Archives for December 2014

Our New Top 10 Referral Contest!

Top 10

We are excited to be in full swing with our new TOP 10 CONTEST where each quarter we will be giving away an awesome grand prize! Every time you refer someone on our Top 10 list, your name is entered in to win our Quarterly Prize! A winner will be selected in March, so the more you refer, the more chances you have to win!

We also pay you CASH & TRADE for each referral! $100 Cash/Trade for each referral – $200 Cash/Trade for each referral on our monthly Top 10 List*

Here is an example of our Top 10 List:

Monthly Top 10 List - January 2015

Call us for more info @ (770) 591-4343.

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10 Trends That Will Impact Small Businesses in 2015

With less than a month left in the 2014, it’s time for small business owners to develop a plan to maximize their marketing efforts in the New Year. What will 2015 bring for small business owners? Here are 10 trends to keep an eye on as you develop your marketing plan.

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1. Social media will continue to propel consumer spending. In 2014, both Twitter and Facebook began testing a new feature that will make it easy for users to buy products and services in just a few clicks. Both social media networks rolled out “buy” buttons, which appear alongside status updates and tweets, and give users the ability to make purchases without having to leave the network. In 2015, expect Twitter and Facebook to drive consumer spending in a major way. One huge advantage to the “buy” button for small businesses is the ability to attach concrete revenue metrics to social media messages.

2. Your friends influence your wallet. As your peers post about the latest products or services they bought, it’s sometimes hard not to be swayed. In 2015, expect your customers to be increasingly influenced by their peers’ purchasing habits. Pay attention to millennials — those born between 1981 and 2000 — on social media. According to a Harris Interactive poll conducted earlier this year, 68 percent of them were at least somewhat likely to purchase after seeing a friend’s post about a product or service.

3. New social media networks will rise, and others will fall. 2014 gave rise to a number of new and innovative social networks — including Yik Yak, an app that allows users to anonymously create and see posts within a 1.5-mile radius, and Ello, an ad-free social network that doesn’t sell your private information to third parties. Then there is Tsu, another social network that promises users a cut of its ad revenue based on how popular their posts are. These social networks presumably have risen to fix the perceived problems of major social networks like Facebook and Twitter including privacy and pervasive advertising. But will these social networks be around for the long haul? Time will tell.

4. Advertising on Facebook and Twitter will become an essential part of your marketing mix. As a small business owner, you may not be advertising on Facebook or Twitter yet. But in 2015, you may want to reconsider. Facebook continues to aggressively limit the number of posts your fans can see on your page. So the demand for promoted posts and ads will continue to grow. As with anything, increased demand will necessitate increased pricing. Facebook ad pricing already has gone up 10 percent since 2013. In 2015, expect this trend to continue. Advertising on Twitter will become a “must” for small business owners as they embrace the social network’s new advertising fee structure, which allows companies to pay for performance instead of paying for retweets, app installs and clicks.

5. Image-based social media will influence buying habits. Using images to influence consumer purchasing behavior is nothing new. By leveraging image-based social media networks like Instagram, which boasts over 200 million users, small businesses will be able to use compelling pictures and video to showcase their products and services. Pay particular attention to Instagram because the social network recently rolled out in-feed video advertising, which gives companies the opportunity to pay for 15-second video ads based on targeted metrics like age, gender and geographic location.

6. Publishing on LinkedIn will become more popular. If you haven’t yet tried LinkedIn’s publishing platform, explore it before the year’s end. In 2015, LinkedIn will continue to dominate among the business set. LinkedIn has quickly become a strong publishing resource populated with excellent content on business trends, insights and careers. You can use LinkedIn’s publishing platform to express your thoughts on these topics or to build your brand.

7. Content marketing will remain an important tool to spread the word about your business. Content marketing is a great way to reach your customers without aggressively selling to them. But it requires work. In 2015, take the time to explore it to determine how might benefit your business.

8. Social media will continue to drive customer service in 2015. Many major brands have been taken to task by irate customers on social media. What this means is that your customers have latitude to say what they want about your products and services. They can influence whether your product sells successfully. This is where social listening comes in. You need to track what’s being said about your brand on social media and respond to customer questions and issues in a timely manner.

9. Marketing to millennials will be essential. If you aren’t specially tailoring your marketing messages to millennials, you’re missing out. According to Leaders West Digital Marketing Journal, there are 76 million millennials in the United States, and they make up 27 percent of the population. They’re well-educated, with 63 percent having at least a bachelors’ degree. They are also major influencers, with 46 percent reporting that they count on social media when making purchases online.

10. Minorities’ purchasing power will increase. For small businesses, failing to recognize the growing buying power of minorities will have a negative impact on their bottom lines.According to an analysis of data conducted by USA Today, over 50 percent of U.S. cities now have majority non-white populations. And according to the U.S. Census, Hispanics make up 17 percent of the U.S. population have purchasing power that exceeds $1 trillion. That figure is expected to grow by 2017.

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/business/biz-monday/article4324659.html#storylink=cpy

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7 End of Year Communication Tips to Engage & Inspire Employees into 2015

It’s the end of the year, and as 2014 comes to a close, this is the perfect time for you to start putting together your company’s final communication to employees that will end the year with a bang.

This is your opportunity to engage, inform and inspire employees as we ring in a new year and remind them of the milestones and achievements accomplished over the past year.

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For large companies that have a dispersed workforce, employees may not realize what other areas of the company accomplished. For organizations going through lots of change, this is an opportunity to shine a light on a positive subject and remind employees what they accomplished when faced with challenges.

Here are 7 tips, tricks and bits of advice to create your 2014 end of year communication and start 2015 on a high note:

1. Tie Accomplishments Back to Your Company Goals

Every organization develops goals and works toward its mission each year. Show your organization that what you’ve accomplished is in line with the goals set. This will not only reinforce the goals with employees but will give them a sense of pride

2. Create an Infographic

Highlight your milestones and achievements in a creative way with an infographic. This is also a great option for employees who don’t have a company email. Print out the infographic and post it around the facility for those employees to enjoy.

3. Distribute a Message from the CEO

Maybe your organization is small and doesn’t have the budget for an infographic. Start off simple by distributing a message from the CEO that congratulates employees on their accomplishments. This is a great opportunity to bring humanity to your communications and show genuine care from your top leader.

4. Provide a Roadmap for the Beginning of 2015

This is your opportunity to provide an overview of what 2015 might look like. Details aren’t necessary, but you can at least give a high-level overview of what employees can expect in the coming year.

5. Include One Milestone or Achievement from Each Area of the Company

Don’t forget to highlight all of the great work across your company and not just the corporate headquarters. While the majority of your workforce may work in one or two locations, the other locations should be included to ensure equitable recognition.

6. Film a Video

If your company really wants to kick off 2015 with a bang, create a video. This video can include b-roll from other videos of milestones and accomplishments and a message directly from the CEO, who may not get face time with a dispersed workforce.

7. Great Place to Work Results

Every organization strives to be a Great Place to Work. Use analytical data to show that the company has listened to its workforce and is making the necessary changes to improve employee morale and satisfaction.

The year end is your opportunity to engage and build up employees’ passion and excitement for 2015. Don’t let this be a missed opportunity. Remember, as long as it goes out before January 1, it is an end of year communication. Cheers to all your achievements in 2014 and your awesome closing communications! Now get excited and start writing.

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Year-End Business Advice That Goes Beyond Taxes

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This time of year, many business owners think of their accountant as someone who can help with tax planning – figuring out which deductions they must lock in by year end or which moves can qualify them for needed tax credits. Certainly, accountants can help business owners in those areas, and many business owners are meeting with their accountants to do just that.

But limiting your use of an accountant to taxes alone is like taking a piece of bread at an all-you-can-eat buffet. You’re not getting all you can, especially if you have unmet business goals or questions about current business challenges. Business owners who only think of their accountants in terms of taxes miss out on utilizing them as a trusted advisor and someone who can help grow the business and make the owner more money.

“Accountants are the most underused resources that business owners have,” says Brian Hamilton, chairman of Sageworks, a financial information company. “Business owners are so busy making ends meet that they don’t have the time to sit down and analyze financial data.

Others are intimidated by accounting — and accountants. They don’t really know how to make the most of their financial statements and the information in them, but they may be slightly averse to asking questions and admitting that they need help.”

Now is an excellent time to tap the financial knowledge and business experience that your accountant has in order to not only get a good start on 2015, but also to address ways to finish 2014 on a stronger operational note. Many accountants are already meeting with clients for tax planning. For others like Sara L. “Sally” Massagee, a CPA in Hendersonville, N.C., now through the end of February is a slower season for business before tax season hits full force.

Massagee says businesses need to remember that incredible growth doesn’t just happen. “Part of how it happens is knowing your strengths and weaknesses, and capitalizing on the strengths that make a difference while tackling the weaknesses,” she says. “Now is a great time to identify those and understand them heading into the new year.”

Below are 10 ways (besides tax planning) that you can use upcoming meetings with accountants to end 2014 positively and to launch a prosperous 2015. All you have to do is let your accountant know ahead of time that you’d like to learn more about these topics; if they won’t help you, ask for a referral to someone who will.

  1. Review year-to-date results and how they compare with the year-ago period to develop an action plan for 2015.
  2. Identify or learn more about key performance indicators (KPIs) for your industry or key financial metrics, and set up a way to begin tracking those for your business.
  3. Benchmark your recent results against industry peers.
  4. Schedule now some quarterly meetings in 2015 to discuss financials in the context of improving profitability, sales, cash flow or all three.
  5. Learn how to ensure your business is worth as much as you think it is. Whether you’re planning to sell, pass along to heirs or simply generate enough in coming years to walk away, accountants can help you figure out what to do now to make it happen.
  6. Develop a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threat) analysis of your business or an upcoming venture and use that to develop 2015 plans.
  7. Identify whether you have the resources to grow your business in 2015 without experiencing cash shortages.
  8. Discuss your banking relationships and whether there are any debt covenants or other issues that you’re worried about fulfilling, or whether you need help applying for a bank loan.
  9. Examine whether you are getting the return on investment you expected from recently purchased equipment, recently hired employees or recently added business lines.
  10. Analyze whether planned purchases, hires or business changes will provide good returns.

With just over five weeks left in the year, you still have some control over 2014, and you certainly can change the course of 2015 with a little planning and financial information.

“This is the stuff that matters,” Massagee says.

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What Your Small Business Needs to Know About Charitable Giving This Holiday Season

During the season of giving thanks and giving gifts, charitable giving can make a big difference to those in need and also shine a favorable light on your small business. But what’s the best approach and how do you claim that all-important tax deduction? Here are some tips for developing a charitable giving strategy and claiming the right deduction.

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Giving Back is Good for Small Business

Research shows that giving back is not only important to small business, but  also important to your customers. According to a 2010 philanthropic studyby Cone Communications, 85 percent of consumers have a more positive image of a product or company when it supports a cause they care about. Ninety percent want companies to tell them how they’re supporting causes. So more than 278 million people in the U.S. want to know what a company is doing to benefit a cause.

Charitable giving is also great for employee morale because it brings employees together to support good causes that are separate from their everyday work-life. From a marketing perspective, it can also give your business an opportunity to reach out and connect with members of your community on a different platform.

Of course, there’s also the tax deduction – more on that at the end of this post.

Making it Happen

Despite the benefits, charity isn’t always easy for small businesses. Finding the time and resources for meaningful activities can be challenging. And how do you determine which charity is the right fit for your business and your community?

As with all aspects of managing your business, it’s important to have a plan that is clearly tied to your goals. Connect your business purpose to a particular charity. For example, if you are in the restaurant trade, support a charity that collects food for the homeless or organizes military care packages for our troops. Lawyers could support charities or non-profits that work to provide low-cost legal support for low-income individuals.

If you can’t find an appropriate charity, simply pick one you’re passionate about and that will resonate with your employees.

Claiming Your Tax Deduction

Most charities or non-profits operate as tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organizations and donations made to them are tax deductible. Donations that are eligible for a tax deduction include cash, volunteered services, sponsorship of local charity events or the donation of inventory or services.

Be sure to check the tax status of the charity of your choice either directly with them or from the IRS for a quick look-up of tax-exempt organizations.

So what tax benefits can charitable giving provide?

Charitable contributions can qualify as tax deductions against your business’ annual tax liability. Generally, you can deduct up to 50 percent of your adjusted gross income. However, the IRS tax code is complex and it’s important to note that not all contributions can be deducted.

  • Cash contributions – You can claim a deduction for cash or other monetary contributions as long as they aren’t set aside for use by a specific person. Make sure you make the contribution within the current tax year to be eligible for the deduction, regardless of the accounting method your business uses. Use Form 1040, Schedule A, to itemize deductions on your return.
  • Property or inventory donations – These are tax deductible, although you’ll need to assess their fair market value. Use Form 8283 for donations over $500.
  • Volunteering – This is a popular form of giving, and while you can’t deduct the value of your service, you can deduct some of the expenses you incur such as the cost of buying a uniform or even the costs of hosting a fundraising party.
  • Benefits you receive as a result of your giving – If you get something in return for your donation you can only deduct the amount of your contribution that is over the value of the benefit/prize you receive. Suppose your company got involved in a charity auction and you placed a winning bid.  If you bid $500 and the fair market value of the prize was $200, you can deduct the difference of $300.

It’s always a good idea to consult your accountant or tax advisor for information about what constitutes a charitable tax deduction and how to properly file your claim.

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16 Data-Backed Tips for Successful Digital Marketing in 2015

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The secret to successful digital marketing in 2015 is pretty simple. You’ve got to know your customer. The end of an old year and the beginning of a new one is the perfect time to sit down and analyze the characteristics of qualities of your customer. Every niche differs, but these characteristics will apply to most.

1. Millennials are the most affluent market demographic. Today’s millennials have money, and are willing to spend it. They comprise the largest portion of spending power today. Although they’re not keen on buying cars, cable TV, houses, and Miller beer, they certainly aren’t cheap. Tip: Market to millennials. They’ve got the money.

2. 74% believe in their power of persuasion to influence others’ buying decisions. This young, hip, savvy group of spenders is also pretty good at persuasion, at least they think so. A vast majority of them think they’re capable of influencing the purchases of family and friends. As many as 76% believe they are “highly depended upon for their opinions.” Tip: Be a brand worth spreading.

3. 109.5 — average numbers of text messages sent per day. For all the talk about email marketing and social media, don’t forget about text messaging. Many customers are more active on text than they are on email or social media. Tip: Market to customers using text messages.

4. 63% of women and 73% of men will check their phones every hour. People are hyperconnected via their smartphones. Most customers have their phones with them for 22 hours out of every 24 hour period. Mobile search optimization, responsive design, and mobile optimized checkout are imperative. Tip: Focus on your mobile presence, including mobile checkout.

5. 82% prefer brick and mortar shopping. Even though online marketing is the way to go, most customers still prefer the brick-and-mortar method of buying things. Brick-and-mortar establishments can’t afford to neglect local SEO as a key digital marketing strategy. Tip: Don’t neglect local SEO.

6. 95% want a brand to actively pursue them as a customer Your customers expect to be courted. Don’t hesitate to send them emails, remarket, pitch them, and sell hard. They demand it if they are to become a customer. Tip: Actively market to your target audience.

7. 75% don’t believe that companies tell the truth in advertisements. Traditional advertising is sketchy at best in the minds of customers. Even though traditional advertising costs a lot, it doesn’t have the same level of credibility. You have a far higher likelihood of gaining a customer’s trust through online content marketing than traditional advertising. Tip: Don’t just make claims. Back it up with data.

8. 92% are more willing to trust information online than any other source. If you believe in the power of online marketing, good for you. So do your customers. They trust information online, which gives credence to your content marketing efforts Tip: Do content marketing. Then do some more.

9. 76% notice where a product is made. People like to shop local. If they can’t do that, then they will at least notice where a product is made. Tip: Give attention to your product and materials sourcing, because your customers care.

10. 69% prefer a brand that is open about corporate social responsibility. In the eyes of your customers, you’re more than just a business doing business. You’re a business with a responsibility to do good. Tip: Be open about your social obligations and fulfilling them.

11. 88% believe that brands should seek to make the world a better place. Marketing is more than a good product, a slick presentation, and a smart pitch to an audience. Today, it’s about seeking to make the world a better place socially and environmentally. If you neglect your responsibility towards the world at large, your consumers won’t like you. Tip: Don’t just focus on business. Give attention to doing good.

12. 83% believe that companies should support nonprofit and charity organizations. If your business does not give to good causes, don’t expect your customers to give to your business. The mindset of the customer is that a business — as a for-profit entity — has a responsibility to give back. Tip: Give to charity.

13. 50% will write about positive experiences, and 39% will write about negative experiences. Customers walk into a buying experience with their antennae up and their thumbs ready to tweet. If you wow them with your customer service, there is a good chance they will praise you publicly. If you give them a negative experience, though, you run the risk of being publicly smeared. Tip: Customer service, even in the online arena, is more important than ever due to the social spread of both positive and negative experiences.

14. 89% won’t switch from brands they like. If you want to compete with the big brands, you’re going to have a hard time with it. Most consumers find a brand they like and stick with it. According to one study, 80% of American millennials agree that “once I find a company or product I like, I keep coming back.” Tip: In order to break into an established industry, you have to offer something substantially different.

15. 50% use at least four sources to make a purchase decision, and one third use seven or more sources. Buyers are researchers, and they go to a lot of sources to get the information they want. If a customer buys from you, there’s a very strong chance they’ve also looked at your competition, and read as many online reviews as they can find. Tip: Give customers the best information you can in order to help them make an informed decision.

16. 82% will join a brand-sponsored online community. Your Twitter account, Facebook page, and LinkedIn presence do matter. Consumers are willing to identify themselves with a brand. Tip: Form your communities, and give them some love. Conclusion 2015 can be a pivotal year, depending on how you posture yourself in the market. There’s huge opportunity, but equally large risks.

How are you going to change your digital marketing approach in 2015?

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December Top 20

Our December Top 20 List is now posted! Here are the  20 business categories that we are looking to sign up this month! Earn BARTER and CASH for your referral! $200cash/$200trade for any category on the Top 20 list and $100cash/$100trade for ALL other referrals. For more information call your Trade Coordinator @ 770-591-4343.

Granite / Furniture Store / Window Cleaning / Copier Company / Deck Company / Cigar Store /  Nuts/Chocolate Store / Appliance Repair / Restaurant Equipment Repair / Courier Services / Gutter Companies that’ll go anywhere / Bike Company / Florist in Cobb/Cherokee and Atlanta / Phone Systems / Auto & Home Locksmith in Cobb/N.Fulton / Carpet/Hardwood Stores / Self Storage / Electrician That’ll Go Everywhere / Floor Installers & Refinishing / Event Facility in Atlanta

Monthly Top 20 List - December

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