3 Software Marketing Ideas to Increase Sales

The software industry is currently experiencing a development renaissance. This is great news for business owners looking to shop around for a new vendor, but it makes gaining market share challenging for software companies. Given the crowded apps marketplace and the prevalence of cloud-based SaaS solutions, it’s vital for software companies to market their products appropriately.

In order to scale past early adopters and into mainstream sales success, nearly 90 percent of SaaS companies reported new customer acquisition as a top priority. Lead generation can be a costly process, but with a solid software marketing strategy, growing companies can lower those customer acquisition costs and potentially increase sales. Let’s take a look at some software marketing tips that can boost revenue.

Focus on customer service
Customer service has become a cornerstone of brand strategy in a digital age where companies are cultivating a richer understanding of the impact of customer experience on the sales funnel. Customer service, however, is more than just responding to questions and complaints online. It’s about understanding the customer journey. What do they want? Where are their businesses headed, and how does a company’s software fit into that niche? How are they currently evaluating their vendor options? Questions like these can help segment the buyer persona more effectively. Answering these questions gives insights to marketing teams so they can more intimately understand how stakeholders make purchase decisions, allowing them to more precisely build marketing campaigns and target more qualified leads.

Another valuable element to SaaS marketing is examining the value proposition behind the product offering as a potential vehicle for marketing efforts. Identifying key elements like price, data storage, analytics, and other facets business owners are particularly interested in plays a role in developing solutions to fill those needs. Software CEO Mark Hurd echoed this theme by saying, “aligning technology strategy to better service customers becomes an essential path to revenue growth.” If software companies can isolate the most appealing aspects of their offering, thus reducing costs for their customers while remaining competitive in terms of function, they can translate their developments into better customer service. Outstanding customer service can act as a key differentiator and provide valuable marketing clout.

Optimize content marketing
Content marketing has experienced explosive growth across industries, especially in the SaaS sector, where breaking down more complex topics can be integral to converting sales. Two ideal places to offer such content are blogs and social media channels. A unified blog and social media strategy can extend the half-life of popular posts and drive organic traffic to target pages. Additionally, offering engaging content can help software companies build up an email list to send out newsletters and marketing material.

Businesses should offer relevant, expert content that appeals to their target audience’s particular set of interests and expertise. Content can take the shape of standard blog posts, podcasts, infographics, and videos. The idea is to create “explainer content” framing data or product information in an easily digestible and shareable format. Current trends in media consumption point to mobile devices as a leading source of paid and organic clicks, so focusing on content such as video and audio can help capture an audience who is always on the move.

Feature marketing is one SaaS marketing trend that can be augmented with content marketing. Many software companies develop side features, apps, and widgets that stand alone from the main product but provide added value to target buyers. These additions have the potential to confuse customers if they are not communicated properly. Yam Regev, a software content marketing expert, commented, “the fact there are lots of new features is just like having more content! Extra features enable marketing to better inform and engage targeted audiences.” Sometimes, companies develop features that become more widely used than the main platform itself. Savvy marketers will consider the development of new products and apps as valuable opportunities to attract new customers and upsell existing ones.

Crowdsource reviews/client testimonials
Customer testimonials are essential when building up credibility surrounding a software product. They are an important part of a brand’s presence and stand as a testament to what prospective clients can achieve, or “social proof.” Because 92 percent of e-commerce buyers stated they sought out and read customer reviews before making a purchase decision, positive testimonials are increasingly important to those considering a software vendor, which is a more nuanced purchase.

Marketers can encourage customers to leave reviews or identify and reach out to specific clients who are likely to leave a positive testimonial on their site. Case studies are a great example of leveraging client results to inform future purchase decisions and can be a valuable asset in a content marketing campaign.

Standing out in the bustling SaaS marketplace can seem daunting. The tips above can help software companies cut through the noise and communicate their product offering more clearly to prospective customers.

How to Choose a Small Business Invoicing Solution: The Complete Guide

small business invoicing solution

Did you know that 27% of small and midsize businesses (SMBs) admitted that they have a hard time creating and sending invoices?

You may want to take a look at the infographic below to gain a better understanding of the current state of invoicing.
smb invoicing

Source

As you can see, a seamless and intuitive invoicing system is an indispensable requirement for your business.

Starting a small business may be a dream come true for many an entrepreneur, but running it takes effort and smart work. Modern businesses need to harness technology that not only supports their processes, but also betters them to set the tone for long-term success.

Every time your small business sells a product or a service, an invoice is generated. For a thriving business, that’s way too many invoices being made every single day. This is where an efficient small business invoicing solution comes into the picture. It takes the worrying and erring out of making sales and payments, and makes the process expedient and hassle-free (and environment-friendly).

This post will shed light on the purpose of online invoicing, its functioning, and the factors that will help you choose the right online invoicing solution for your small business.

The Purpose of Online Invoicing Solutions

Having a small business invoice software in place will allow you to bid adieu to traditional solutions like MS Word and/or Excel. This, in turn, will enhance your workflow and eliminate the frustration arising from the arduous process of managing invoices.

With the right invoicing solution, it becomes easy to create, track, and process invoices as well as business and customer details. Further, such a software can accelerate and augment your cash flow, as well as expedite and simplify payments, apart from helping you save time and money.

Online invoicing software allows you to store all your data in the cloud. This means you can put your worries related to losing invoices or client data, or even your computer crashing and hacking issues to rest. All you need to do is log into your account to access all your business-critical information and start billing your clients.

Mentioned ahead are a few undeniable advantages of using online invoicing software.

a. Automated Digital Payments

Invoicing software allows businesses to carry out secure digital transactions and automate outflows by setting up recurring payments. This is particularly helpful with long-term clients. The system sends follow-up messages and payment reminders for forthcoming and due invoices. This, in turn, eliminates the stress of manually tracking and chasing down these payments.

b. Secure Your Data

Paper invoices can easily get lost or land in the wrong hands. A good invoicing system prevents this by making data security a priority. Ensure to invest in software that complies with PCI Security Standards. Such software employs advanced security safeguards, such as SSL encryption, against threats and loss of data.

c. Get Multi-Language and Multi-Currency Support

Technology has brought the world closer, enabling small businesses to work with global clients. Cloud-based invoicing platforms are becoming increasingly popular due to their ability to allow users to choose their preferred language and currency, making interactions and transactions between companies and clients smoother and clearer. Because online invoicing systems are able to operate flawlessly in the global marketplace, the payment barriers are eliminated.

d. Access Information at Any Time from Anywhere

Online invoice management systems empower business owners to access and manage client information and billing data from any location and time zone and on any smart mobile device. Whether you’re working from office, home or are on-the-go, you can do business as usual without a hitch.

e. Easier Auditing

It is easy to access and interpret information with an invoicing software as it allows you to save and view your bills, estimates, expense receipts, transaction statements, and other important documents on one dashboard. The system creates a systematic and quick process for assessing financial statements related to your accounts and tax deductions. This makes it convenient for you to maintain your records in an error-free manner, which can be especially helpful during IRS audits.

f. Quicker Payments

Sending invoices online and receiving payments is quick and easy with an invoicing system in place, even more so if you use the recurring billing facility. Receiving, reviewing, and returning invoices can be done with the click of a button. This translates into quicker payments in a safe manner.

g. Save Time and Costs

Business owners can say goodbye to tedious data entry with online invoicing systems as they let you generate and distribute multiple invoices without reentering customer information each time. Bills can be tracked easily as well. Further, overheads can be brought down by jettisoning the use of paper, stationery, stamps, and document storage items used for sending invoices.

h. Reinforce Your Brand Identity

All your system-generated invoices will have your company logo, color schemes, and fonts that are a part of your brand standards. With a strengthened brand identity, clients are bound to take your business seriously and make payments on time. Further, you can customize your invoices with messages such as “Thank You!” You will also be able to link to piece of content created by you to help solve clients’ specific problems. This will reinforce your brand identity while establishing your leadership and expertise.

How Invoicing Software Works?

To put it simply, online invoicing systems for small businesses allow owners to create and send bills electronically. However, there’s more to them. These systems also enable users to create, control, and evaluate invoices on your smartphone or tablet. This essentially means that you’re on top of your work-related developments at all times. Read on to gain a thorough understanding of how to use an efficient invoicing solution to simplify your life:

  • Start by entering your client’s information on your invoicing system. This includes their name, contact details, email address, billing and mailing address, and preferred payment method. Organizing this data will enable you to set up recurring payments and issue invoices instantly.
  • Users can also input the usual billing costs once and for all in the system. The software will calculate the total bill at the end of each cycle automatically. This works particularly well if you charge an hourly rate.
  • Set up your payment terms and policies as these will determine how your invoices will be paid. Other factors to consider are payment schedules and preferred payment methods. Deciding on these aspect will make your billing process glitch-free. This should motivate clients to pay invoices on time and without hesitation.
  • Invoicing systems allow you to carefully design invoices to prevent confusion and delays. While this may seem complex, it really isn’t. Make sure your invoices include your brand’s logo, color scheme, your contact information, invoice number, payment due date, payment terms and policies, itemized list of products/services, and a note of thanks to the client for the payment.
  • You can maintain records of contracts, agreements, payments (paid and due), and other documents in the most orderly manner with the help of an online invoicing software.

How to Choose the Right Online Invoicing Software?

One of the conundrums small business owners find themselves in relates to choosing the right invoicing software. This can get tricky because of the variety of industry-specific solutions available in market. However, you will do well to focus on the following criteria when picking a system for your business to ensure that all its needs are met.

a. High-Level Data Security

Figure out if your invoice management system stores your data on its own server or a third-party server. Ask providers about the security measures they take to ensure the security of your information. Also, verify if the software providers are using HTTPS connection (from their website URL in the address bar). This protocol ensures that the data transferred from your computer to their server is encrypted and safe from hackers. You can also view their security certificate on their website.

b. Availability of Essential Features

An efficient invoicing solution will easily allow you to:

  • Create and manage customer records and purchase information on a centralized database in a secure manner
  • Enable quick payments by processing credit cards promptly and allow recurring billing
  • Create high-quality, professional-looking, and customizable invoices with predefined templates
  • Categorize and track costs and transactions according to projects
  • Manage inventory, stock movements, and wastage
  • Settle accounts by importing banking transactions
  • Create and record purchase orders
  • Record voucher entries
  • Integrate seamlessly with payment gateways
  • Manage customers and vendors list
  • View balance sheet, account payables and receivables, profit and loss statement, and tax statements
  • Receive multi-lingual and multi-currency support for issuing receipts, accepting payment and managing taxes
  • Send quotes to customers from a centralized database
  • Add team members and grant access control

c. Ease of Use

Not all business owners are well-versed in accounting, which why an invoicing suite becomes a necessity. Even with a dedicated accountant in place, business owners should be able to view and make sense of the financial information without any trouble. Ensure you get an easy to use software with a clean user-friendly interface that allows you to focus on business-critical tasks.

d. Scalability

A lot of business owners make the mistake of thinking short-term and buy software that fails to support the needs of their growing operations. This slows the progress and forces entrepreneurs to migrate to other software, which can be a hassle. It is, therefore, prudent to get software that scales with your business needs. Go for one that offers free entry-level features and can be upgraded to an advanced fully-equipped paid version, which you will need in the future.

Conclusion

Having an ingenious invoicing software in place can certainly help small businesses streamline their processes and work better with clients. From automating invoices and organizing data to receiving payments safely, online invoicing solutions can do it all. The kind of system you need depends entirely on your business goals and the kind of legacy software you have been using. Use the above information to make an informed decision and propel your business towards success.

What kind of challenges did you face when picking an invoice management system for your business, and how did you overcome them? Do let us know in your comments.

Top 4 Quick Travel Marketing Tips

The majority of people love to travel, which is why you may think that travel marketers have it easy.

Well, the truth is that the opposite is the reality, because the travel industry competition is stiff and fierce. That’s not to mention that things fluctuate greatly between seasons and between destinations, which complicates things even further.

But even with the travel industry expected to grow even further and competition getting even more fierce, the truth is that marketing your travel business also doesn’t need to be as difficult as you may have initially suspected.

Here are the top four quick tips for travel marketing:

1 – Summer and Winter Are Your Seasons

These are the seasons when people are the most likely to book for travel, with a nearly 30% increase in travel searches during this time. Specifically, December, January, July, and August are the top four months of the year when people are booking the most flights and hotel rooms.

Therefore, these are the months of the year when you will want to be focusing your marketing efforts the most intensely.

2 – Bid Lower During Those Months

While you may think that you should bid higher during those months when people are going to be booking far more flights and hotel rooms, the truth is that’s the exact same strategy that most if not all of your competition is going to be using as well. Instead, bidding your prices just a hair lower can be the best strategy to stand out more and gain you more sales. Just don’t bid too low, because you still want your business to turn out a profit.

3 – Be Informative

It may be a good idea to be informative and to go as far as to start a blog about travel tips and advice. That way, people may find out about your travel agency or business through your blog first. Just make sure that your blog truly is informative and educational. Beyond generic subjects like ‘top travel tips for beginners,’ you can get more serious and specific with subjects such as visa application rules by country or the best hotels by city.

4 – Be Visual

A major mistake that travel agencies make these days is that when marketing, around two thirds of all advertisements are just dull text ads.

When people are traveling or planning to travel, they don’t just want to read or hear about the destinations. They want to actually see those destinations. That’s exactly why images and videos need to dominate your websites, mobile apps, and advertisements all at the same time in order to make them significantly more captivating.

Travel Marketing Tips

All in all, these are the top four travel marketing tips that you will be unwise to ignore: marketing the most aggressively during the summer and winter, bid lower if possible) to stand out more, be informative and educational in your website, and be visual in your advertisements.

The Business Owner’s Guide To Hiring Financial Advice For The 1st Time

Getting a business off the ground requires a firm take-charge attitude. If you don’t steer it decisively in the right direction, no one else will.

But you can’t maintain that level of control indefinitely, because handling the regular operations of a growing business is arduous and relentless work.

Sooner or later, you need to find a way to delegate some of the workload. The more responsibilities you maintain, the harder it will be to pursue your overall business goals, let alone maintain a work/life balance. There are only so many hours in a day.

Now, any business owner will tell you that financial management can be a massive headache. As such, when you reach the point of seeking assistance, that’s the logical place to start.

But how do you go about it? What should you look for? How can you make sure you get great advice that will save you money and free you up to focus on the rest of your business?

Let’s take a look at what you need to know when hiring your first business financial advisor.

Always Check Credentials
I’m the CEO of Microsoft. You know that isn’t true, of course, but most false claims aren’t quite that easy to identify. This is especially the case if they involve subjects or terminology that you don’t know much about.

Unfortunate as it is, it remains the case that people are often willing to make exaggerated or entirely-baseless claims about their skills in order to get work, so there’s every chance you’ll encounter some while looking for a financial advisor.

At a minimum, you should look into your prospect’s:

● Previous clients.
● Relevant industry experience.
● Cloud bookkeeping and accounting expertise (the cloud can save you time).

Even if you think you have a solid grasp of the terms and can tell when someone isn’t quite what they claim to be, take the time to do a formal check. Do some research into their background, contact some references, and, if possible, run their pitch by someone whose financial expertise you trust.

Is it safe to say you’d do your due diligence before buying a business (rummaging under the hood, checking the analytics, making sure it weren’t too good to be true)? I’m particularly careful, so I’d do my due diligence before doing something as pedestrian as buying a new coat.

Ask questions, read reviews, get external confirmation— skepticism is healthy. Don’t put it aside because you want to be nice and give the benefit of the doubt.

Maintain Realistic Expectations
If all goes well, your financial progress will be like tending a flourishing garden. You’ll distribute the right kind of soil, plant the seeds, water them appropriately on an indefinite basis, and eventually you’ll see blooming flowers.

Thus, if a prospective advisor leads you to believe that you’ll plant some magic beans and wake up to a towering beanstalk, they’re selling you a fantasy.

Yes, anyone can go online and start selling things without much preparation or financial investment—but while technology has made taking the first step that easy, it hasn’t changed the nature of business development. It’s still a complex process that (almost always) gets results very gradually.

Anyone claiming financial expertise should be perfectly aware that disproportionate profits or guaranteed results are wholly unrealistic, and you should decisively back away from anyone who paints a picture of the future that seems too good to be true.

Establish Clear Terms
It’s the nightmare scenario: six months after taking on a financial advisor, you can’t say conclusively what they’ve done. What’s more, their payment requests are variable and feel arbitrary. What, specifically, are you paying them to do?

It’s unlikely that it would be quite that bad, admittedly, but there’s simply no reason to leave any element whatsoever to chance when you can get everything confirmed before you get started.

How often will you communicate? What level of access will they have to your records? If you’ve set up an online business, will you require them to explain how tax works for ecommerce? What payment arrangement is best?

Have them answer all of your questions, and answer all of theirs, then draw up and agree on a clear and comprehensive set of formal terms, including a service level agreement.
Avoid Hiring Your Friends
You like your friends, presumably, and trust them. If you didn’t, you likely wouldn’t be friends with them. And if you happen to be friends with someone who has financial expertise, then that’s a perfect fit for your business, isn’t it?

Well, no. It might sound like a good arrangement, but mixing the personal with the professional is dangerous, and all the more so when it comes to something as important as the financial condition of your business.

Even if you have good intentions, getting personal attachments and feelings involved in your business will make it harder to reach rational conclusions and measure success accurately.

Your business decisions need to be made carefully and, for the most part, dispassionately. Take occasional tips from your friends if you must, but ultimately hire someone who can do their work at an appropriate distance.

Explain Your Goals
The financial advice you receive will shape the progress of your business over months or even years, yet it is fairly rare for there to be only one viable path to take; so which one will your advisor recommend?

This will depend heavily on their analysis of the figures, of course, but also very meaningfully on what is most important to you, and what your ultimate goals are.

Taking the time to explain your business plan in detail and elaborate upon where your business priorities lie will ensure minimal friction in the professional relationship and help you get the most useful advice for you.

Keep Asking Questions
Once you’ve vetted and hired a financial advisor, you should resist the temptation to passively defer to them on every matter, and motivate yourself to ask plenty of questions.

This isn’t to say that you should be hyper-critical of every single recommendation or piece of analysis; it’s more a matter of staying involved and learning more about business as you go.

You should get to grips with any accounting software or platforms they recommend and keep adding to your internal knowledge base as an entrepreneur.

Even if you’re so happy with your financial advisor that you end up working with them for years to come, you will benefit from understanding finance better.

It will also make their job easier, as they will ultimately need to spend less time explaining their ideas to you, giving them more time to focus on the good stuff: saving you money.

Are you looking to hire financial advice for the first time? There are a lot of incompetent or unethical advisors around who will take advantage of you given the chance, so follow all of these tips, be thorough, and make sure you hire someone with the credentials and background to warrant your confidence.
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Victoria Greene is an ecommerce marketing expert and freelance writer who understands the vital role sensible financing plays in driving business growth. You can read more of her work on her blog Victoria Ecommerce.

Smart Blogging Tips for Small Business Owners

Blogging is a great way to create content that will bring traffic to your website, and start selling online. As a small business, you’ve got a lot of competition out there. With these blogging tips though, you can stand out from the crowd and show your readers why they should buy with you.

Blog Regularly
The first thing you’ll need to do is decide how often you’re going to blog. Can you do it daily? Weekly? Bi-weekly? Now’s not the time to make lofty goals that you can’t possibly reach. Be honest with yourself about how much time you have to dedicate to this project of your business. If you can only blog once a month, stick to that goal. The key is to update regularly, so search engines can see you’re a current site and rank you accordingly and send potential customers to pages of your business’ blog. To do this you can create your blogging or content calendar and write down all the dates and ideas you have.

Get Those Backlinks
One of the best ways to get readers to find your business’ blog is to get backlinks. These are links on other sites that direct readers to your own blog. As well as helping you find readers that way, they also help your SEO as they show you’re a reputable site. One of the best ways to do this is to create your business’ page on different trusted directories. Also, to show that you’re an expert in your business niche you can guest blog on other websites. When you do this, you can provide a backlink in return on your site. Ensure you’re citing their site properly when you do so, so they get the benefit of it. Use a tool like Cite It In to help you do this and to cite references to stats and recearches.

Think About Length of Posts
There’s a lot of debate about the length of posts you write for your blog. Which is best? Shorter blogs are good as they condense a lot of information into a short space. This is perfect if you’re writing for people who are on mobile, as many of your readers will be. Longer posts, though, are better for going into more detail. And some topics need fewer words. Just keep an eye on your length with Easy word count as you write.

Write Quality Posts
Yes, that’s easier said than done. However, readers can tell if they’re reading a quality post within seconds. If they’re not, they’ll just click away. Ensure that you’re writing posts your readers can use. They should be informative and entertaining to them and give them something that they wouldn’t have had before visiting your blog.

Beware of Plagiarism
Plagiarism is becoming a big problem online these days. Even if you’re actively avoiding it, you can still be caught out. Search engines will rate you down if you’re found to be using other people’s work and passing it off as your own. To avoid this, it’s a good idea to run your writing through a plagiarism detector such as PlagScan or Academized before you publish it.

Watch Your Grammar
Good grammar is the basis of any good blog. Without it, your writing won’t look expert or professional, which is what you need. Even more, grammar mistakes can drive customers away from your business. That’s why you need to have a good handle on your grammar. Check your writing to see if there’s any grammatical mistake before you publish, and work on improving your weak points. Services like State Of Writing and Grammarix can help you improve your grammar, and the quality of your writing.

Become the Go to Blog in Your Area
Whatever your business blog is about, you should aim to become the go-to blog in your business niche. Are you selling children’s craft materials? Then you can be a blog full of ideas for school and at home crafts, updated with the seasons. You want people to come to your blog, as you’re the one with all the ideas and information that they need and the product. Think about what you can bring to your niche, and make yourself indispensable as a blog.

Proofread and Edit Every Time
Before you post anything to your blog, ensure that you’re proofreading and editing it before you do so. You may think you’ve written the piece well, but there’s sure to be a mistake or two that you won’t spot until you make the post live. As mentioned above, mistakes make you look unprofessional and that’s the last thing you want. Give yourself time to sit and proofread your writing, ideally at least 24 hours. This means you won’t be editing in a rush, where you might miss something. If you’re unable to edit yourself, services like Paper Fellows and Big Assignments can help.

These tips are all recommended by expert bloggers, so you should try them out for yourself. Getting started is easier than you’d think, and once you’re writing you’ll find that there are lots to say about your subject. Give your readers what they need and they’ll keep coming back for more.

The In-Depth Guide To Selling Your eCommerce Business

After building a successful eCommerce business, you can look back and see the massive amount of time and money it has taken you to get to this point — the point where you are generating profits and enjoying more free time.

However, after building a successful business, many entrepreneurs feel like there’s always something more, encounter a situation in their personal lives that requires a quick cash influx, or have gotten burned out from the incredible amount of work they’ve gone through.

When that happens, it may be time to sell the business you’ve built.

Whether you’re looking to focus on a new, bigger project, you want to put out fires in your personal life, or you need the time (and money) to step back and figure out what your next move is, selling an established eCommerce business can be incredibly profitable for you.

To make a profitable exit, and get the most value from the sale, you’re going to need to step out of your entrepreneur shoes and step into an investor’s shoes, since they’re the people who are going to dictate how much money you’re going to get out of the deal.

Figuring out a baseline value for your store is the first step, and can be one of the hardest things you’ll do — outside of mentally preparing yourself for letting go of your business.

At the end of the day, no two businesses are exactly alike and there is a wide range of variables that go into figuring out how much your specific business is worth.

That means figuring out what investors may be willing to pay for your business can be difficult to do.

At Digital Exits, we’ve made it our sole mission to understand what investors are looking for when they’re ready to buy and how business owners can implement those factors into their business.

To help you wrap your head around the entire process, you need to understand one critical point. The reason investors are willing to buy your business is because that business will generate an income for them. Nothing more, nothing less.

Those investors want to turn a profit, and the first question they’re going to ask themselves when they’re thinking about buying the business is “how long is it going to take me to earn my investment back?”

In order to get the highest sale price possible, you’re going to need to look at the business like an investor will look at the business, and then address the areas of concern that investors are going to be digging into in order to knock your sale price down.

You can start by answering the following questions:

What do your annual sales numbers look like?

This is going to be the biggest factor that determines how much your store is worth. Some investors will look at your average yearly sales over the past 3 years, while others are going to look at the last 12 months.

The key here is to show stability and have sales numbers that are easy for your investor to verify. If the numbers can’t be easily verified, your investor will assume that you’re hiding something and then think that you’re hiding other things, causing the deal to fall flat.

How much profit is generated from those sales, annually?

Your annual net profits is the meat and potatoes of your store. While having a high sales volume is attractive for most investors, if your profit margins are slim or near non-existent, it’s going to be hard to get an investor to move forward with the deal.

Before you start listing the business for sale, you’re going to want to make sure you’ve increased your profit margins as much as possible, either by negotiating better terms with your suppliers or by cutting expenses. Then, give those new changes time to stabilize.

Is your store currently growing?

Some entrepreneurs make the mistake of trying to sell their business when the traffic and sales have begun to decline. This usually happens because they are burned out and can no longer give the business the attention it deserves.

While some investors still may be interested in buying the business based on past performance, you’ll need to go into the process expecting to validate why the business is declining, and accept a lower valuation as a result.

Investors want to see growth, or problems that can easily be fixed that will result in growth down the line.

How are you driving new sales?

Are you currently running different promotions to drive new sales to your store? Have you tapped into influencers in the past that are still sending sales to your store? Or are you running paid advertising campaigns?

The methods you’re using to generate sales will affect what the store is worth to an investor. The more work they have to do to maintain the sales volume you’ve established, the less they’re going to be willing to offer to buy the business.

This is even more true if your sales have begun to decline and you don’t have plans in place for recovering the lost sales volume.

Can you sustain the new growth?

If you are driving new sales to the store, do you have the capacity to handle those sales? Do you have the inventory and shipping solutions needed to handle a new influx of customers? Do you have the support channels in place to handle problems as they come up?

With the new sales that you’re driving, can the increase be sustained on its own? Or will your investor need to put in more time and money to maintain the growth?

Answering this question and having plans in place to not only handle the new growth, but to sustain that growth into the future, your business is going to be more attractive, and worth more money to an investor.

How are you acquiring customers?

Which channels are you using to acquire new customers? Can your investor take over those sales channels after they buy the business from you? Do you have systems in place to maintain a relationship with those customers that your investor can take over?

Bringing in new customers is only a single part of the bigger equation. How you’re fulfilling those customer orders, providing service to those customers, and making sure you can bring them back to your store again and again are other areas investors will look at.

How much are you spending to acquire customers?

Paid advertising is a huge marketing channel for eCommerce stores, but one that cuts into your monthly net profits — which investors use to determine your store’s true value.

You’re going to want to have detailed statistics about the traffic you’re buying, how much you’re spending, where that traffic is coming from, where it is going, and, most importantly, how it converts into a new customer when it lands on your store.

Be prepared to turn this information over, and make it easy for your investor to verify.

How are you positioned in the market?

Your competition and how you’re able to stand up against them is another area that your investors are going to be looking into. That means you need to examine how you’re positioned in your market and be able to back up your claims during the negotiation process.

Identify who your competition is, what they’re doing well, and where they are weak. Then look at your own business and figure out your own strengths and weaknesses.

Play on your strengths during the negotiation process, but be honest about your weaknesses. Go a step further and develop strategies to overcome your weaknesses, if you want to ensure you’re prepared for the questions your investor will ask.

Is your business relatively automated?

It’s already been mentioned, but this question is important enough to mention again — how automated is your business, and how much work is your investor going to have to put in to sustain the business that you’ve built once they take it over?

Investors aren’t looking to create a new job for themselves, especially if that job is going to cost them high 6-figures or into the 7-figure range.

If there are certain parts of the business that you have to be actively involved in, you’re going to want to look into outsourcing those parts of the business. Likewise, if there’s something you’re doing that can be handled by an automated service, it’s worth investing in that service.

Your investors will appreciate a relatively hands-off business.

Do you have systems and processes in place?

This is similar to automating parts of the business that you’re able to automate. Rather than completely automating certain aspects, though, it may be worth your time to document the process and put systems in place that make it easy for your investor to outsource.

Remember, the ultimate goal for your investor is going to be to take over a business that they do not have to be actively involved in, or are able outsource the tasks that they don’t want to do to other people.

Part of being able to outsource certain tasks means understanding how to do, and how to train, the people coming in to handle those tasks. That’s where documentation and processes make their life easy, and make it easy to outsource what they need to.

Once you have unlocked the answers to each of those questions, you can begin placing a value on your business.

To get a general idea, you’re going to want to look at how much other businesses have sold for, and compare your own model to their model, finding strengths and weaknesses.

For the most part, an eCommerce store that doesn’t have significant issues with their model is going to sell for around 2.51 times the yearly net profits.

This means that if your eCommerce store is generating $89,000 in profits per year, you could apply the 2.51 multiple to the profits to find a final value of $223,390. This is a starting point in the negotiation process between you and your investor.

To help you navigate the negotiation process, there are a few things you’re going to need to do.

● Ensure that you have all the necessary paperwork. Your numbers need to be honest and accurate, because these are the numbers your investors will use to validate your asking price.

● Make sure you have systems and processes in place. Ensuring that the business is running efficiently after you leave is a huge selling point that you can use during negotiations.

● Make your products and services different. Setting yourself apart from the competition and ensuring that the business isn’t a commodity that can be easily replaced is critical if you’re asking for a higher valuation.

● Work with a professional broker. If you have never bought or sold a business before, you could easily get worked over during the negotiation process. Brokers help you keep your own interests protected and can get your offer in front of more investors than you can on your own.

● Clean up the business. If there are problems that you’re aware of, take the time to fix those problems and then let enough time pass for those problems to stabilize. If you notice problems, your investors will, too, and will use those issues to lower your asking price.

You can see from what I’ve laid out here that selling a profitable eCommerce business isn’t necessarily a black and white affair. There is a lot of intricacies that goes into finding the real-world value of a business.

However, if you answer the questions given here, and address any areas of concern in your business, getting the maximum asking price from selling your eCommerce store becomes a reality instead of a distant dream.

This Is How You Prepare Your Home For Winter

Some people live for the summer and the warm weather it brings. Others cannot wait until the weather starts to cool in fall. Regardless of how you feel about it, the weather will soon start to get cold. Winter really is coming.

winter

That means you need to do a little work now to prepare your home for the cooler months. Doing so can save you money on heating, but it can also make sure you don’t have expensive and annoying repairs come spring. You should start by looking at the outside of your home.

Preparing The Outside Of Your Home

In any season, leaky roofs or doors are a problem. You pay good money to control the temperature of your home, and these gaps make it more expensive. That’s why neamb.com recommends taking a look at your roof. Any shingles that are loose can easily come off with a big snowfall. Along the same lines, check your doors and windows for drafts. If there are any, use silicone caulk outside to seal them up.

Because the weather will get seriously cold in winter, you also need to prepare your outside faucets. Start by removing garden hoses and storing them for spring. Then check the faucets themselves. Look into the spout for a metal stem. If you see one, your faucets are likely frost-free and don’t need anything. If there is no stem, you should shut off the water completely to the outside or install a sillcock with an integral vacuum breaker.

Closing Down Your Pool

Speaking of water, you have some extra work to do if you own a pool. Whether it’s above ground or not, you will need to winterize the pool so you can protect it. A treated pool is much less likely to give you problems next summer when you just want to get in the water.

In The Swim has an excellent page of winterizing kits for your pool, including:
● Winter “pills” that have a mix of enzymes and clarifiers to keep the water clear through winter.
● Covers for the whole pool and pumps to remove excess water from the top of the cover as the snow melts.
● Solar blankets that also act as covers.
● Patch kits for covers that develop small holes due to the weather.

What To Do Inside Your Home

Now that you’ve taken care of the outside and the pool, you need to look inside your home. Popular Mechanics has a great list of interior winterizing tips, such as:
● Changing your furnace filters so your heated air is clean.
● Turn any ceiling fans to reverse. (This pushes rising hot air back down to your level.)
● Consider installing storm doors and storm windows, as these can increase your energy efficiency for more comfort and lower costs.
● Hire a certified HVAC maintenance crew to make sure your furnace is working correctly.

If you have two homes and are leaving your summer residence, you should read this checklist from Travelers about preparing your home. Not only should you make sure your home is free of drafts and has a maintained furnace, you also need to drain your water pipes so they don’t freeze while you’re away.

Winterize Now To Save Time & Energy

The thing about fall and winter is that they can be here before you realize it. That’s why it’s so important to start preparing your house for cooler weather while it’s still warm. Check the outside of your house for problems with your roof, windows, and water system. Winterize your pool if you have one, then do some maintenance on the inside. This can go a long way to making sure you’re warm this winter.

5 Ways to Effectively Increase CTR in an E-Commerce App/Website Through Data Tracking

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As an e-commerce site administrator, one cannot ignore the power of user data collected during different stages of activities on your site. Many organizations collect and store these data, but they do not put them into good use, such as using them to increase the conversion ratio on their website.

Many users will visit your site and never comeback for further activities. However, if you properly use the data they submitted to your database during registration, you can effectively increase their return rate by 50% or more.

The purpose of every business is to maximize sales. One of the best ways to maximize sales is by getting your customers perform certain task, and those tasks can only be done when they are visible to the customer.

As an e-commerce administrator how can you use all that big data you’ve collected? In this article we shall be discussing how to properly utilize the customer and consumer data you collected to increase the conversion ratio.

What Kind Of Data Should You Track?

With the right analytic tools you can track the following information from a user; whether they carried out a transaction or not.

  • Email address.
  • Phone numbers.
  • Age and gender.
  • Residential Address which will give you clues on the region they live.
  • The pages they visited.
  • The links or product they clicked.
  • The keyword that brought them to your site.
  • The amount spent and product bought during last visit

1. Use Tracked Data to Create a Personalized, Shopping Experience For Customers

A study done by Infosys study, shows that 70% customers will spend 13% or more, if they are confident that the company selling to them has a superior service.
Through the personal data you collected from your customers or site visitors, you should be able to personalize certain recommendations to inform your customers about product and services they might have an interest.
The data you have tracked can also be used to study what certain customers from certain region prefer. This will help your target other audience from the same region effectively.

2. Use Your Tracked Data to Customize Special Offers and Promotions

One thing that drives traffic to an e-commerce site is special offers and promotions. According to Brendan Wilde, marketing manager at Domain4Less, “A mass audience promotion will not get you the customers you need to increase sales; you should also conduct special promotion that targets a particular audience.” For instance, if you are selling winter coat your promotion should be targeted at your audience that experience winter or during winter season.
Using the data you collected you can send email notification or SMS to your audience whom you know are living in areas that experience such season, clearly stating reasons they should buy winter coat even if they have one. Such customized offers will increase the number of daily visitors you get and the same time your CTR.

3. Use the Tracked Data for Product Feedback

The information you get from your customers, especially during period of huge sales should be used to improve your product and services. For instance many customers will leave negative reviews on some products. You should not take these reviews as a bad signal, rather as an avenue to improve on your services and increase sales.
You can ask your reliable customers who are willing to carry out a survey about your services such as features or products they would like you to add. You should also watch out for product review sites to study how certain customers react.

4. Use Tracked Data to Improve Your Marketing

Your business can not succeed without proper marketing. While many startups fail to properly utilize the data they gathered to improve their marketing department, the data serves as an avenue for marketers to understand the behavioral activities of prospects that become customers.
This implies that with these data, they see the journey of a prospect and target campaigns to influence and convert them to customers. In other words, your advertisement campaign will be targeted at the right audience.

5. Use Your Data to Create Sharable Content

One thing many e-commerce site administrators forget is creating blog content. While many see this as a job that should be left for bloggers; creating a blog section on your site and including helpful tips will increase your CTR. Many visitors will convert to customers if they read articles from your site about certain product or service. In a case where you sell Jewelries, offering tips on how to maintain them will increase your site visitors which in turn will convert to customers.
Conclusion

The data you gathered from your customers when properly utilized will serve as a source of increasing your conversion rate at the same time increasing sales and maximizing profits.

Awesome Productivity Tips for Small Business Owners

Disclaimer: Gabriel Nwatarali, from Tech Help Canada, submitted this entry. The author’s views are entirely his or her own and may not reflect the views of Cloud Books.

22 Awesome Productivity Tips for Small Business Owners

In an age where distractions reign supreme, staying productive has become a lot harder to do. This is particularly evident for business owners or entrepreneurs who are responsible for most of their day-to-day operations. These 22 actionable productivity tips for small business owners may be just what you need to take your productivity to the next level.
In truth, many of us try several times to become more productive and fail at it before we got it right. Implementing just some of these productivity tips will be beneficial.

1. Commit to Becoming More Productive
The first step in any goal is to commit and productivity is no different. You have to commit to becoming a more productive person.
You’ll need to be dedicated to your goal and the activities that are necessary to meet it.

2. Focus on Income Producing Activities
What are the activities that can make you money?
Focus on the activities that are needed to generate revenue for your business. Income producing activities may not generate income all the time but you have to be consistent.
Do you need to make cold calls? Can you reach out to potential clients on social media? Should you be sending “InMails” on LinkedIn?
These are only some examples of income producing activities.
Your focus should be balanced. There should be at least 50% focus on income generating activities and the other 50% on everything else.

3. Use The 2-Minute Rule
The two-minute rule crushes procrastination and can help you stick to good habits.
The general idea is that anything that will take 2 minutes or less should be completed right away. Whether it’s papers that need filling or a quick response to an email, you should do it if it will take 2 minutes or less.
Most of the tasks that we procrastinate about aren’t actually as time-consuming as we think they are. The 2-minute rule will help you start and finish tasks that you would normally put aside for later.

4. Set SMART Goals
SMART is an acronym for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely.
By setting SMART goals, you can manage expectations and increase the likelihood of being successful.
Specific – Your goal should be well defined.
Measurable – You should be able to measure success in some way.
Attainable – Make sure that your goal can be accomplished.
Realistic – Your goal should be within reason, available resource and time.
Timely – Make sure that you have enough time to archive the goal but never take too much time.

5. Use a Checklist
Checklists are old school but they still work. Before you start your day, make a checklist of the most important things that you need to do that day.
As you cross off things in your checklist, you may find that you get a huge sense of accomplishment. This is a good thing because it’ll make you happier throughout the day.
A checklist should keep you consistent and ensure the completeness of each task.

6. Make Time for Critical Things
This seems simple enough but more often than not, we fail to set time aside for really critical things like taxes. The result is that we end up having to rush our work.
Develop a habit of setting time aside for urgent or critical activities.

7. Create a Plan for Managing Your Time
No matter what kind of business you run, you should have a plan for managing your time. Decide on your day-to-day business operations and manage it effectively to increase productivity.

8. Use Tools to Boost Productivity
Use software like cloud books to help you improve productivity. Software tools are great for increasing the overall productivity of businesses.
Truly productive small businesses use tools to prioritize tasks, communicate clearly, delegate, for invoicing and record keeping. Tools also help employees produce more for the organization.

9. Schedule Things
You should schedule most things and only change your schedule if it’s important. Having a schedule will help you stay on track for completing your most important tasks for the day.
Give yourself some extra time to complete each task because as a business owner, you’re probably in the public eye and people may just want to talk to you.

10. Track Your Results
Tracking your results will help you measure your success and change things that may not be working.

11. Use Email Strategically
Do you need to respond to emails as soon as they arrive? Should you send an email or make a phone call?
Emails can take up a lot of your time if you don’t set boundaries. It may be a good idea to setup a very good auto responder and only check email once a day.
For other business people, it’s a good idea to ensure that you’re not sending out emails for things that can be easily solved by walking to a cubicle or an office.

12. Pick One Thing and Do That
Having a down and out day? Well, we all have these moments once in awhile. On days like this, you need to pick one thing and do it!
Pick the most important thing that you can do for your business that day and focus on that.

13. What’s Your Work Environment Like?
You can’t time manage effectively if your environment invites chaos.
Try to work in an environment that invites creativity and organization. If your work environment makes you feel like working a whole lot, it’s a good thing.

14. Create Sustainable Habits
Pick habits that you can sustain. It’s easy to tell yourself that you’ll be in every networking event in your city but is it sustainable?
When picking habits that will benefit your business, make sure that you can be consistent with it. Many things lose their effectiveness when they’re inconsistent.

15. Delegate Tasks
Delegation is arguably the earliest form of automation. By delegating tasks that are important or mundane, you can create time for the really important stuff like generating business income.

16. Avoid Procrastination
Easier said than done but procrastination can kill a business if it persists. As mentioned earlier, use the 2-minute rule to avoid procrastinating on those small but necessary tasks.
Whenever you feel like putting off an important task for later, remember that time doesn’t wait for you and tomorrow is never certain. This alone is a good enough motivator to start for most people.

17. Take Breaks
This is where many small business owners struggle!
As owners of businesses, we’re so accustomed to working that we often forget to take breaks. Whenever possible, take breaks after each task or set aside time for it.
Breaks can serve as creative fuel, a way for you to step back and give your mind room for more creativity.
If your work involves a lot of sitting down, breaks can help you avoid mental stagnation and being physically inactive.

18. Stay Organized
Organization is very important, especially in business. Avoid spending too much time looking for things by keeping your office space organized.
Additionally, a cluttered work environment can quickly make your mind feel cluttered too.

19. Prioritize Tasks
Prioritization allows you to focus on the most important tasks first. A good rule of thumb is to do the hardest tasks first.

20. Working “On” Your Business vs. “In” Your Business
Are you working on your business or in your business?
For many small business owners, they’re doing both and you may be too. Working in your business is necessary but spend at least 1 to 5 hours a week working on your business.
Working on your business involves making long-term investments. Things like finding ways to make your processes more efficient, developing systems and creating a vision.

21. Set Aside Time for Yourself
A business is a reflection of the owner or entrepreneur and if you’re not happy, it can hurt how you conduct business.
You should make time for yourself. Designate one day of the week where you can go and have fun doing something else. Whether it’s fishing, boating or binge watching your favorite TV shows, do it if it makes you happy.

22. Manage Your Expectations
Finally, you should manage your expectations!
We often want to accomplish a lot of things in one day but the reality is that we can end up hurting our productivity because we lose some focus.
Rushing to complete things quickly, often removes the focus required for it to be remarkable. Remember this whenever you’re tempted to over fill up your day.

Author Bio

Gabriel Nwatarali is a digital marketer and designer. He works as a consultant for businesses that want to improve their web presence. He is the founder of Tech Help Canada, a design and marketing agency. He currently resides in the beautiful city of Ottawa, ON. When he is not working, he is having fun with his passions – SEO, websites and logo design. (more…)

Biggest differences between iOS and Android devices

One of the biggest differences between iOS and Android devices is their messaging capabilities. iOS
devices come with a feature called iMessage, which is essentially a built in messaging app that allows
its users to send messages, images, videos and more to other iOS users over the internet, free of
charge. An Android device on the other hand does not come with this feature. Google has yet to decide on the one best messaging app that comes built into to Android devices, therefore users have to make their own decision on which they wish to be their default application. As a result of this, it is commonplace for user to have to repeatedly switch between apps when talking to different people.

Although it is not the most user friendly solution, it is one that Android users have to deal with.
WhatsApp is definitely an app that is worth considering to be made a default messaging solution for
an Android device. In addition to being able to send and receive messages, images, videos and
documents for free, it also allows for free phone calls just as long as you have Wi-Fi. For people that
travel a lot this is a vital feature as it allows them to communicate with people all over the world
without paying a penny. Additionally, it was one of the first messaging apps to be created, therefore
a lot of people have it on their phones ready to be communicated with.

Facebook messenger is also key app to consider as chances are you already have a Facebook
account, and therefore an extensive contact list ready to communicate with over the app instantly.
However, the app will also support contacts through adding a phone number, so people you want to
communicate with don’t have to have a Facebook account. This app has a few fun features that sets
it apart from other apps such as a huge collection of stickers, online games that you can play with
friends and the ability to take part in large group chats. In the future, it is looking likely that
Facebook messenger will also introduce company bots, so that users can communicate with
companies that they want to purchase products or services from.

Other potential apps that Android users could download include Line, Viber and WeChat. Depending
on where you live in the world, different messaging apps are popular, so it is best to consider what
apps are popular around you before making a decision about which will be your default. There are
thousands of apps out there to choose from, each with various feature and benefits that sets them
apart from others. There is also nothing stopping people from having multiple applications to use if
necessary. The method to make an application your default various between devices.

Although some people may not like the fact that Android phones come without one set way to
message, it can also be argued that it gives users the freedom to choose the app that is perfect for
them.