3 Reasons to Register for the COSE WebEd Series: Ship Smart and Save

The start to the COSE WebEd Series—Ship Smart & Save Money—is less than a month away.

Why should you register to attend this webinar series? You're extremely busy, but are you too busy to save time and money?

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  • BizConCLE 2017

    To help you become your company's next shipping expert, you're invited to attend the three-part COSE WebEd Series coming up on Sept. 27, Oct. 18 and Nov. 11 (all at 11 a.m.).

    RELATED: Register for the WebEd Series Webinar “Ship Smart & Save Money” today

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    Here are the top three reasons why you should register:

    1. Save Time, Money and Resources

    • Do you know how carriers calculate rates for your shipments?

    • Are you aware of common freight classification errors?

    • Could the packaging of your freight be costing you extra money?

    • Do you know the basic import/export process so when you receive the first international business opportunity you can proceed with confidence?

    If you hesitated answering any of these questions, you should register to attend!

    2. It's Free to Attend

    Speaking of registering, the webinar series is completely free to COSE members! Why not take advantage of a free educational opportunity? Don't handle shipping for your company? Forward this to who does and let them save your team time and money!

    3. Connect with an Expert for Future Questions and Help

    You never know how much you need an expert until your customer has questions you just simply don't know the answers to. If nothing else, get to know our shipping experts and have a lifeline next time you need professional guidance. Don't let business opportunities that are outside of your comfort zone or geographical region hold you back!

    Don't wait! Register for the September webinar today.

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    Next up: 30 Seconds or Less: What Would You Tell the Younger You?

    30 Seconds or Less: What Would You Tell the Younger You?

    Let’s say you had a time machine and had the opportunity to go back and talk to the younger version of yourself just as you were venturing out on your business career. The catch: You have no more than 30 seconds to give this person advice. What would you say?

    Let’s say you had a time machine and had the opportunity to go back and talk to the younger version of yourself just as you were venturing out on your business career. The catch: You have no more than 30 seconds to give this person advice. What would you say?

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    We posed this question to attendees of COSE’s Annual Meeting. Watch the video to find out the words of wisdom they wished to impart on their earlier selves. 

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    Next up: 4 Issues to Know in November: A Voting Guide

    4 Issues to Know in November: A Voting Guide

    Voters on November 3rd will be confronted with a bevy of important issues when they arrive at the ballot box. (By the way, early voting has already begun. Contact your County Board of Elections and cast your vote today!) As Election Day draws nearer, COSE is providing the below voting guide to help further explain what the following issues are all about. After careful consideration with the COSE Advocacy Committee and COSE Board, as well as business leaders from around Northeast Ohio, here are COSE’s recommendations on each of the four issues listed below.

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    Voters on November 3rd will be confronted with a bevy of important issues when they arrive at the ballot box. (By the way, early voting has already begun. Contact your County Board of Elections and cast your vote today!) As Election Day draws nearer, COSE is providing the below voting guide to help further explain what the following issues are all about.

    After careful consideration with the COSE Advocacy Committee and COSE Board, as well as business leaders from around Northeast Ohio, here are COSE’s recommendations on each of the four issues listed below.

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    Vote NO on Issue 3: Legalized marijuana

    One of the more polarizing issues to be decided was brought forward to grant blanket legalization of marijuana for both medical and recreational use. If passed, this would make Ohio the first state in the country to legalize recreational use and medical use of marijuana at the same time. In the small number of other states that legalized recreational marijuana (four states and the District of Columbia), medical marijuana use laws were in place first before taking the step to legalize recreational use.

    The group pushing for this ballot measure is dubbed “ResponsibleOhio” and is made up of a handful of investors that stand to reap the financial benefits should the issue pass; commercial marijuana would only be grown at 10 sites belonging to these individuals. The marijuana monopoly that Issue 3 would allow for has even caused long-time legalization advocates to publicly oppose it.  But, beyond the questions this proposed Constitutional amendment raises and the unknown effects of legalization, there is also the issue of timing and the fact that the state is ill-prepared to manage the potential repercussions.

    While the exact economic impact this proposal would have remains unclear, passage would mean small businesses around the state would be forced to undertake new requirements for how they manage employees. For example, the amendment language would require employers to treat medical marijuana like prescription drugs and it could require employers to accommodate medical marijuana in the workplace. Employers need to review and update their human resource policies and how their business treats the use of prescription drugs. 

    Passage would also bring about a number of workplace safety concerns, as discussed here.

    COSE recommends voting NO on Issue 3.

    Vote YES on Issue 2: Limit monopolies and oligopolies

    Going hand-in-hand with the marijuana legalization effort is a separate, but related issue that aims to limit monopolies and oligopolies in the state. If Issue 2 wins approval, voters would still have the opportunity to suspend the prohibition on monopolies and oligopolies for specific future issues and vote on whether those issues are in the best interest of the people of the state.

    There would be a limited number of marijuana growers allowed if Issue 3 were to pass because it would maximize the profit for the handful of marijuana investors tied to the “ResponsibleOhio” campaign.  Supporting Issue 2 would help protect the Ohio Constitution from “ResponsibleOhio’s” initiative and make it more difficult to grant monopolistic enterprises in the future.

    COSE recommends voting YES on Issue 2.

    Vote YES on Issue 1: State legislative redistricting

    Gerrymandering has long been a familiar part of Ohio politics, where the majority party has had the opportunity to slice and dice the map to best suit their preferred candidates’ needs (and their odds of winning future elections.)

    One group is trying to change that – or at least limit the amount of gerrymandering that occurs when drawing state legislative districts. Fair Districts for Ohio is advocating for a bi-partisan plan to improve upon the way the state approaches redistricting for state legislators. This would be the first major overhaul to Ohio’s process of drawing state legislative districts in over 40 years and here’s, in part, how the plan would work:

    • Would create a new seven-member bipartisan panel called the “Ohio Redistricting Commission.”
    • The commission would have at least two members from the minority party.
    • Would require at least two votes from each party in order to approve a district plan, otherwise a temporary plan is put in place and the commission must reconvene to redraw it.
    • Would create a process for the Ohio Supreme court to order the commission to redraw the map if the plan favors one political party.
    • Keep communities together by requiring a district plan to split as few counties, municipal corporations, and townships as possible.

    The ballot measure has received overwhelming support from Republican and Democratic lawmakers as well as a wide array of organizations around the state extending from the Ohio Education Association to unions to the Ohio Chamber of Commerce.

    COSE recommends voting YES on Issue 1.

    Vote YES on Issue 8: Arts and culture

    A renewal is on the ballot for arts and cultural institutions in the region that would continue to provide a dedicated revenue source for Cuyahoga County’s arts and culture scene. The amount of arts programming our region has to offer is a testament to the levy’s impact. The issue is not a tax increase.  It would continue the current 1.5 cents tax per cigarette sold in Cuyahoga County to support arts and cultural organizations.

    “People have seen the return on the investment,” says Tom Schorgl, President & CEO of the Community Partnership for Arts & Culture. And, the initiative has been held up as a national model for how to establish strategic public and private partnerships for arts and cultural programs.

    The tax, approved by voters in 2006, has funded such efforts as art education in schools, neighborhood programming and more. And, the funding is especially important for non-profits because organizations such as those can have a difficult time securing operating dollars needed to open the doors and actually run the organization.

    “I think one of the most important things is a lot of people have experienced first-hand arts and culture programming,” Schorgl says. “Over half of the programs offered that have received support have been free, so access has increased exponentially. People from all walks of life in every corner of Cuyahoga County have seen those results and have connected with it personally.”

    COSE recommends voting YES on Issue 8.


    As you can see, the outcome of this year’s vote will have a significant impact on Northeast Ohio. COSE encourages you to get out and make your voice heard!

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    Next up: 4 Ways to DIY Your Marketing Efforts

    4 Ways to DIY Your Marketing Efforts

    To get the best marketing results, you should hire an employee dedicated to marketing or hire an agency to do the work. (Full disclosure: As a marketing professional, I am legally obligated to say that.) However, as a small business owner myself, I know those options are not always viable. We have to DIY some/most/all of our marketing, and it’s not easy. 

    To get the best marketing results, you should hire an employee dedicated to marketing or hire an agency to do the work. (Full disclosure: As a marketing professional, I am legally obligated to say that.)

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    However, as a small business owner myself, I know those options are not always viable. We have to DIY some/most/all of our marketing, and it’s not easy.

    Here are four tips I’ve learned about DIYing your marketing through experiences I’ve had with my company, Fashionably Cleveland, a publication spotlighting the Northeast Ohio style scene.

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    1. Make the most of your network.

    When applicable, try to manage mutually beneficial arrangements between your company and members of your professional and personal network.

    One commonly used example is guest blogging. If your website has a blog, solicit content relevant to your brand from people you know. When you post the blog, include a link to that person’s website (or company website), and share the blog itself like crazy across your social media and other marketing channels. You get some great, SEO-friendly content to help drive traffic to your site, and the blog writer benefits from traffic to his or her site as well. Everyone wins!

    2. Be nice to the media.

    Give journalists a story to tell. After all, that is their job and the easier you make it for them, the more likely they are to give you coverage. Come up with unique angles for a journalist to capture, and pitch that story to the media. (Pro tip: The fact you own a company isn’t usually regarded as a story in and of itself.)

    One of my media coverage success stories came as a result of Fashionably Cleveland hosting a fashion blogger event. It was something that didn’t often happen in the area, and Fox 8 picked up on the press release I sent the station about it. As a result, I, along with the three fashion bloggers that were being featured at the event, appeared on the Fox 8 morning show. It not only promoted the event itself, but also the Fashionably Cleveland brand. 

    3. Automate as much as you can (without turning your brand into a robot.)

    You can cover a lot more ground, marketing-wise, if you take advantage of some automated marketing. You have to be strategic in what you automate, though—we’ve all seen brands that send out the same verbiage on Facebook and Twitter at the same time, and as a result, the message is dulled. Your audience wants to know there is a person behind your message, not a machine.

    I use Mailchimp for the Fashionably Cleveland newsletter, and with some initial setup, it allows you to automatically generate a newsletter using your site’s RSS feed. Although it did take some technological finagling to set up at first, it has saved me so much time each week from when I used to create the newsletter manually, and it has the exact same content. This way, I’ve freed up some of my time and my subscribers don’t notice any difference when the newsletter arrives in their inboxes each week.

    4. Spend your time where you see the most return.

    Your time is valuable, so it’s important to make the most of your marketing efforts. If you let it, social media alone can swallow up a lot of your time, and it’s smart to make sure you’re spending time where it matters most.

    In terms of social media, I have an engaged Twitter audience for Fashionably Cleveland, so that is definitely worth my marketing time. A decent chunk of traffic to my site comes from Facebook referrals, so I make sure to keep up with the Fashionably Cleveland Facebook page as well. And with the huge popularity among fashion bloggers and brands on Instagram, I’ve made sure to make the Fashionably Cleveland Instagram a priority, too. That said, you don’t need to be on every social network.

    For instance, LinkedIn isn’t really the place people go to read about style, so I do minimum work on the Fashionably Cleveland LinkedIn page—just enough to benefit from the inbound links it provides.

    As a small business owner, it’s not often viable to farm out all of your marketing efforts. But with a little strategic thinking on your part, you can do a pretty darn good job DIYing your company’s marketing.

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    Next up: 5 Marketing Hacks to Generate New Customers

    5 Marketing Hacks to Generate New Customers

    Here are five easy hacks you can start implementing today to bring more customers to your business.

    In today’s saturated market, small- and medium-size businesses need to focus on re-vamping their online marketing strategies to compete and attract new customers. No matter the industry, or size of your organization, your online presence is key to making the big bucks and business longevity. Fortunately, you don’t need expensive or intricate marketing campaigns or big budgets to successfully reach new customers. All you need is a little motivation and creativity to make a large impact.

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    Here are five of our most successful marketing hacks that will help your organization generate new customers and new revenue.

    Website

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    Whether you use your website for ecommerce or strictly informational purposes, it is one of your most important marketing tools. Most customers have already made their mind up about what they are interested in purchasing before they even contact you. Because of this, it is crucial to have a responsive website with updated content. There are tools such as Google Analytics and Webmaster that help website managers pull useful informational data. You can leverage this to learn how many visitors are coming to the website, what pages they are browsing and for how long. You can also see what keywords or key phrases people are using to find your company online. We use this data to help gauge effectiveness of campaigns and generate new content.

    SEO

    If you want to be searchable online, you have to pay attention to SEO (search engine optimization). SEO is the process of affecting the visibility of your website in web search engines (Google, Bing, etc.) unpaid results, also known as “organic” traffic. For example, our organization is a Managed IT Services Provider headquartered in Pittsburgh. If I Google “Pittsburgh Managed IT Services” does our organization pop up? If your organization doesn’t land on the first page of Google, there is some work that needs to be done.

    The first step is keyword research. Use tools such as Keyword Planner, AdWords, and Google to create a list of 50 to 60 words that your organization would like to rank for. Localize some of the keywords by adding the city location into the phrase (e.g. Pittsburgh Managed IT Services Provider). Once you have a solid list of words and key phrases, start to implement these into content on your website. Once these pages crawl, your web content will start to rank and you can increase visibility.

    Insider tip: You won’t see an immediate improvement in rankings when working with SEO. It can take three to six months before you see any changes. I use a free tool called SERPLAB. This tool will help you track progress of your keyword changes and webpage rankings.

    Blog

    Content is king. A frequently updated blog is a great way to get fresh, keyword-optimized, content out on the web. Create a blog content schedule and stick to it. This is an easy way to get more exposure and educate your customers on the benefits of your products and services. Google suggests that the best optimized content is between 500 to 700 words with a healthy mix of keywords. I know we all want each page or blog post to rank for our keywords, but beware of overstuffing! Overstuffing is the practice of stuffing your content with keywords because you think it will make your page rank for that word. It won’t. Google will not approve and won’t allow for ranking! A good practice is to place one keyword in the title and in the first paragraph. Next, place one to three keywords or key phrases in the body of the blog (varying on length). Lastly, put one keyword in the last paragraph.

    Insider Tip: Write your blogs in advance. The day before you plan on posting, reread to check for grammatical errors. The day of posting, give it one more check. This will limit errors significantly.

    Marketing automation

    Marketing automation is the future of marketing. Marketing tasks can be repetitive and time consuming. The goal of marketing automation software is to automate these actions and create more visibility into the effectiveness of social media, emails, and website actions. With this software, you can gain the ability to track users’ actions throughout the campaign process. Such actions like, how many clicks or opens on an email or a certain link, their travel path through the email and website, and email bounces. While you can see some of this on normal email services, with marketing automation you can automate follow up processes. Once you set these up and place a certain list in that campaign you can sit back and watch new leads and business effectively generate.

    Social media

    Social selling can be effective for most organizations. Use popular social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Reddit, etc. to interact with your prospects. You can use these platforms to answer questions about your products or services, supply useful content, and keep your prospects updated with company news. Tracking vanity metrics (shares, likes, retweets, etc.) can be useful to know which content users find the most intriguing, but one of the most important metrics to pay attention to is link clicks. Use a free service such as Bitly to create shortened, trackable links. Not only will these shortened links make your social postings look cleaner, but you can track how much traffic that link is getting and where it is coming from.

    As part of the small business community, we have dabbled in all of these marketing initiatives ourselves—successfully and unsuccessfully. The truth is you have to take the time to test, analyze, and revaluate your initiatives until you find the right marketing equation for your organization. There is no one-size-fits-all marketing plan and you have to remember that there is no finite answer to marketing. Evaluate your plan often and make changes accordingly to market trends and personal business change.

    NetServe365 delivers a complete range of managed IT services, security services, hosting options and consulting services 24/7/365 from our headquarters in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. We never stop evolving our technologies and operational efficiencies so we can deliver a customer experience and network results far superior to our competitors’. We strive to deliver on every promise, every time because we know who we work for--the partners and customers who put their trust in us. Learn more about NetServe365 here. 

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    Next up: 5 reasons you should be thinking about the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Program

    5 reasons you should be thinking about the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Program

    There are plenty of reasons the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Program needs to be on your business’ radar in 2016. But I get it: as a small business owner you have a lot of demands on your time, so allow me to distill the many reasons you should be thinking about the program into the top five.

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    There are plenty of reasons the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Program needs to be on your business’ radar in 2016. But I get it: as a small business owner you have a lot of demands on your time, so allow me to distill the many reasons you should be thinking about the program into the top five.

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    And they are:

    1. The know-how behind the program. The program is designed by Babson College, the nation’s top-ranked entrepreneurship school. A focus is made on on practical business skills that can immediately be applied by business owners, including negotiation, marketing and employee management.

    When was the last time you had access to a nationally ranked entrepreneurial program?

    2.  There is opportunity to access capital. Through the program, business owners learn how to become more bankable and better position themselves to access financing and capital. The program also gives entrepreneurs the opportunity to network with potential lenders and capital providers.

    When was the last time you had an opportunity to learn more about what it takes to access the capital you need to grow your business?

    3. It makes your world bigger. On the first day of class, most business owners don’t know one another. By the end of the course, they have not only developed relationships and a support network, but they are also doing business with one another. Not to mention the fact the program exposes business owners to the myriad of resources available to them throughout the region that are ready and waiting to help them grow their business.

    When’s the last time you made a connection that helped your business grow?

    4. It will help you (and force you) to grow. Most business owners who complete the program experience incredible growth—not just for their business but also as individuals. The program teaches businesses owners to think differently, to make tough decisions, and to develop a solid vision for the future of the business.

    When was the last time you were given the resources you need to put together a long-term plan for the success of your business?

    5. It’s free. That’s right—there is no cost. There are no hidden fees or gimmicks to get you to buy something once you’re in. The program is sponsored by Goldman Sachs which means the business owners who are chosen to participate get to do so without paying a cent.

    When was the last time you had an opportunity to learn and grow your business without having to pay out of pocket for it?

    When was the last time you said “This is the year I will focus on growth?”

    This is the year you can make that statement. Look at the program. Take five minutes to complete the simple application before the deadline of February 19th. Go here to learn more, apply, and read about the other business owners who have grown their businesses as a result of the program.

    Don’t you owe it to yourself and your business?

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