BBB business tips: 7 things you can do to get your business ready for the holidays

Is your business ready for the holidays? Check out these 7 tips to ensure you are prepared when it comes to seasonal employees, online shopping and much more.

 

It’s always wise to prepare early for the holiday season, but the pandemic’s effect on product availability, staffing, and holiday habits has made planning ahead more important than ever this year. While holiday shopping ordinarily makes shipping deadlines tight through December, the pandemic has caused a microchip shortage and supply chain issues, affecting products and services from rental cars to toothbrushes. 

For business owners, this means that things you might normally order could be in short supply or have major shipping delays. Consumers may also be headed to the store early this year to avoid the same issues regarding availability. And products aren’t the only thing in short supply—businesses across the country are facing unprecedented staffing issues, especially in the retail, food service, and hospitality industries.

These recent obstacles add to those we experienced last holiday season, such as more consumers seeking out businesses that offer online shopping, curbside services, and COVID-safe environments. 

Help make your holiday seasons a stress-free success for yourself, your employees, and your customers with BBB’s tips:

Holiday tip #1: Plan accordingly 
Create a plan and start setting goals for your business early. Though we may not be sure how consumers' shopping behavior will be affected by COVID-19, we know that supply chain issues could be affected by the pandemic and you might need to have a backup plan ready.

Holiday tip #2: Be prepared when hiring for the holidays
Unlike 2020, when millions of people were laid off, businesses are now in need of seasonal staff due to labor shortages. For consumers, this could be the best year to get a seasonal job, so it is important to start looking and interviewing employees early. Consider what benefits you can offer current and new staff to avoid burnout as the pandemic continues

Holiday tip #3: Bring seasonal employees up to speed
By now, full-time employees probably know the routine when it comes to enforcing masking, sanitizing, testing, and COVID vaccine policies. Set up clear policies and make sure new and seasonal staff are thoroughly trained.

RELATED: Requiring proof of vaccination from customers

Holiday tip #4: Stay up-to-date online
Covid-19 has prompted more people to do their shopping online. Make sure your website and online shop are up-to-date and running smoothly. Work out any bugs before holiday shopping picks up. 

RELATED: Is your website secure?

Holiday tip #5: Get creative
Northeast Ohio has a variety of creative and fun holiday pop-up marts, flea markets, bazaars, etc., that have become popular ways to sell goods and services. Look for local community events or partnerships that may help increase your sales. This might also be a great time to get creative with marketing. Utilize tools like social media advertising, join a virtual shopping event, or host an in-store event. 

Holiday tip #6: Give clients options
Consumers' expectations have changed due to the pandemic. Now more than ever, customers want options to shop safely. If you haven’t already,  consider offering cashless or contactless payment options like Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, Google Pay, and QR codes. Additionally, PayPal, a BBB Accredited Business, encourages business owners to take a proactive approach this holiday season by embracing digital payments and flexible payment options for consumers to keep sales coming in.

Holiday tip #7: Offer curbside pickup
Curbside pickup can help you and your customers save on shipping costs. Not only can this service help you win consumers who are still hesitant to enter a store, but it can also help older adults or busy parents that need flexible solutions. 

For additional tips and resources, visit BBB.org to help keep your small business thriving. Contact your Better Business Bureau by calling 216.241.7678 or emailing info@cleveland.bbb.org. Interested in becoming BBB Accredited? Find out how you can apply for BBB Accreditation

 
Share
  • Email
  • 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. 

     
    Share
  • Email
  • 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.

    Share
  • Email
  • 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.

     
    Share
  • Email
  • Next up: Broadband Bill GCP Supported Crosses Finish Line

    Broadband Bill GCP Supported Crosses Finish Line

     

    Reliable, affordable access to broadband internet is more important than ever and it is an issue the GCP Board of Directors and our members have elevated throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The crisis further exposed the digital divide throughout Ohio. Cleveland is no exception. 

    GCP has consistently called for investments in infrastructure that will support digital inclusion and technology-based economic development statewide, including broadband. HB 2 – which allows broadband providers to apply for state grants for service provided to unserved and distressed areas – is a part of our important work. The legislation was signed by Governor Mike DeWine on May 17, is effective immediately, and GCP applauded the initiative. 

    “The Greater Cleveland Partnership greatly appreciates Ohio’s collective efforts to expand high-speed internet to underserved and unserved areas across Ohio,” said Baiju Shah, President & CEO, Greater Cleveland Partnership.  “Concurrent and related efforts within BroadbandOhio, JobsOhio, and the Ohio General Assembly highlight how seriously state leaders are approaching this critical issue.  We have consistently supported the passage of HB 2 and welcome its approval.  In the state budget, and as outlined in the Executive Budget proposal, it is also imperative we address internet affordability in urban settings across the state – particularly in Cleveland and surrounding communities.” 

    The law provides $20 million this fiscal year for broadband grants. The Governor’s budget proposal called for $250 million for broadband expansion, an initiative GCP strongly supports.
      
    Beyond GCP's support for HB 2 GCP leaders understand more must be done in the effort to advance digital inclusion and we will continue to urge for a targeted approach in Cleveland. We stand ready to work with countless partners in our region and across the state to help solve our state’s digital challenges and prepare Ohioans for the future of work.

     
    Share
  • Email
  • Next up: National Entrepreneurship Month feature: Chris Wentz, Everykey

    National Entrepreneurship Month feature: Chris Wentz, Everykey

    Hear from Everykey's founder and CEO Chris Wentz about his entrepreneurship journey turning a college dream into reality.

     

    Every entrepreneur’s goal is to come up with a product or service that solves a problem for consumers. If you’ve ever lost a key or forgotten a password, the company Everykey, founded by COSE member Chris Wentz, has the solution for you. 

    Chris’s interest in small business and technology goes back as far as he can remember, but it was in his senior year at Case Western Reserve University that his journey to entrepreneurship really began. The professor of his entrepreneurial class asked students to present an original business idea—one that makes money, but that also solves a problem in the world and has an impact on people’s lives. 

    Chris pitched an idea for a wristband with the technology to unlock everything including your phone, laptop, car door and house—and that also stores all account passwords in one place. Chris knew he had a good idea, but thought it was an undertaking for a big company like Samsung, Google or Apple. 

    Little did he know that a handshake and an initial investment from this professor would lead to Everykey.

    In the beginning, Chris and his colleagues competed in student business plan competitions—mostly through the university. They were fortunate to win several and received money, as well as the attention of potential investors. And perhaps most importantly, there was validation that their product was worth pursuing.

    This traction led to prototypes and crowdfunding campaigns, which raised about $300,000 through pre-orders. They were also fortunate to be well-supported through local resources in the Northeast Ohio region, and then more broadly funded by several venture capital firms.

    While the actual device may have changed a bit since ideation, the concept is still the same. The finished Everykey product impacts consumers by not only making their lives convenient and easier, but also more secure through its military-grade encryption. 

    What was once a college dream has become a successful small business.

    Chris shares details of his entrepreneurship journey on COSE’s Small Business After Hours podcast. Here are three key takeaways from that conversation.

    Takeaway no. 1: Cleveland can be the next Silicon Valley. Chris views Northeast Ohio as one of the best places to start a business. Most technology startups are created in Silicon Valley, and many believe money must be raised there as well. Chris says this close-minded mindset was more prevalent pre-COVID, but that because remote work is so ubiquitous now, that philosophy is changing. 

    In Northeast Ohio, the cost of living is far lower than on the coast, allowing companies to hire more employees for the same price. This is a top reason that Cleveland could become home to some grand-slam-type companies, Chris says.

    Takeaway no. 2: There's no such thing as overnight success. Everything takes longer than expected—especially technology. The timeline from ideation to having a ready-to-go product was probably Everykey’s number one challenge, according to Chris. The complexity wasn’t in the hardware itself, but rather in developing the different apps required to work with all web browsers. 

    With a name like Everykey, the product must live up to the idea that it can be used everywhere and with all software, which Chris says meant developing from scratch each time. 

    As a result of investing so much time and effort into this technology, they are one of only a small handful of providers. And the hard work keeps paying off. Now that they own a patent for this unique technology, Everykey has become even more appealing to potential employees, investors and buyers.

    Takeaway no. 3: Every company has moments of doubt; Never give up. One of the lowest points the Everykey team experienced was early on when they were told it wasn’t possible for their technology to connect with all platforms and software. But, with faith that there’s a solution to every challenge, they didn’t let their doubts determine their outcome. 

    Chris knows that without those challenges, they could not have developed such inventive technology, they would not enjoy the success they have today, and they would not be as well-poised to expand their product into commercial markets.

    His parting advice for entrepreneurs? 

    “Even when the chips are down or it feels like all hope is lost, never give up. Continue to believe in your vision. Bust through the barriers people put in front of you and you will come out stronger in the end. We learned so much and created so much value out of the challenges we faced.”

    Hear more about Chris’ entrepreneurial journey in episode four of COSE’s Small Business After Hours podcast.

    Share
  • Email