3 Things to Know: Spring Cleaning Your Business

Spring cleaning isn't just for your home. It's also a great time of year to tidy up many aspects of your business, including your brand, finances, and important documents.

 

The sun is shining, the birds are singing—spring has finally sprung in Cleveland. Many of us use this time to accomplish some spring cleaning around the house. But it can also be a good time to clean up your business and get organized. Here are three things we think are important to consider as you work on spring cleaning your business.

First thing to know: Breathe new life into your brand

Is your brand about as dusty as your baseboards (*checks baseboards*)? If it’s been a minute since you really sat down to review your brand, there’s no time to waste. Check out these 4 Ways to Refresh Your Brand. If budget is a concern—and isn’t it always?—we come bearing gifts. Here are 13 Tips to get Your Brand Balling on a budget, as well as four free ways to accomplish Branding on a Budget.

Second thing to know: Freshen up your finances

Handling your finances is more than just knowing your bottom line—it’s also about understanding how fiscally fit you are. Does your financial future need some invigorating, or do you have everything under control? Find out with this short quiz to Check Your Fiscal Fitness.

Let’s not forget about financial planning. There are steps you can take during each of your Financial Stages of Life that will help you build, and then maintain, your personal financial security. And be sure you understand the Importance of Business Succession Planning and what steps you need to take for a secure future.

Third thing to know: How’s your handbook (and other documents)?

Does your business have its own employee handbook? No business is too small for this important document. If you don’t have one, now is a good time to get started putting one together. If you do already have an employee handbook, we bet it’s probably due for refreshening.

From at-will information to disciplinary actions, you should ask yourself, Do You Have These 10 Things in Your Employee Handbook? A good employee handbook will make sure your entire team is on the same page when it comes to understanding the expectations and policies of your business.

Why stop there? Your business has many important documents that need regular sprucing up. Check out these other resources:

5 Must-Have Items for Your Staffing Toolkit

7 Tools You Need in Your Legal Toolkit

9 Things You Should Include in an Offer Letter

 

Check out more articles in our 3 Things to Know series.

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  • Next up: 8 Highly Effective SEO Trends for Your Small Business in 2021

    8 Highly Effective SEO Trends for Your Small Business in 2021

    From artificial intelligence to keyword phrases, here are eight search engine optimization trends worth watching in 2021.

     

    Attracting visitors to your site can be an uphill task without an effective site optimization strategy. Statistics show that Google has approximately 3.5 billion searches daily. Every website competes for the top position, but only the effectively optimized ones make it to the top search results. 

    For your site to generate the much-needed traffic, it needs to rank on the first page. That brings us to the importance of search engine optimization and current SEO trends. 

    SEO Trends in 2021 Worth Watching

    For your site to have top-ranking SEO performance, there are many metrics you must pay attention to. These include backlinks, traffic, social shares, and others. However, these SEO elements are constantly evolving, thanks to Google algorithms. What works today may not tomorrow.

    This guide offers insights into useful SEO trends in 2021 to help your site obtain a dominate presence online. 

    SEO Trend No. 1: Artificial Intelligence 

    Artificial intelligence is affecting many aspects of business and how people interact with content on online platforms. The reason behind the transformation AI provides is the personalization it delivers to users. Google is making use of AI to deliver the exact results searchers look for. The success of the tool is in its unique ability to learn. 

    Experts believe that by using AI, you can create more powerful content for your site. You also can augment your keyword research, optimize all digital platforms, and maximize link building.

    RELATED: 5 Reasons to Invest in SEO

    SEO Trend No. 2: Original High-Value Content

    Content plays a fundamental role in SEO and ranking, but quality is of utmost importance. Authentic content plays a more significant role than just branding. Producing content similar to what already exists on Google reduces your chances of ranking highly. 

    Ensure your content adds value in your own language and brand voice. Most importantly, it must adhere to Google’s EAT principle. This refers to Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness—factors that Google uses to determine the quality of content in a webpage. This can be accomplished by backing up your content with facts and statistics, linking to reputable and authoritative sites, and constantly updating your content with the most recent perspectives. 

    SEO Trend No. 3: Video Content

    If ‘Content is King’, video content is the crown. Currently, YouTube has over 1 billion users and counting. Cisco projects that video content is set to take over all other forms of content in traffic and consumption. 

    Optimization of your video content is crucial. The description should be more than just a collection of keywords. It needs to provide a clear overview of the channel. Get some inspiration from your chosen platform’s auto-complete feature. 

    SEO Trend No. 4: Featured Snippets

    Featured Snippets appear in a rectangular box at the top of the SERP. Snippets are useful for websites and help in ranking. Unfortunately, you can’t choose the content that appears in the snippet as it all depends on the Google Algorithm bots. 

    It’s not clear the exact approach one can use to get a webpage in the Featured Snippet, however, SEO experts suggest a few helpful strategies. First, answer a specific question in bullet form or well-structured content for better chances of success. Properly format your content using the proper header tags in a well-organized hierarchy. Summarize your article into bullet points at the beginning or end of your content following the header tag hierarchy we mentioned above. Then, make sure you mark up that content in Schema to improve your chances of getting your content to rank.

    RELATED: 12 Ways to Improve Your Online Presence

    SEO Trend No. 5: Image Optimization

    Images influence people’s purchasing decisions. Google insists on the importance of optimizing images and it’s important to make this part of your long-term strategy. 

    Incorporate high-quality, relevant images in your content marketing strategy. Ensure you customize the file name by labeling the photo file. This makes it relevant to the corresponding page’s content and helps it rank. Using alt tags will also be helpful since crawlers use them to classify images. Make sure to minimize the pixel density without compromising image quality for quicker load times. Lastly, incorporate images in your site map for easier crawling. 

    SEO Trend No. 6: Structured Data

    The use of structured data helps search engines to better understand your content. Google provides a tool for Structured Data testing to help you familiarize yourself with the idea. Using structured data for your landing pages and website will significantly help your site rank highly. 

    SEO Trend No. 7: User Intent Keyword Phrases 

    Primary keywords, secondary keywords, and long-tail keywords should all characterize your content creation strategy. Long-tail keywords (keywords or key phrases that are more specific – and usually longer – than more commonly used keywords) account for approximately 70% of all online searches. They can significantly help you outrank the competition as they have a 36% conversion rate. The more relevant and suitable your keywords are to your audience, the better placed you are to rank highly—so make sure to create content specifically tailored to your audience needs.

    RELATED: Read more by Nachum Langsner

    SEO Trend No. 8: Core Web Vitals & Good User Experience

    Core web vitals are three measures Google has chosen to reflect real-world page experience metrics. Google sees loading speed, interactivity, and visual stability as important to a good user experience and have been incorporated in their algorithm as a ranking factor. It is imperative to reduce the coding bloat and structure your website elements in a way that improves user experience.

    SEO trends in 2021 – Final Thoughts

    Search engine optimization is a complex but crucial component for businesses looking to compete online. The above SEO trends in 2021 only make this clear, and you have to think about them critically. If you want to beat the competition, ensure you implement these strategies effectively.

    An expert in SEO and Digital Marketing can help you get tangible results with your SEO strategy. Contact us today.

    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: 3 Things to Know: One Year Into COVID-19

    3 Things to Know: One Year Into COVID-19

    It's been quite a year! Here are three things we think you should know now that we are one year into COVID and remote working.

     

    It’s been a full year since phrases like social distancing, “you’re on mute” and zoom happy hours became regulars in our daily language. Whether your team is back in the office or you’re still working virtually, here are three things we think you should know about COVID and the workplace one year later.

    First thing to know: It can still be stressful even one year in.

    The stress at the onset of the pandemic was one like no other. But even after a year of COVID-19 and its impact on the economy—and probably your small business—you may still be reeling from everything you’ve experienced this year. Take care of yourself and your business with these six tips to dealing with COVID stress.

    Second thing to know: You can do it all from the comfort of your home.

    One thing we found out pretty quickly as a workforce is that we can be just as productive in our sweatpants at our kitchen table as we are in the office. If your team is still virtual, we’ve featured several articles on the blog this past year to help you accomplish everything you need to without leaving your living room. From Networking in the Age of COVID-19 to Virtual Recruitment Best Practices, don’t miss a beat when it comes to operating through the pandemic.

    Third thing to know: Preparation is key next time disaster strikes.

    Nobody could have predicted a global pandemic, but it probably won’t be the last time your business faces distress and uncertainty. Being better prepared starts with ensuring your team is properly trained to handle disaster, as well as reviewing this small business security checklist.

    Check out other articles in our 3 Things to Know series.

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  • Next up: Branding on a Budget

    Branding on a Budget

    When it comes to branding you may not be able to out-spend your competition, but you can always out-think them. Consider these four ways to brand your small business even with a small budget.

    Are you trying to promote your brand on a tight budget these days? Well then, it’s time to start out-thinking your competitors since you probably can’t out-spend them. 

    Many COSE members have found simple yet creative ways to get lots of positive exposure—for free. They harness the concept of "target marketing” by precisely defining and describing their ideal customers with specific demographic details—those who really need their products or services, value their approach and style, will always pay full price and will easily evolve into raving fans. 

    Here are four avenues to explore when it comes to branding your business on a tight budget.

    1. Written Publications. If you know what trade publications, eLetters or blogs your target market reads regularly, try to publish content in them that promotes the value of the concepts behind your products or services. But, don’t try to sell. For example, write about the importance of data security for small businesses, not the specific data security service your company provides. Allow the exposure to ‘brand you’ as an expert. And pitching content to COSE’s Mind Your Business is a great place to start*. Hey… works for me!

    2. Professional Groups. If you know what professional or business group events your target market used to attend before Covid, offer to speak at them after restrictions are lifted. Same caveat—speak about the value of the concept, not your specific product. Allow that exposure to also brand you as a dynamic and engaging expert. And don’t overlook those groups who pivoted to on-line workshops with speakers.

    3. Pro Bono Work. Volunteer your time and talents to some of those groups. Showcase your expertise. The classic example is the website designer who freshens up the organization’s site pro bono, in exchange for a mention on their home page. Allow the contribution of time and talent to help brand you as a professional who gives expertise willingly to support worthy organizations.

    RELATED: Check out more articles on working pro bono.

    4. Referrals. Always ask for referrals from happy customers. Let them become an extension of your sales team—or your entire sales team. Testimonials on your website can help, but not as much as a happy customer calling a colleague on your behalf. And the larger the customer’s organization, the greater the chance for internal referrals to other divisions and departments.

    RELATED: Read more by Phil Stella.

    One final tip: Whenever you network at small business-oriented events, ask people you meet how they brand their businesses on a budget. You will be amazed at what you can learn.

    So, "No-Budget Branding” is a simple and clever suite of strategies but they’re not easy. They require time and effort, especially if you don’t want to invest the money to have a branding pro do it for you. 

    Phil Stella runs Effective Training & Communication, www.communicate-confidently.com, 440 449-0356, and empowers business leaders to reduce the pain with workplace communication. A popular trainer and executive coach on writing, communication styles and sales presentations, he is also on the Cleveland faculty of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program.

    *If you are a COSE member and would like to contribute to Mind Your Business, please email Marie Zickefoose.

     
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  • Next up: Within Reach: Closing the gap between employers and their workforce

    Within Reach: Closing the gap between employers and their workforce

    Watch a recent webinar from GCP discussing the implications of local spatial mismatch.

    As Greater Cleveland continues to see substantial business growth and job creation along its outer edges, ensuring that employees have practical transportation options to these employment centers has become increasingly challenging.

    In a recent webinar, industry experts including representatives from the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA) and the Fund for Our Economic Future discussed the impacts this spatial mismatch is having on our regional economic health and how organizations could benefit from a new program designed to close the gap between workers and the workplace.

    Watch the recording below:

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  • Next up: COSE Members Share Their Favorite Small Business Resources

    COSE Members Share Their Favorite Small Business Resources

    We asked some of our COSE members what resources they turn to while running their small businesses. Podcasts, books, websites, YouTube channels... check out their suggestions!

     

    From books to websites to podcasts, we asked some COSE members to tell us what resources they find valuable as they work day-to-day running their small businesses—including any they have personally written or produced. Check out their suggestions and consider adding some to your list.

    Margaret Cassidy, Esq., Principal, Cassidy Law
    A book I co-authored and co-edited, although titled Lawyer’s Corporate Social Responsibility Deskbook: Practical Guidance for Corporate Counsel and Law Firms, is a great tool for small and large businesses looking to design a social responsibility program or to simply take a more socially responsible approach to how they conduct business. It covers everything from cyber security to supply chain and includes checklists, case studies and other practice resources for your business.

    Tim Dimoff, CPP, President, SACS Consulting & Investigative Services, Inc.
    I wrote a book The You in Business, which is for anyone who manages or owns a small business. Filled with real-life, in-the-trenches stories, it offers insight into the fundamentals of building a business from the ground up. Readers will also learn how to develop long-lasting customer relationships to grow their business and place it on the fast track to success. www.timothydimoff.com 

    Alex Gertsburg, Esq., CEO, The Gertsburg Law Firm
    One of the best books on starting a business is Shoe Dog by Phil Knight, about the first 20 years of Nike.  The best personal development book I’ve ever read, and the one I “gift” the most, is The Success Principles by Jack Canfield. The book I’m reading right now (one principle per day upon waking) is Principles by Ray Dalio. All three books should be required reading in any business course. They are amazing and provide enduring lessons for life and business, written in very readable ways by masters in both life and business.

    Janet Gosche, Business Advisor and Integrator
    In Mastering the Rockefeller Habits, Verne Harnish describes John D. Rockefeller's underlying strategy and adds his own suggested three winning habits: 1) Set priorities, 2) Measure key metrics, 3) Get a rhythm of well-organized meetings to keep everyone aligned and accountable. He also provides a tool to document your plan, called The One-Page-Plan. His website, gazelles.com, allows free downloads of the tools.

    jimcollins.com is a website from the author we love, including Good to Great. This site is filled with his articles, tools, and many other resources. It is easy to navigate and find all sorts of inspiring and helpful materials.

    Leadership Unlocked, Unleash the Power of Your Body for Impact and Fulfillment is written by a new local author, Yan Maschke, who shares leadership stories, lessons learned, and leadership practices in this easily digestible short read and quick reference guide.

    Erin Longmoon, CEO, Zephyr Recruiting
    Profit First, by Mike Michalowicz, will turn your accounting on its head and make your business profitable, sustainable, financially heathy, and resilient! Daring Greatly, or anything by Brené Brown... this book will transform your courage, leadership, and mission. Smart Strategy for CPA’s podcast by Geraldine Carter... I am not a CPA, nor in the accounting space at all, and this podcast is brilliant and has opened my eyes to new ways of thinking and solving my business challenges. The Dames, is an online (or some in-person chapters) networking group for female entrepreneurs who make 6+ figures, and who want to be surrounded by women business owners who mean business! LinkedIn with Louise, is a helpful podcast about everything LinkedIn.

    Cheryl Perez, President and CEO, BIG HR
    I have a complete library on my YouTube channel. Here you can find all the tips and tools you need from A-Z to start-up, step-up and level-up your business every week with How To-Tuesdays! My focus is inspiring entrepreneurs to develop and create the processes and systems to grow and scale their for-profit or non-profit organizations. My approach focuses on the structure, strategies, tools, and resources that can help you take your business to the next level and grow. 

    Do you have a business resource to share? Contact us—we’d love to hear about it!

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