Senate Committee Convenes Hearing on ‘Alternate Employer Organizations’

 

On November 20th, the Greater Cleveland Partnership (GCP) and its small business division, the Council of Smaller Enterprises (COSE), provided written testimony regarding our support for Senate Bill 201 (SB 201). 

Click here to view what was submitted to the Ohio Senate Transportation, Commerce, and Workforce Committee.

Professional Employer Organizations (PEOs) provide services to their employer clients – often small and middle market businesses – by assisting with an employer's human resources services or employee benefits and payroll.  These entities allow job creators to spend more time and focus on running the day-to-day operations of a successful enterprise. 

SB 201 would create Alternate Employer Organizations (AEOs) and they would function as a PEO, but the AEO would pay taxes under the federal Employer Identification Number (EIN) of its various client-employers – not the EIN of the PEO.  The initiative would provide another option for clients to access programs that offer co-employment programs that can be highly beneficial to small and mid-sized businesses across Ohio. 

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  • Next up: Senate OKs Priorities, State Budget Bill Due Soon

    Senate OKs Priorities, State Budget Bill Due Soon


    The state legislature has a few days to iron out their final priorities for Ohio's next two years of policy in a multi-billion-dollar spending bill that sets the state budget.  Last week the Ohio Senate passed their version of a proposed FY20-21 budget. A final bill will be presented to the Governor by month’s end and after the Ohio House and Senate conference.

    Among the many issues GCP is engaged in, the Senate’s budget bill would require state agencies to review and repeal regulatory restrictions over the course of the next four years, an element of regulatory reform measure Senate Bill 1, legislation which GCP supported.

    In addition, the Senate budget maintains language for an Opportunity Zone tax credit, including allowing the transfer of credits and increasing the share of invested assets in zone property from 90% to 100%. An amendment supported by GCP—to create an Opportunity Zone Study Committee to study best implementation practices from other states and impact investment strategies that support more highly distressed rural and urban communities—was not included in the final bill.

    After the Governor prescribed no significant tax changes earlier this year, the Ohio Senate recommended an 8% income tax decrease and the Ohio House approved a 6.6 percent income tax cut. That aside, GCP has continually requested state leaders consider the following:

    Preserve Ohio’s current small business tax deduction, which is utilized by our members for reinvestment back into their companies, workforces, and communities.  Reducing the deduction for business income, as proposed by the House, by 60% is significant and it would seriously jeopardize future planning and investments.

    Maintain the 3% flat tax rate that pass-through businesses pay on earnings over $250,000. Should elected officials choose to eliminate the current rate and increase the tax rate on these Ohio businesses, allowing entrepreneurs an opportunity to plan and budget for it in the future, as outlined in the Senate’s proposal, is absolutely critical. Because most businesses are set up as pass-through entities, they pay taxes on business income at the income tax rate of their individual owners. Ensuring the proper treatment for a variety of business types, expenses, and investments made by business owners—to support the growth of their businesses—is a crucial focus in deliberations on tax policy.

    Late last week the House and the Senate named members of the budget bill conference committee. To view a summary document of the Senate’s latest amendments, click here.


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  • Next up: Setting the Foundation for Marketing Success by Getting Back to the Basics

    Setting the Foundation for Marketing Success by Getting Back to the Basics

    Marketing can be an overwhelming part of running a small business. Here are three basic tactics you can use for a simple, cost effective strategy.

     

    Whether you are a business owner wading through the sea of marketing tools or the lone marketer in an organization trying to keep up, there are some tried and true basics to set the foundation for marketing success.  

    “Success” isn't just defined by having the latest and shiniest tools at your disposal.  Many smaller companies don't have the budget and/or staff to support them. So, what can you do to stand out from the competition in a world where the mediums to market seem daunting?

    Start with the following three basic tactics.

    Back to basics tactic no. 1: Messaging. Craft a concise message that focuses on what sets you apart from the competition. What is the one thing that you do differently from your competitors?  Even if it seems small, it may just be the reason they buy from you.

    Equally important is to make sure that the message is known and spoken across your organization. Reinforcement is what helps to build a brand so educate your entire organization on that differentiator and elevator pitch. Go holistically to the street with the same message.

    Back to basics tactic no. 2: Customer Insights. Whether you have five customers or five thousand, you should be collecting data on how your customers view you. A simple email to your top customers asking why they buy from you all the way to a survey with both quantitative and qualitative questions will help inform your differentiator. Collecting data as you grow will help you to look at past trends and, in time, predict future ones.

    Back to basics tactic no. 3: Networking. Never underestimate the power of face-to-face marketing. While social media, text, and email marketing certainly have an important role, there is still great value in one-on-one communication; especially for the sake of brand recognition and relationship building. Find conferences and events that your customers and ideal prospects will be attending. Send your entire team—not just those in sales—to network. 

    A great example for networking in the technology space is Tech Pint. It’s a place for technology practitioners from many different industries to socialize and learn, typically over drinks. This is relationship building at its finest as it is peer-to-peer only. It removes the direct sales piece from the equation.

    Another idea is to host an event for your customers and top prospects. Whether it’s a sporting event, happy hour, or lunch and learn, adding in a brief learning component can go a long way with creating customer loyalty and new at-bats. Also, it’s scalable based on budget.

    To recap, set the foundation for marketing success by knowing who you are in the competitive landscape and what your customers want, and by making sure you stay in front of them. The tools are the means to simplify the tactical and cast a wider net. Without a solid foundation, the tools just become noise.

    Nicole Ponstingle is the COO and a partner at Pandata LLC, a Cleveland-based data science consulting firm.

     

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  • Next up: Share Thoughts on Workforce Needs: Take In-Demand Jobs Survey

    Share Thoughts on Workforce Needs: Take In-Demand Jobs Survey

    A new survey tool launched by InnovateOhio and the Governor’s Office of Workforce Transformation will help the State of Ohio direct its spending to train Ohioans for the workforce. Currently, the state’s In-Demand Jobs List—which will utilize survey data—directs the spending of 85% of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act training funds.

    Speaking about the newly launched survey, Lt. Governor Jon Husted stated, “We’ve heard the concerns of business leaders, we’ve built a system that fits their needs, and now we need their help by filling out the survey, so we can invest in developing people with the skills that are most in demand.”

    The survey tool was developed with businesses of all sizes in mind and is open to all registered Ohio businesses, giving both small and large companies the opportunity to have their voice heard. The tool offers a simple user experience and allows businesses to give input on the state’s current and future workforce needs.

    Interested in sharing your perspective in how Ohio prepares people for the workforce? The In-Demand Jobs survey is available now here. The State’s updated In-Demand Jobs List will be published at the end of 2019.

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  • Next up: Share Your Perspective about Ohio’s Economy

    Share Your Perspective about Ohio’s Economy

     

    The Ohio Chamber Research Foundation is conducting its latest quarterly economic survey of business leaders throughout the state, called the Prosperity Pulse. The Foundation is seeking input from Ohio’s business community, including leaders in Northeast Ohio. You can fill out the survey here.

    The mission of the Research Foundation is to provide non-partisan, educational resources on public policy issues that impact Ohio’s economy, job creation, and long-term competitiveness. The survey is part of the Foundation’s efforts to understand the current economic conditions and future expectations of businesses in Ohio.

    Your perspective of our state economy is valuable—share it here. Results of the Second Quarter 2019 Prosperity Pulse survey will be published by the Research Foundation later this summer.


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  • Next up: Should You Grow Your Local Business Blog in 2020?

    Should You Grow Your Local Business Blog in 2020?

    For business owners who might have a few extra minutes on their hands these days, beefing up their blogs and boosting SEO might be a good use of time. Consider these seven steps for your blogging strategy.

     

    Marketers have heard for years that great content (like helpful, authoritative blogs) boosts search engine optimization (SEO). But, like many aspects of SEO, it hasn't been entirely clear how that works. Add to that Google's frequent algorithm updates (like the recent "Medic Update"), especially the ones that reconsider the way content on your site is assessed, and it's not surprising that the specific relationship between site content and search engine results remains a bit of an enigma for many marketers looking to grow their local business blog.

    How does great content boost SEO?

    Social Media Today provides a part of the answer, noting that the quantity, variety and quality of content on your website boosts both user experience and engagement, both positives for SEO.

    RELATED: Here are 5 reasons you should invest in SEO for your business.

    It's not that posting helpful, compelling content in itself boosts SEO. Rather, the relationship between content marketing and SEO is more indirect. For example:

    More content leads to more clicks: The more site visitors are clicking on links within your content, the higher your click-through rate (CTR), and that means stronger SEO.
    Increased content means more backlinks: Authoritative content tends to get linked to by other websites (whose managers want their visitors to benefit from it). Again, the more backlinks you have from trusted websites, the higher your rankings in Google and other search engines are likely to be.
    More content means more and better keyword insertion: More content means more text, and more text means more opportunities to organically incorporate the keywords central to your business blog SEO strategy.
    More content means improved user experience (UX): Content marketing (especially the existence of a stellar business blog) makes your entire site more useful for visitors. Links between various site pages and blogs, between one blog and another, and between blogs and more comprehensive topic treatments (through eBooks, white paper and case studies) make your site more informative and enhance site navigation, both positives for SEO.

    By the numbers: To blog or not to blog?

    Let's begin by stating the obvious: The goal of your website is to make money for your local business. Of course, achieving that goal means achieving many intermediate goals. Such goals include things like generating more quality leads, improving conversion rates and lifting search engine rankings. Attaining those goals is much easier if you have a great blog on your site.

    So, how specifically does blogging benefit a small, local business like yours? For an answer, consider these blogging metrics from HubSpot:

    Marketers who give high priority to blogging are, on average, 13 times more likely to have positive return on investment (ROI)
    Almost 45% of B2B marketers say blogs are their most important type of content
    More than 55% of all marketers say blogging is their number one inbound marketing strategy
    B2B marketers who regularly blog generate 67% more leads than those who don't
    Businesses that blog get, on average, almost 100% more links to their websites

    What’s the secret sauce?

    Those numbers, as impressive as they are, reflect average performance—in other words, some content marketers don't do nearly so well, and others do a lot better. So, what is it that makes a great business blog, the kind that helps your business achieve its principal marketing goals (including boosting profitability)?

    Every business is different, of course, with different customers, different long- and short-term goals and different marketing challenges. That said, most see optimal benefits from their blogging strategy when they take the following seven steps:

    Business blogging step 1: Identify your target audience. Business blogs "work" when they help consumers answer their most pressing questions and solve their most protracted problems. That means you need to understand who your prospective customers are (that understanding is grounded in accurate demographic and behavioral data) and what they need to create an effective blog. For example, a local plumbing company in a rural area knows that drought conditions will lead to questions about dry wells. Then, they blog about steps customers should take if they experience this problem.

    Business blogging step 2: Narrow your scope. The goal of a great blog is to generate repeat visits to your website.  Break up big consumer problems into a series of smaller ones for best results. For example, if you have an employment website, instead of a piece on "How to land your dream job," create a series of blogs on "How to create a resume that lands interviews" and "How to ace that coveted interview."

    Business blogging step 3: Do some sleuthing. Your blogs won't exist in a vacuum.  Odds are, whatever it is you're writing about, you're not the first. Before putting pen to paper, find out what's already out there on your topic and read it. To gain a competitive advantage, look for information gaps, things that others haven't blogged about, or instances where you can add authority to blogs that already exist. You should also look for any other weaknesses you find in other treatments. These can be everything from lack of depth to poor design to an absence of supporting data.

    Business blogging step no. 4: Create a killer headline. Internet searchers are impatient, so you need to grab their attention. The best way to do that is with a great headline, one that meets the "4 U's" test—it needs, in other words, to be useful, urgent, ultra-specific and unique. Remember: The goal of your headline is to generate interest. Look for a headline that dashes expectations and promises something consumers really want to know.

    Business blogging step no. 5: Do some research. Remember that Google rewards blogs that provide the most useful and authoritative information—and so will your readers.  You don't need to become an overnight expert on the topic you're addressing, but you do need to know what's already out there on the subject, incorporate the best of what you find and tie it all together in a way no one else has.  This will make your content both more compelling and more SEO-friendly.

    Business blogging step no. 6: Organize and format. The best blogs are the ones that are easiest to read.  In fact, the more technical your subject matter, the more important it is to make it easily readable.  Start by outlining your main points, add supporting content that measurably adds to what's in your headers, make sure to use effective transitions from one section to another, and leverage formatting best practices (think bullet points, frequent breaks, and effective subheaders) to optimize the user experience.

    RELATED: Read more by Nachum Langsner.

    Business blogging step no. 7: Measure your results. If you're not using a robust analytics tool (like Google Analytics), it's time to start.  This will help you find out which blogs are hitting the sweet spot, which needs some tweaking, and which are falling flat.  Measuring results will ensure continual improvement in the performance of your blog.

    Conclusion

    So, the numbers are in and the conclusion is inescapable. A great blog can take a small, local business like yours to the next level, increasing lead generation, site traffic, conversions, and sales. But doing it right can be a bit of a challenge, especially if this is your first go at it. 

    That's where we can help.

    We can provide one-on-one training on how to write and format SEO optimized blogs should you choose to write your own content. Alternatively, we provide expert blog writing services for those who want the benefits of high-quality content but don't have the time, or the capability of doing it on their own.

    To learn more about the ways our content creation, local SEO, site audit and repair, listings optimization, brand monitoring and review generation services can take your small business to the next level, contact our gurus 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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