3 Things to Know: Vacationing as a Small Business Owner

Before you decide that you can't get away for some time off this summer, check out these three things to know about vacationing as a small business owner. It will have you packing your bags in no time.

Even small business owners need to take a break from their work from time to time. Since we are in peak summer vacation season, here are three things you should know when it comes to stepping away from your business.

The first thing to know: It’s always a good idea. Vacation time, paid time-off, unplugging—whatever you call it, it’s an important part of any workplace wellness program and an effective way to better your bottom line. With a little time off, morale can be improved, stress can be lowered—leading to lower healthcare costs, and your business can witness increased productivity—among other benefits.

The second thing to know: Your business doesn’t have to suffer. With the proper advanced planning and an effort toward blocking off your schedule, as well as making sure you prepare your clients (and staff) for your time away, you can make the most of your time off. Click here for four ways to recharge without neglecting your business.

The third thing you need to know: You don’t have to stop learning. Lounging on the beach, being confined to the car on road-trips, and hanging out at home for a stay-cation are all great times to get caught up on topics of relevance to your work and to your growth as a business owner. In fact, here are 11 business books you should have read by now—and if not then add them to your reading list for your next vacation. And, if you’re the one doing the driving, you need to multitask, or the sun glare from your spot on the beach is just too much, learn why audio books and podcasts are good options.

Speaking of learning, Mind Your Business would like to start featuring books, podcasts and other resources that have had a positive impact on you as a business owner, have helped you grow your business, or that you have personally had a role in writing, creating or producing. Contact us for more details or if you have a story to tell for this new series.


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  • Next up: 3 Things to Know: Running a Business During the Holidays

    3 Things to Know: Running a Business During the Holidays

    Holidays for small businesses mean special offers, holiday parties, and maybe even some down time. Here are three things to know about running a business during the holidays. And, scroll to the bottom for an invite to COSE's ultimate holiday party and annual meeting.

     

    The holidays are quickly approaching so we’re making a list and checking it twice of some of the things our small business experts want you to know about running your business during this (most wonderful) time of the year.

    Need to know no. 1: It’s not too late to come up with a holiday strategy.

    But, the longer you wait the more likely you’ll be to miss out on getting your share of the nearly $1 trillion eager holiday shoppers are expected to spend this season. From offering value to your social followers to ensuring your customer service doesn’t miss a beat, check out these 10 takeaways when it comes to connecting with shoppers. And, here are 8 social media strategies to remember this holiday season.

    COSE is here to help! Small Business Saturday, which is November 30 this year, is a great opportunity for you to unveil your holiday offers—whether that includes discounts or a special event. COSE can help you promote these offerings. Send the details to Allison Halco and they might be featured on our social accounts or in a special Mind Your Business article.

    Need to know no. 2: Make the most of the downtime.

    For many companies—excluding, of course, retail—business slows down during the holidays as people take vacations and defer new decisions on purchases for the following year. This downtime creates a wonderful opportunity to reenergize yourself and your business. Here are five ideas on how to leverage your downtime this holiday season.

    Need to know no. 3: Balance recreation and liability at holiday parties

    Company holiday parties and other social events can promote a winning work culture. But mixing business with pleasure comes with risks. Here’s how to avoid liability at your company’s holiday party or next social event.

    Speaking of holiday parties—Register to attend COSE’s Big Party for Small Biz on December 11 at Music Box Supper Club. Join us as we celebrate another year at COSE’s Annual Meeting, including the ultimate holiday party celebrating all things small biz.

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  • Next up: 3 Things to Know: Business Challenges

    3 Things to Know: Business Challenges

    Owning a business isn't always cupcakes and rainbows; facing obstacles and dealing with challenges are a consistent part of the job. Check out these three things our experts think you should know when it comes to business challenges.

     

    While there are many benefits and rewards to owning a small business, it certainly does not come without its struggles. In this month’s 3 Things to Know article, we challenge you to take a look at your business challenges.

    First thing to know: You are not alone

    You probably know this already but let us reiterate: every business and every business owner experiences hard times. Over the years, Mind Your Business has brought you several opportunities to hear from COSE members about the specific challenges they deal with on a regular basis. We featured interviews the Young Entrepreneur Institute conducted with COSE members, asking them about the most challenging obstacles they face as entrepreneurs. Here’s another interview with Cleveland Chain Reaction finalists who reveal what they find to be the most difficult parts of running a business.

    The blog’s Q-and-A series with investor level members is another way we’ve put a spotlight on these challenges. Here is one under-the-radar challenge that most business owners aren’t talking about from the perspective of one of COSE’s own.

    Second thing to know: Your challenges may be a result of your success

    With new sales, more demands from clients and increased staff needs, it might be hard to keep up with the onslaught of responsibilities of a growing business. If you have trouble delegating or don’t know when it’s time to ask for help, check out these tips to keeping up with your growth.

    Third thing to know: You can be prepared

    Speaking of difficulty keeping up with your growing business, this MYB article features COSE member Tim Dimoff, president of SACS Consulting and Investigative Services, who talks about his struggles with doing just that and how he could have been better prepared.

    COSE is always here to help you overcome small business challenges. Perhaps your challenge is in social media, pitching your business, or finding the resources you need to effectively run your business. Join us October 16 for the Small Business Resource Fair and meet entrepreneurial support organizations, discuss business challenges and opportunities, and more.


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  • Next up: 3 Things to Know: Success in Sales

    3 Things to Know: Success in Sales

    In our 3 Things to Know series we explore a variety of topics popular on the Mind Your Business site. This month we’re focusing on what our experts think is important to know when it comes to being successful in sales.

    When you own a small business, you are in the business of sales. Sometimes this is not a hat you like wearing, or a role that comes naturally. Luckily, our resident sales experts have thoroughly tackled this topic. Take a look at these three things they want you to know when it comes to having success in sales.

    First thing to know: Every salesperson or company should adopt a selling system that works well for them. This is the process by which you develop an opportunity from start to finish. Whether that finish is closing the sale or closing the file, you must have a defined beginning and end. Check out the flow of the selling system that Sandler Training uses.

    And, once you have a system that works for you and your company, it’s important that those involved in the process receive the necessary training. Proper sales training can mean the difference between keeping and losing a customer. Here’s what you should look for in a sales training program.

    Second thing to know: You must make people feel confident about their decision to work with and buy from you and your company. From managing successful transitions to being engaging and innovative, here are five tips to being successful in sales.

    Third thing to know: You don’t have to become a sell-out just to land the sale. Don’t roll over like a puppy dog; do keep in mind that the customer may not always be right. Don’t perform a “dog and pony show” every time you pitch your business; do subscribe to the line of thinking that sometimes less really is more. Keep the integrity of your business and your confidence high with these do’s and don’ts of selling.

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  • Next up: 5 Reasons You Should Invest in SEO for Your Business

    5 Reasons You Should Invest in SEO for Your Business

    If your business is not ranking high in online search results, then your website really isn’t working for you. You may not realize the importance of search engine optimization, but here are five reasons why SEO matters and how to go about making that investment.

     

    It's not optional. In order to thrive in today's online world and reach your constantly-online customers, you need to have a strong online presence. Unwrapping what that means, though, takes a little more work. It's not uncommon in my line of work to encounter businesses that, while recognizing the general value of digital marketing, do nothing to improve their ability to rank highly in a search. And yet, that might just be the most powerful tool at your disposal. After all, Google alone accounts for more than 50% of traffic to most websites. In fact, investing in search engine optimization (SEO) might just be one of the best moves you can make.

    When I talk to potential partners about SEO, I tend to hear some common reasons why they don't pay much attention to it. Let's turn that around. In reality, these five reasons are actually the top five reasons you should be investing in SEO to grow your business.

    Reason No. 1 to invest in SEO: Social media marketing is not enough

    Yes, channels like Facebook and Instagram are hot. You'll find plenty of marketing experts recommending them. And sure, they can play a vital role in your overall marketing efforts. But in reality, social media marketing is never enough to market your business.

    That 50% number quoted above? The same study found that social media only accounts for 5% of traffic generation. In addition, even the best presence on your (or your audience's) favorite networks will have no direct impact on your search rankings.

    Social media is great for brand awareness. It might be even better for customer service interactions. It does not, however, lead to traffic to your website that drives actual leads and customers.

    Google only includes quantifiable data in its search algorithms and because it doesn't have access to social media metrics, it disconnects social from search rankings. If you want to rank highly, you need an SEO strategy.

    Reason No. 2 to invest in SEO: Investing in SEO is not expensive

    I often hear that investing in SEO is expensive. That's relative, but generally not true. In fact, you can get to a #1 ranking on a popular search term with absolutely no budget at all. Because you can't pay your way to the top, you don't need a line item. It really can be that simple.

    Instead, SEO is all about the time you invest and the expertise you bring to the table. If you are looking for external expertise, that does mean spending some money. But you don't need to budget anything for actual ads, because SEO is all about authenticity. It's your actual website or business that ranks, not promotional messages.

    Even when you do invest some money, don't think about SEO as a cost. It's an investment in your business that will pay off long after you spend the money. Your SEO rankings need nurturing, but they won't just disappear. There is no campaign length. The investment you make now is into your business future and growth.

    Reason No. 3 to invest in SEO: Slow and steady can win the race

    Closely related to the above notion is the idea that SEO is not effective because it cannot achieve results quickly. That's true. It takes the average business 4-6 months to see a tangible increase in web traffic as a result of search optimization. The important thing to remember is that this slow and steady approach is actually a good thing.

    When you're embracing SEO, you're playing the long game. The reason it's such a good long-term investment is that even though it takes some time to build, that build will pay off multifold. If you are looking for immediate results, don't abandon SEO—instead look into some paid SEM ads that can complement your long-term efforts to rank on relevant keywords.

    Reason No. 4 to invest in SEO: You can still beat your competition

    Looking at those relevant keywords for your business and industry can be depressing, especially if your competition is already ranking highly and you're nowhere to be seen. That doesn't mean you shouldn't even start. Beating your competitors and climbing to the top of the rankings is impossible if you don't start somewhere. Remember: You miss 100% of the shots you don't take.

    Viewed differently, your competition's head start might not actually be a bad thing. It gives you the opportunity to find the chinks in the armor of your closest competitors. They're not doing all they can either, and once they reach a high spot on a relevant search results page, they tend to get lazy. Now is the time to strike.

    Knowing what your competitors are doing is half the battle. Use some competitive SEO research to uncover their tactics and devise a strategy to beat them. They'll never see you coming until your website suddenly receives more clicks and climbs up the rankings higher than theirs.

    Reason No. 5 to invest in SEO: Bad experiences don't predict the future

    Unfortunately, I sometimes run into potential clients who swear off investing in SEO because they've had a bad experience. That's all too common. Many in this game are unscrupulous or not transparent. They engage black hat tactics to get some immediate results, which get your website penalized and hurt your efforts in the long run.

    Don't let that take your eyes off the potential of this digital marketing channel. Instead, look for a partner who offers you the following:

    • Transparency. Being open about pricing builds trust. Transparency about techniques, methodology, and processes showcases expertise.
    • A good relationship. The right partner is open to constant communication, wants to learn about your business needs, and is committed to your success.

    Sometimes, it's just as important to simply avoid some of the red flags that come with questionable SEO companies:

    • Guarantees. SEO is determined by search engines, not marketers. Anyone who guarantees results should be viewed questionably. No marketer has a 'special relationship' with Google or gets preferential treatment.
    • Secret sauces. They just don't exist in digital marketing. There are some best practices, and they tend to be well-known among experts. Strategy and execution will drive your success, not some secret recipe you never get to learn.
    • Black hat tactics. Google specifically hunts and penalizes efforts to circumvent its algorithms. That includes automatically generated content, so-called doorway pages, hidden text and links, keyword stuffing, or link buying. Basically, anything that doesn't involve building value and relevance for your audience first.
    • The cheap option. The company promising to outbid everyone else probably is worth about that much. You get what you pay for. Sometimes, a larger initial investment actually gets you the skill and dedication you need and deserve.

    Ready to Begin Investing in SEO the Right Way?

    You won't find easy help anywhere. But when you find the right help, you set a foundation for digital marketing success and sustainable business growth. All you need is a partner committed to you, and ready to help you build your efforts over time. If you're ready for that step, let's talk. Allow me to better understand your business, with a no-commitment conversation about your search engine optimization efforts.

    Nachum Langsner is the Co-Founder & CMO of LocalBizGuru, a full-service digital marketing agency based in Cleveland, OH. He has over 10+ years of experience in the SEO industry and is a frequent presenter and instructor of digital marketing and SEO seminars for entrepreneurs and small business owners in the Greater Cleveland area for organizations such as COSE, Jumpstart, the Better Business Bureau, Score and the Ohio SBDC at CSU.  

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  • Next up: 6 Steps to Establishing Yourself as a Thought Leader in Your Industry

    6 Steps to Establishing Yourself as a Thought Leader in Your Industry

    Take these six steps to establish yourself as an authority in your space and begin leveraging the benefits of becoming a thought leader in your industry.

     

    It’s good to be known as an authority. That’s especially true in business, where the halo effect of expertise tends to rub off from thought leaders to the organizations they represent. 
    Establishing yourself as a thought leader in your industry comes with a number of clear-cut advantages.

    As an industry thought leader you can:

    • Reinforce your brand by focusing on industry topics related to your business;
    • Establish trust and credibility with potential customers by speaking authoritatively on a topic they’re invested in;
    • Improve your search engine optimization through more topics and content related to core target keywords; and
    • Improve your lead generation by building reliable, organic attention-getters that drive your audience into your funnel.

    Thought leaders don’t just follow trends. They define and create them by being at the cutting-edge of their area of expertise, creating a devoted following of readers who want to learn more about that topic.

    Getting to that point doesn’t happen overnight. But it’s far from impossible. Take these six steps to establish yourself as an authority in your space and begin leveraging the benefits of becoming a thought leader in your industry.

    Thought Leader Step No. 1: Find Your Niche of Expertise
    The first step is one of finding balance. Thought leadership only works when focused on a specific topic that isn’t already occupied by lots of other experts who claim the same experience and credentials as you. 

    Limiting yourself to your industry is the first step. But what topics within your industry are you particularly passionate about? What are some areas in which you could write or speak for days? Explore those as your potential niche.

    Of course, that niche also needs to be relevant for your audience. That’s where the balance comes in. The topics where your own passion and your audience’s interests intersect are your sweet spot. Find them, and focus on them whenever you can.

    Thought Leader Step No. 2: Define Your Core Channel(s) of Content Creation
    Next, it’s time to think through the ways in which you want to push out content. Ultimately, you’ll need a network of channels to accomplish that feat. It all starts, though, with a single channel or two in which your content usually originates.

    The choices are plentiful, but most thought leaders choose one of these opportunities to broadcast their voice and share their thoughts:

    • The company blog, making a direct connection to your organization and gaining customers
    • LinkedIn, long a thought leader platform and ideal to gain a following among business customers and audiences
    • YouTube, a great alternative if you’re able to and intend to express yourself in moving sound and images rather than the written word
    • Podcasting, which has become the medium of choice for many of today’s thought leaders across the business world.

    It makes sense to start with one of these channels. Use it as your baseline and hub for all the content you’re about to create. Once the foundation is set, you can branch out and repurpose your popular content to be disseminated across the other channels in a way that fits it best.

    Thought Leader Step No. 3: Find and Define Your Voice
    Thought leaders aren’t just unique because of their niche. They’re able to stand out from a crowd because they speak in a unique voice, and are able to connect with their audience on a personal level.

    What will that voice look like for you? Are you looking to end up more on the professional or casual side? Is a connection with your audience more important, or would you prefer authoritative language that leaves no doubt about your expertise?

    Find and define that voice. Write down exactly what makes your voice unique. Then, remind yourself frequently as you develop new content exactly what that voice is and should be.

    Thought Leader Step No. 4: Create Consistent Volumes of Content
    The first three steps are preparation. Now, it’s time to jump in the deep end and begin the content creation.

    A few articles won’t be enough, regardless of how high-quality they are. Instead, you need to build a consistent, reliable stream of content for your audience to enjoy. Your goal, after all, is to build expectations to the point where your followers always eagerly await that next piece you’ll publish.

    Within your niche, look to publish new content at least once a week and preferably more often. Don’t go through ‘dark spells’ in which you don’t publish at all. Instead, build your core channel into a steady stream of content that satisfies and delights your audience and keeps them coming back.

    Thought Leader Step No. 5: Stick with Value over Promotion
    As you attempt to and begin to successfully gain a following, temptation will rise. You now have a captive audience. Shouldn’t you begin to tell them about your business and the value propositions related to the same industry in which they are interested?

    The short answer is no. Yes, it makes sense to subtly promote your business on occasion. But your core focus when building thought leadership should always be on just that: showcasing your expertise in the field through actual value. That is how you gain and keep a captive following.

    The paradox at play here is that if you do not focus on promotion, you’ll actually become more effective at promoting your business. That’s because you’ll gain the trust of a greater audience share, who will now be more willing to seek out your business on their own. 

    Thought Leader Step No. 6: Find the Right Promotional Channels
    Finally, it’s time to start thinking more closely about that web of content. Simply publishing high-value articles or videos is a great start, but will not allow you to gain that audience on its own.

    Instead, you need to leverage a wide range of digital channels to spread the word each time you publish something new:

    • Your audience’s preferred social media channels
    • Your company blog (if it does not already act as the core channel)
    • Various guest posts and podcast appearances
    • Search engine optimization focused on key terms and phrases
    • Email marketing to get your content in front of existing subscribers and followers

    LocalBizGuru is Here to Assist
    Building that promotional mix is a key success component. Fortunately, you’re not on your own. In fact, our expertise in helping small businesses grow applies seamlessly to thought leadership as well and can integrate with your larger digital strategy. Contact us today to start a conversation and begin to grow your expertise in the eyes of your audience.

    Nachum Langsner is the Co-Founder & CMO of LocalBizGuru, a full-service digital marketing agency based in Cleveland, OH. He has over 10+ years of experience in the SEO industry and is a frequent presenter and instructor of digital marketing and SEO seminars for entrepreneurs and small business owners in the Greater Cleveland area for organizations such as COSE, Jumpstart, the Better Business Bureau, Score and the Ohio SBDC at CSU.  

     
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