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[Contest] Show Your SMBLove!

Here at Grasshopper, we love it when small businesses support each other. So, we’re honoring National Small Business Week by holding a contest so you can show support, and have the chance to win an awesome gift pack.

All you need is the logo of your favorite small business and a reason why you love them. Really, that’s it!

How Do I Enter?

Upload the logo of your favorite small business and share it with us on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, or through this blog post.

Or Enter Here:

What’s The Prize?

We have an amazing small business gift pack, which is over a $500 value! The gift pack includes:

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  • A shiny new stapler, pen cup, pens, tape dispenser and notebook from Poppin
  • USB powered to-go mug (keeps your drinks hot!)
  • $25 Starbucks card
  • $50 Moo.com gift card
  • $50 Grasshopper credit
  • One year of Batchbook service FREE

When and How Will The Winners Be Announced?

One winner will be randomly chosen from the eligible entries. We’ll be announcing the winners on May 8th, the Friday of National Small Business Week. You’ll be contacted through the network you used to submit the logo.

What Are The Rules?

The contest begins at 12:00 AM EST on 4/27/2015 and ends at 11:59 PM EST on 5/7/2015. All entries must be received during this time period. Late entries will not be eligible.

All entries must include a valid business logo.

Originally posted 2015-05-20 05:57:15. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

4 Amazing Sources for Customer Swag

Everybody loves free stuff. Therefore, any time you can tap into that positive association (and reinforce your branding at the same time), it’s good news.

It’s not a new concept, either. Swag has deep roots in history–dating back to the election of George Washington in the late 1700s when promotional buttons were handed out to voters. Over time, swag evolved into yard sticks, pens, t-shirts, and more.

Today, swag still holds and important place in many entrepreneurs’ budget. The question is, where do you go to find these products? And what should you invest in?

In this post, we’ll look at a few different places entrepreneurs suggested that you can turn to for top-quality (and low cost) swag. Plus, we’ll share some products that will actually be worthwhile to those who receive them.

1. 4imprint

4imprint

At 4imprint, you’ll find swag ranging from apparel to to technology that’s completely customizable. One of the features 4imprint prides itself on is free samples, which they ship out to customers who are uncertain about placing a large order without seeing the product first. In most instances, they include a free return label that makes the process even more painless. Their customization services range from screen printing to embroidery.

Entrepreneur Nicole Speca of Kennebug said, “4imprint is one of the best places I have found for giveaways for customers.The prices are the best and the selection is HUGE.”

Benefit: Coupon codes and free samples

2. Printfection

printfection

For those who want their promotional items handled externally, Printfection offers a solution that handles the whole process–from ordering to fulfillment. Their service incorporates swag into three main arenas: Lead generation strategy, customer rewards system, and events. With lots of different types of swag to choose from in a variety of price ranges, this option works for small and large businesses.

Copywriter Rick Slaboda from Webcopyplus said, “The best place to get swag is definitely Printfection. They have cool products, but what blows the competition away is their system, which makes it so easy to order, distribute and manage the goods. They make you look look a rock star with little effort and time.”

Benefit: Fulfillment can be completely outsourced

3. Swag Expert

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Originally posted 2015-05-19 09:31:58. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

The Business of Bad Credit: 14 Dos and Don’ts for Small Business Owners

If you own a small business, you’re eager to bring in more cash flow. But business requires working capital– hiring new employees, buying new inventory, equipment and supplies, and paying for a new marketing campaign to get more customers.

If you’re struggling with funds, a small business loan might be a good option. But how to get a loan if you have bad credit – or no credit at all?

Even if your personal or business credit is bad or nonexistent, you can still get a loan. In fact, if you apply these dos and don’ts from our business loan experts, you’ll take the steps to improve your credit, and find alternative ways to obtain a business loan with a less-than-favorable credit score.

Do start paying on bad debt you have

Last year’s changes to the FICO credit score calculations rewards those who make good on delinquent debts. In even a few months, the upgrade to your credit score can qualify you for a bigger loan on better terms.

Don’t forget you have other financial history

Utilities, mortgage or rent, relationships with vendors, and payroll made are all examples of bills you’ve been paying (mostly) on time and in full. You can use all of these to help negotiate with potential lenders, putting them up against the adverse events. This one is especially helpful if most of your credit mistakes are older than the newer action.

Do take out a credit card

Or get strategic with the one you have. Establishing a history of making purchases and paying off the balance will begin to counteract the bad marks on your record. Like paying off the bad debt, this will incrementally improve your credit score to help you with pretty much every kind of credit you could find. And if you do pay off a card, don’t close the account – leave it open with a zero balance. The more credit you have, and available credit, the better.

Don’t put plans on hold

Bad credit is no reason to miss an opportunity. Instead of saying “I’ll wait until my credit is good enough,” ask “What can I do to get it done anyway?” This is not only good advice for finding business loan resources, but a powerful change of mindset for all business tasks.

Do work hard on your business plan

You should have one anyway – trying to run a business without one is like trying to drive to a new location without a map or GPS. This is doubly important when looking for ways to finance your business growth, since lenders look at both the strength and feasibility of a company’s business plan when deciding whether or not to approve a loan.

Don’t discount family and friends

Most people who have a little extra money like being able to help the people they care about. A cash loan, investment and partnership, or even some free help from an expert you know can help you make forward-looking changes despite any problems from bruised credit.

Do carefully research anybody who calls you with an offer of credit

Not every business that cold calls companies with offers of easy credit is predatory, but enough are that you should never take their offers at face value. Use resources likeRipOffReport and the Better Business Bureau to carefully vet any kind of incoming credit offer.

Don’t overlook grants

Few grants look at your credit rating, and none ask you to pay the money back. Free money is a great deal for any business, especially businesses with rough spots on their credit report. Good sources of grants include local government commerce departments, colleges and universities in your area with local business programs, and empowerment groups for any demographic group you might be a part of. Some industry and trade associations also offer grants, gifts, and contests that can provide growth money for your business.

Do run quickly from tax refund loans and car title loans

All of these are predatory lending scams that hide literally illegal levels of interest behind fees and charges that would add up to over 1000% APR if you worked the math that way. They are not worth it. Ever.

Do look into “alternative lending”

The power of the internet has given rise to online alternative lenders – like Kabbage – that offer business owners online loans on terms that differ from those of traditional lenders. Since the “credit crunch” of the middle 2000s, traditional lending has aimed more and more toward safe loans from large institutions, a trend which leaves small businesses out in the cold. However, alternative lenders make it easier for small businesses to get a loan using business data like your PayPal, Square and checking account vs. just a FICO score. If you have bad credit and can’t receive a loan from a traditional bank, consider taking a look at an alternative lender.

Don’t forget your business has value

A secured loan (one with collateral behind it that the lender can seize if you default on payment) is easier to get, can be larger, and will carry less interest than an unsecured loan. Most businesses have assets you can use as collateral. Some examples include inventory on hand, specialized equipment, buildings or vehicles the company owns, or fixtures and furniture. Depending on your cash flow situation, you could use the business itself.

Do hit up good credit references

Your credit report gives more “time on stage” to the bad parts of your credit record, so it’s up to you to solicit some letters of reference from lenders you did right by over the years. Bring these when meeting to discuss credit. Although more and more traditional lenders are taking human judgment out of their processes, this can make a big difference with any potential lender that hasn’t made the shift.

Don’t even think about payday loan places

Remember what we said about tax refund and car title loans? Payday loans were the original version of this model, and remain the worst. Most actually build trapping the “client” into a cycle of increasing debt where they lend a little more money a little earlier each month. This is not hyperbole, but a documented part of their written business plans. Avoid them at all costs. Seriously.

Don’t get a loan to continue bad habits

If you need a loan to make a significant and positive change to your business, that’s a great reason to get a loan regardless of your credit situation. But if you’re looking for credit to simply maintain an unsustainable business model or bad financial habits…you might want to reconsider. Look first to how you’ve been spending your money and how you’ll use the cash influx, and only after that look into how you’ll get that small business loan.

Originally posted 2015-05-21 12:02:01. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

How to Get More Customers in Less Time with Buyer Personas

You’ve devoted your heart, soul, time and money into your product, and now every last working minute is going towards marketing and actually finding your customers. You can pour hours into social media updates, ads and reviews, but is all that time actually bringing home the bacon?

Don’t get stuck wondering why all this time and attention to marketing isn’t bringing in the traction your business was hoping for…

Here’s your problem (and I’ll show you how to fix it):

You’re not appealing to the right people.

The internet offers you a smorgasbord of eyes to flaunt your product at: A lot of ‘em are gonna think “Huh, that’s kinda neat-o” but a very specific group will be like, “Gotta have that in my life right now!”

Paint a bullseye on those “Gotta Have It’s” – your new marketing strategy is all about them.

You may find an image or quote that you think really captures the wit and sophistication of your brand, but hold your horses on the Instagramming before you consider this:

“Just because you like what you make, do NOT assume that you are your target marketJust because you like what you make, do NOT assume that you are your target market,” says Caitlin Becher of Little Farm Media.

So just because you find an image or message appealing doesn’t mean you’re going to hook a community of interested buyers by sharing it.

To really aim your marketing dead-center, let’s target these “Gotta Have It” customers in a way that they can’t say no.
Defining Your Target Market – What You’re Doing Wrong That’s Affecting Sales

Now, I know this isn’t a brand-spanking new step – so you’ve probably already taken a moment to define your target customer. You already know a little about them, for example their age group, gender, etc.

You’re on the right track, and that’s great! But let’s make sure you’re not wasting your oh-so-important time on these common misconceptions:
Marketing Mistake #1: You Define Your Target Market with Basic Demographics

Identifying the demographics you aim your product at helps segment the market into targeted groups, but it does not make up the complete picture. A person’s age and gender isn’t why they buy from you.

To truly define your target market, you need to consider other puzzle pieces like their lifestyle, location, their habits and behavior…

Once you know them on a more personal level you can understand what it is about your product that appeals to your customers – and market the heck out of that.
Marketing Mistake #2: You Assume Less-Specific Marketing will Appeal to More People

When you send out mass-appealing content you may get a larger number of people seeing your stuff. The thing is, a lot of those people will just give you the “Huh, neat-o” response and then, well… forget about you.

The average American is exposed to up to 5,000 marketing messages a day – so yeah, a weakly aimed effort is just going to drown in the clutter.

But when you really zero in on the needs and values of an individual, they’ll feel like your product was made just for them and they’re way more likely to remember your brand and make a purchase!

So, how do you laser-target your marketing to these people who are bursting to buy?
Convert More Sales From Your Marketing With Individual Buyer Personas

Have you ever had to get a gift for someone you don’t really know that well? Would they like a nice sweater or are they more of a jacket-wearing person? Would they prefer a nice bottle of Zin or a 6-pack of hoppy craft ales?

Originally posted 2015-05-19 10:17:42. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

7 Inspiring Podcasts for Solopreneurss

If you’re an avid multi-tasker like me, you probably see a real value in podcasts.

You can digest valuable information for your business while walking the dog, commuting to a client meeting, or even while working at your desk.

And yes, there are lots of excellent podcasts for entrepreneurs out there, but today, I wanted to put together a list of some up and comers in the world of podcasting aimed at the one-person shows of the world: The solopreneur.

With a variety of different run times and subject matter covered, these podcasts for solopreneurs are the perfect way for you to expand your business mind on the go.

1. Working Without Pants

workingwithoutpants

Jake Jorgovan’s podcast (formerly known as the Creative Freelancer Show) is dedicated to interviewing past and present solopreneurs who are all about living a non-traditional lifestyle. Jake asks questions about how his guests found their path and discusses his own interesting story (which includes one about his year spent traveling working remotely from 13 different countries.)

A Few Past Guests: Paul Jarvis, Danny Margulies, Ilese Benun

Run time: 30-60 minutes

2. Finely Crafted

finecraft

This podcast by Matt Cheuvront and Blake Stratton is built around creative entrepreneurs and solorpreneurs who have a story to share. Specifically, the “why” and the “what” that drives their on-going stories full speed ahead. Covering topics like “Building Your Nation” and “Discovering Your Secret Sauce,” guests share the lessons they’ve learned from putting theory into practice.

A Few Past Guests: Sarah Bray, Dane Maxwell, Jonathan Baker

Run time: 20-25 minutes

3. The Side Hustle Show

sidehustle

This podcast is aimed at the solopreneur who hasn’t yet made the leap into full-time entrepreneurship, but wants to…and wants to do it soon. Guests share their personal experiences on making the transition from a side gig into a full-time operation and offer their unique insights that can help turn a small idea into a thriving business. Host Nick Loper gets straight to the core of why and how his guests were able quit their jobs and transform their side businesses into their sole source of income.

A Few Past Guests: Dan Faggella, Nate Dallas, Jessica Lawlor

Run time: 30-60 minutes

4. Breaking Down Your Business

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Originally posted 2015-05-20 08:34:44. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Getting Sucked into the Black Hole of Social Media? Here’s How to Find Balance

It happens to all of us.

You get sucked in by click-baity tweets, read articles vaguely related to work, and ogle over competitors’ profiles.

Yes, social media is a killer part of any good marketing plan. But the same tools that amplify businesses can pull the plug on productivity. As an entrepreneur, managing your social media accounts can easily bleed into the more important work of running a business.

With 89% of businesses using social media, you’re not the only one staring down a world of digital distraction. Here are some ground rules for maximizing your time spent on social media without letting it dominate your work life.

Pick Your Platforms

Social media marketing is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor. Just like every other part of your business, your product and consumers will dictate a different plan for you than for your neighbor.

Some of your social media options include: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Google +, FourSquare, Reddit, and Quora. Check out Emma Siemasko’s small business guide to the best platforms for a thorough run-down of each option. And remember that it’s better to commit yourself to one or two platforms rather than flake out on all of them.

When you’re focusing your energy, go for maximum impact. Kate Bowler,entrepreneur and manager of marketing at Ellie Kae, noticed that her followers commented on and liked posts on her Instagram account with the greatest frequency.

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Kate decided to “serve her audience where they were engaging,” spending a larger proportion of her time on her highest yielding platform. Changing gears, Kate played to her strengths, optimizing her time and meeting her community’s needs.

Identify Your Community

The same way that you do not have to be on every platform, you do not need to reach every consumer. By trying to appeal to the masses, you run the risk of diluting your brand. Instead, hone in on your niche market: the people who love your company or will love your company once they read your content.

The Ideal Online Community:

  • Current customers
  • Potential customers
  • Supportive peers
  • Mentors and influencers

These people are the building blocks of your social media networks. Figure out who they are and talk to them. For example, I know that my followers are fellow writers, content marketers and other people who love Star Wars.

Originally posted 2015-05-19 07:18:51. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

The President Proclaims November 19th as National Entrepreneurs’ Day

In May of 2010, David and I started a petition to the President to create a National Entrepreneurs’ Day. We didn’t understand why the most entrepreneurial country in the world didn’t have a day to recognize entrepreneurs.

Now, only 6 months and thousands of signatures later, it seems that the effort was worth it and that anything is possible: the President of the United States has proclaimed the last day of National Entrepreneurship Week, November 19th of this year, as National Entrepreneurs’ Day – making November a great month for entrepreneurs everywhere.

We’re incredibly grateful to everyone who signed and supported the petition and realized that this was more than just a novel idea, but a real movement to support entrepreneurs. A special thank you goes to the Kauffman Foundation for being our partner in this endeavor.

Fueling Progress

Back in May 2009, we launched a little video called Entrepreneurs Can Change the World; you may have seen it. The main goal of the video was to remind current and would-be entrepreneurs that anything is possible, even those dreams that you may have had as a kid, but decided were too lofty or were unrealistic. We wanted to remind people everywhere that with hard work, ambition and tenacity, we can create the future we imagine for ourselves.

Originally posted 2015-05-21 12:29:11. Republished by Blog Post Promoter