as gifts.

2. Sample strategy

Offer sample-size versions of your products and services. Sampling is growing in popularity, especially as gift sets. This not only frames your goods as gifts but can help a potential customer overcome their fear of commitment to a full product or service. Beauty products are seeing especially high demand for sample or gift sets in recent quarters.

3. Gift guides

Just about every product or service can be given as a gift. Create a gift guide complete with photos to make gifting your goods top of mind. Facebook makes it possible to target your gift guides, or other marketing collateral featuring your goods as gifts, to the household of your usual customers. You can also run search ads featuring your gift guides for gifting keywords like “best gift for mom” or “easy Christmas presents.”

Promote your gift guide in places frequented by your target customers’ families, such as quick-serve restaurants for kids or hardware store for husbands.

4. Partner in holiday sales

Partner with another store whose customers complement your own to cross-promote each other’s goods this season. For example, you can promote a local brewery’s special holiday brews with flyers, and the brewery can promote your holiday sales and gift options. Each business will be able to tap into a new, valuable audience.

Two businesses can also partner by throwing a joint holiday event or party. Two combined customer bases mean exposure to new customers for both participants.

5. Holiday fairs

Participating in a hometown holiday fair, market or other festive events not only presents new sales opportunities but will also earn you some hometown goodwill from your customer base. Street fairs or holiday festivals also see high numbers of tourists and locals who live outside of the immediate commercial district.

Street fairs and festivals are especially popular with millennial customers. An Eventbrite study found that 50 percent of millennials said they would purchase products they liked at an event, 60 percent said they would likely buy again after the festival, and 82 percent said they would frequently or always buy something they loved from a local retailer.

6. Holiday cards

Mailing out holiday cards is a long-standing tradition in most of the country. Send your customers or potential customers a card wishing them well this holiday. Include personal touches, such as “from our family to yours.”

Cards can be turned into coupons if brought in. Avoid traditional gimmicks and offer recipients a free cup of hot cocoa if they stop in with a card. This will get customers in the store and within view of your goods and sale promotions.

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Get Social: How Entrepreneurs Can Expand Their Reach

According to a report released by TapInfluence and Nielsen Catalina Solutions, influencer marketing campaigns can generate up to 11 times the return on investment (ROI) of traditional digital marketing strategies. And 71 percent of influencers believe that an honest and authentic voice is necessary for keeping their audience engaged. And an authentic voice is equally important for marketing since viewers are looking for authentic storytelling they can relate to.  

This authenticity is why people follow influencers. Other than our real friends, the people we follow on social media sites are often the people we wish we were friends with or the people we want to be like. And when they showcase products or services they use or like, we want to use those products and services too.

This relationship is something brands have been capitalizing on, and based on this report, they’re seeing results. For entrepreneurs, working with influencers is an important method for marketing and growing their business. It expands their reach to audiences they might never be able to interact with and by partnering with bloggers, brands can present a relatable image of their product or service. 

Forget chasing after big-name celebrities with millions of Instagram followers. If you’re a smaller brand, you can utilize the growing pool of bloggers that have built a following just by being themselves. If you’re in the parenting industry, there are a plethora of “mommy blogger” influencers. There are thousands of blogs dedicated to pets, or gamers, the list goes on and on. 

These are spaces brands need to be marketing themselves in order to get noticed. Here are four effective ways brands can partner with bloggers to expand their reach. 

1. Authenticity drives results.

As previously mentioned, consumers prize authenticity above all else when it comes to choosing influencers to follow and engage with. That’s why it’s so important to choose the bloggers and social media personalities you’re working with carefully. While using authentic and relatable influencers is a better way to engage with consumers, it’s also more ethical.

This year the Federal Trade Commission cracked down on YouTube personalities for failing to disclose their partnerships with certain brands. The FTC also cautioned a number of Instagram influencers who were operating under similar practices. As influencer marketing has grown in popularity, many opportunists have rushed into the industry to make a quick buck. These people often inflate their reach and use a number of inauthentic methods to portray a higher number of followers than they actually have.

When choosing which bloggers to work with, brands have to do their due diligence to make sure they are working with honest and reliable influencers. This is the only way they have the kind of access to consumers that translates to real engagement. 

2. Stay on top of customer engagement by working with influencer marketing companies.

Entrepreneurs have a lot to deal with. Between the everyday tasks that keep their businesses afloat and trying to be innovative in a constantly changing world, marketing and advertising can fall by the wayside. When it comes to influencer marketing, there are a number of companies that do the heavy lifting. Especially for small businesses, mastering the nuances of consumer engagement can be difficult, and it can be hard to figure out which bloggers and social media personalities will give you the most ROI.

TapInfluence is an influencer marketplace that takes care of this for you. The company connects brands with social media influencers, allowing them to tap into the power and reach of influencers and content creators who have authentic voices their audiences trust. But most importantly, the company uses benchmarks to help brands compare the performance of their influencer marketing campaigns and to examine engagement rates. The company has obtained more than eight years of repository campaign and transaction data on over 2,000 influencer marketing programs, and uses this information to provide customers with a clear picture of how their marketing strategy is doing. 

3. Find influencers with highly engaged followers vs. the most followers.

What’s better than partnering with an influencer with 100,000 followers? Partnering with 100 influencers with 1,000 followers each. Working with big-name celebrities or well-known bloggers can be a difficult task for smaller brands. Even if a famous celebrity is accessible to work with you, they often come with a hefty price tag. 

Niche Instagrammers, YouTubers and bloggers have a curated following, and if that following has similar demographics to your own target audience, you can get your products or company in front of a very lucrative group of potential customers.

How can you identify these niche influencers? Find innovative ways to connect with them. You can utilize companies like Mavin that are working to create an influencer marketing ecosystem where marketers will benefit by reaching a more extensive audience with a higher engagement rate. Through this ecosystem, brands can work with not only well-known and famous influencers but also ordinary people, because in today’s digital world, everyone’s an influencer. 

4. Do your hashtag homework.

The reality is, not all startups can afford to work with marketing companies, and that’s okay. There are many ways you can find influencers and grow your social media following by simply training your team on some growth tactics.

One of the most effective ways is to stay on top of current hashtags that are popular in your industry, and use these hashtags to identify influencers. Let’s say you’re in the fashion industry, a simple google search for “popular fashion hashtags” will populate a list you can start with. Or you can check out hashtags being used on popular images on Instagram. You can then do a search on Instagram for the popular hashtags, and that will lead you to users’ accounts.

You can start identifying influencers you may want to reach out to; look for those with the most engaged followers (i.e., likes, comments, etc.). As you look through influencers’ images, notice new hashtags they are using on their images, which will allow you to go through the same process and apply the new hashtags. It’s a lengthy process, but if you don’t have the money to spend on influencer marketing, you will need to invest time instead. 

Once you’ve compiled a target list of influencers, you can simply reach out to them, introduce your brand, offer to send product in exchange for an honest review. And make your efforts count by offering a trackable discount code to the influencer’s followers.

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8 Things Every Startup Owner Should be Thankful For

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8 Things Small Business Owners Should Be Thankful For
It’s never a bad time to take stock of all the things in your life that help you run your small business every day. Perhaps there’s no better time than now however, to pause for a moment and give thanks to everyone who has brought you to where you are today with your small business — and everything too.

Small Business Trends spoke with Josh Wiesman, Co-Founder and CEO at Smilo. Wiesman is wrapping up his first year in business with Smilo. His company sells baby and child care products directly to consumers.

In the spirit of the season, he reached out to Small Business Trends to share the things he’s most thankful for after enduring Year 1 in business.

Things Small Business Owners Should Be Thankful For

Here are eight things Wiesman says he’s thankful for this year as he looks toward a second year in business.

Having an Impact

Entrepreneurs impact the lives of many people — not just their customers and employees. For example, many entrepreneurs should be thankful they can donate any new found wealth to local charities and help communities. Others can become mentors and have an impact that way.

Some, like Wiesman, are thankful for the good their specific products do.

“Our anti-colic feeding bottle can be the first successful feed a family has with their newborn,” he says. “Our pacifier can lead to hours of calm soothing that allows mom and dad to finally sleep themselves. This is so motivating.”

Mobile Devices

Any ecommerce business relies on the internet and mobile devices to access and have discussions with customers and even complete transactions. These startup owners should be grateful for all the hardware and software that runs the mobile devices and tablets they use to make money.

Free Trials

Startups need the room to make their own mistakes and fix what’s wrong. Being able to offer a free trial allows entrepreneurs the ability to tinker with their product without spending a lot.

“The free trial period for software and services has been a great way for us to make smart choices, save cash, and end up with the product or service that is really right for us,” Wiesman says. “Startups need to be smart with their cash and scrappy with their resources.”

Other Products and Brands

Trailblazers in any industry forge a path whether they’re acting as mentors or just being inspirational with their own successes. Entrepreneurs can be thankful for the founders and brands that have gone before them and the lessons they can learn from them.

Mistakes

Small business startups need to be thankful for the mistakes they make. Regardless of the business or industry you’re in, learning from mistakes is the quickest way to get better. Mistakes help you uncover any unrealistic expectations and incorrect assumptions, things you need to address in the early stages of your business.

Your Team

Taking the time to look at the big picture means being thankful for the team that helps you run your business. Wiesman says he understands there’s a wide range of people with a variety of talents making  up any good small business team.

“I have amazing co-founders, employees and business partners (including investors) that I work with every day and have worked with since founding Smilo. I am very grateful for all of these relationships,” he says.

Your Customers

Your customers are much more than just the people who buy your products or services. They can also be the bellwether relationships that help your business to grow if you listen to them. Being thankful for customers can mean having interactions with them and keeping social media communication lines open.

Your Independence

You should be thankful for the freedom you have to follow your own path as a startup owner. And this includes more than just the freedom to be your own . With all the modern innovations available to you today, you can run a business from the far corners of the globe or right at home.

Today’s startup owners should be thankful they can work across times zones and international boundaries to make their businesses successful.

Image: Smilo

This article, “8 Things Every Startup Owner Should be Thankful For” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Alyce Uses AI to Choose the Business Gifts Recipients Might Actually Want

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Alyce AI Corporate Gift Giving Platform Wants to Disrupt the MarketBusiness gift giving is time consuming enough — especially during the holiday season. But for small businesses that hope their gifts make an actual impact, measuring results can be all but impossible.

That’s why a new company is trying to disrupt the corporate gifts market. Alyce is a new AI powered platform that gives businesses an easier and more effective way to select and send gifts to prospects, clients and other corporate contacts.

Founder and CEO Greg Segall said in an email interview with Small Business Trends, “Every business leader I have talked to — and I have interviewed hundreds of them — has reaffirmed that corporate gift-giving takes too much time, costs them too much money, and they are left wondering whether their gift had any impact at all.”

Corporate Gift Giving Platform Uses AI

Alyce uses AI to match your gift recipient to the perfect gift for them. The platform has more than 30,000 potential gifts to choose from. Then it takes into account relevant social data and your business’s goals to select a gift that’s personalized to each individual. The recipient receives a notification that they’ve received a gift, at which point they can accept, choose another gift or even donate the money to charity.

Segall adds, “So for example, imagine a sales team or a customer success team sending an annual thank you gift to their best clients, which is timed to hit at a certain point in the customer lifecycle. Imagine knowing you could actually send a gift to each and every customer that represented what they individually might like to receive, while also giving them the power of choice to select something else, or even donate the value of their gift to a charity that they choose.”

Segall explains, “Not only does Alyce know what that customer would want, and empower that customer to accept the gift or make another selection of their own choosing, but Alyce also knows when the gift was sent, when the gift was accepted — and all of this data can be used to measure the impact of that gift against customer relationship management metrics.”

Before starting Alyce, Segall owned an ecommerce agency and often received corporate gifts that just didn’t fit with his own preferences. He was struck by just how wasteful this process seemed to be. And that eventually led to the founding of Alyce.

He says, “Not just during the holidays, but throughout the year and for different reasons, vendors and partners we worked with would send us a ton of gifts. And more often than not, those gifts had nothing to do with anything we would’ve ever chosen for ourselves. Not their fault, because they didn’t have any insight to know, for example, that I’m a health nut, when they sent me a huge box of chocolates. Or that I wear a men’s size small when they otherwise sent me an expensive extra-large fleece jacket branded with their corporate logo. Once I actually received a giant branded Patagonia jacket stuffed with chocolates that melted all over the jacket before I ever unwrapped the gift box they were sent in!”

Eventually, Segall came to the conclusion all of this added up to a great opportunity. He recalls, “After I sold my ecommerce agency, I found myself going back to this again and again: There is just an incredible amount of time, money and energy spent in sending corporate gifts, with very little visibility into how to send a gift that someone actually wants, let alone how to measure the impact of sending the gift itself. I was sick of all the waste, and I also believed there was an opportunity to better connect corporate gift-giving to the power of doing good with charitable giving options. This was the start of the hunch that there was an industry to disrupt here, and what got me focused on starting Alyce.”

Of course, the overall goal is to help businesses give gifts that will actually help them achieve their goals. “It’s the thought that counts,” is a notion that only takes you so far when you’re sending that top client or partner a generic desk adornment that they’ve received from every other company they do business with as well,” Segall observes.

So the platform also keeps track of when you send gifts, who you send them to, and what gifts were chosen or accepted so you can see what actions might actually lead to increased sales, retention or other important metrics for your business.

Segall says, “We started Alyce because we really believe in the power of a gift to spark a reaction, create an emotion, and elicit a fantastic response — all the things people experience when they give and receive gifts in their personal life. There’s absolutely no reason that gift power can’t exist for business gift giving exchanges as well. Our ultimate goal is to reinvent this entire $120 billion corporate gift-giving market into something memorable, meaningful and measurable — one perfect gift at a time.”

Image: Alyce.com

This article, “Alyce Uses AI to Choose the Business Gifts Recipients Might Actually Want” was first published on Small Business Trends

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How to Find a Juicy Writing Idea When Your Creative Well Has Run Dry

It’s the hard part. The thing about being a writer that isn’t necessarily all that awesome. Sometimes it’s the part that makes you doubt yourself, doubt your creativity and abilities, maybe even doubt whether this whole professional writing thing really makes sense for you. “What the &$%# am I going to write about this week?”–
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