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Small business advice: Your top 10 questions, answered

Deluxe launched the Small Business Revolution in 2015 to shine a light on the amazing businesses that make our communities great. Through the years, I’ve traveled to communities across the country, meeting hundreds of business owners who have taken the brave step to start their own businesses. I’m passionate about helping small businesses thrive and eager to share the knowledge I’ve built from my years in marketing and advertising. And with Deluxe’s more than 100 years of working with small businesses, we have a wealth of knowledge that can really make a difference in helping a business thrive. Here are the top 10 questions that entrepreneurs tend to ask me, and my answers. 1. I have a great idea for a business. How should I get started? Starting a business can be daunting. Ask for help! Reach out to SCORE: a nationwide nonprofit that arranges mentorships between experienced entrepreneurs and aspiring business owners. Beyond getting one-on-one support, you should also do some research about your potential market and industry. And seek out resources to learn more about marketing and operating your business. 2. I’m not a numbers person. How do I stay on top of my business finances? Start simple by creating a small business budget. Done properly, a budget gives you visibility into your profits, improves your cash flow and helps track progress toward your long-term business goals. If budgeting and financial planning are too tough or time-consuming, consider hiring an accountant. 3. I can’t afford to spend much on marketing. How do I get the most bang for my buck? Many small businesses spend $1,000 per year or less on marketing. However, if you want to attract new customers, keep in touch with existing clients or grow your business, it’s crucial to develop a marketing strategy. Every business is different, and there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to how to spend your marketing dollars. That said, social media advertising, print marketing and search engine marketing can be affordable tools to reach your target. 4. I know I need an awesome website. Where do I start? When it comes to creating…

How service businesses can create striking website photos

As a business owner, you likely already know how vital it is to have an eye-catching website. If you own a restaurant, clothing store or any other type of business that sells goods, you know how to capture stunning website photos. Everyone loves a picture of a delicious-looking cake, and a bakery that uses that kind of imagery can easily entice new customers. But what do you do when your business isn’t quite as photogenic? If you run a professional services business like a law firm, producing photos for your site can be challenging. But it is possible to create visually appealing content. To help you come up with the most striking images for your business’s website, check out these industry-specific best practices and tips. Choosing photos that cater to your business type With so many types of services businesses, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to choosing the sorts of photos you should use on your website. When creating photos for your website, you have to think about what prospective clients and customers are looking for from your industry and let that guide the photography process. You can use these industry-specific tips to get started. Accounting and financial services When you run an accounting or financial services business, you’re dealing with something very important to your customers: their money. With that being the case, it’s helpful to use your website to build trust among customers and persuade them to hire you. One of the best ways to build trust on your website is to use images of you and any other staff members you might have. Potential customers want to see the real person or people who will be handling their finances, so use photos of you and your staff delivering friendly and welcoming smiles. Consider investing in professional headshots or candid photography. Don’t worry if the images aren’t perfectly polished — customers want to see real photos on your website, not picture-perfect images of hired models.  Construction and contractors Due to the nature of the work involved, construction businesses and contractors have somewhat of an advantage when it comes to website…

Should you list your products on Amazon?

Amazon.com has transformed the retail landscape with its huge assortment of inventory, speedy delivery and the overall convenience the website offers to online shoppers. But Amazon is also revolutionary in the way that it has given smaller merchants the opportunity to dive into the world of e-commerce. While some might say that the online retail giant is competing with Main Street brick-and-mortar shops, millions of small business owners have actually found success selling products on the site with the Amazon Marketplace service. More than 300,000 small and medium-sized U.S. businesses sell through Amazon and, in 2017, more than 50 percent of Amazon sales were generated by third-party sellers.  But is Amazon the right platform for your business? We spoke with Meaghan Randall, Search Marketing Team Lead at 180fusion, a Deluxe Company, to learn about the benefits of selling on Amazon, and for tips on getting started. Q: How does selling on Amazon work for small businesses? Meaghan Randall: Using Amazon Marketplace, third-party sellers can sell, ship and take returns from customers on one centralized platform. The service takes a lot of the guesswork out of selling online, making it perfect for business owners or hobbyists who don’t have much experience with e-commerce, as well as for those who want to sell online, but are busy managing the hundreds of other things it takes to run a business. Q: What are the benefits of selling on Amazon versus using a site like eBay, or even starting your own online shop with a service like Shopify? MR: Although the fees you pay to sell on Amazon work out to be slightly higher than, say, an eBay seller would pay, Amazon sells more product than eBay does on a month-to-month basis, so you will more than likely earn more with Amazon over time. And because eBay uses an auctioned environment, you can only guesstimate what you will earn. Amazon, on the other hand, uses fixed pricing. It’s also easier to receive payments with Amazon than it is with eBay. You use Amazon Pay, and the money is deposited into your bank account. eBay…

Online marketing tips every business owner should know

Creating a robust online presence is one of the best ways to market your business, showcase your products and services, and grow your customer base. But with so many online marketing channels, where do you start? How can you create a strong online presence that attracts people’s attention — and their dollars? Join our free webinar, Online marketing tips every business owner should know, for expert insights on getting started with online marketing. And get a behind-the-scenes look at the decisions made on the Small Business Revolution — Main Street series. What will this webinar cover Common website pitfalls to avoid Tips and tricks to get your social media posts liked, shared and seen Secrets to emails that stand out in a crowded inbox About the presenters Linzi Breckenridge, Director of Content Experience at Deluxe Corp., seeks to use remarkable content to impact the customer journey — one experience at a time. She understands the unique challenges that small business owners face because she spent 10 years running her own business and enjoying marketing roles at two startups in the San Francisco Bay Area. Elizabeth Anderson is the Director of Social Media & Content at Deluxe Corp. She is passionate about connecting brands to consumers in meaningful ways. She has 10 years’ experience developing social media strategy for national brands across numerous vertical industries. Erica Adams is the Principal Marketing Manager at Deluxe Corp. She masterfully leverages her vast experience in web and digital strategy, content marketing, and communications to drive business results. The post Online marketing tips every business owner should know appeared first on Deluxe Small Business Resource Center.

What’s on the menu: Everything you need to know about restaurant delivery services

Mobile technology has made many aspects of life more convenient, including ordering food. For restaurant owners, this is a boon. Even if you don’t have the resources to offer delivery on your own, you can now enlist the help of third-party services to get your food into the hands (and mouths) of hungry locals. Here is an overview of the most popular third-party food delivery services, including the options available, the pros and cons, and how to start using these services in your business. What are the benefits of restaurant delivery services? Before we look at which services you may want to consider, let’s keep in mind some of the benefits a third-party delivery service can bring to your restaurant: Demand is on the rise Home food delivery is expected to grow 79 percent during the next five years, according to the investment firm Cowen. In terms of dollars, the delivery market will grow from $43 billion in 2017 to $76 billion in 2022. You’ll remain competitive Offering an online delivery option helps your business compete with other similar restaurants in your area. Further, it may give you a competitive advantage over restaurants that do not deliver. Strong order accuracy Since third-party delivery services take orders online, there is less risk you’ll misunderstand an order, as is sometimes the case when taking orders over the phone. You’ll make more money Giving customers as many options as possible when it comes to ordering your food will translate to more orders overall. It will help attract younger customers More than half of millennials (55 percent) say convenience is among the top drivers when buying food, according to the International Food Information Council. Offering delivery is a great way to attract millennial consumers. Each young customer you get to order your food is another chance at building your long-term customer base. What are the drawbacks of restaurant delivery services? Here are two things to be aware of before getting started with a delivery service: It requires a financial investment Services vary, but each provider typically charges a percentage of each online order as…

11 website essentials to get noticed online

Every day, potential customers in your community are searching online for businesses like yours. Are they finding your website? These searchers are more likely to click on the first few businesses that appear on a search engine results page. So it makes sense that one of your search engine optimization (SEO) goals should be to show up in the top results when people search for information related to your business’s products or services. By implementing SEO best practices, your website can rank higher on those search results. What your website needs to rank online Here are 11 elements of your website to pay attention to. For a diagram of where to find them, refer to the infographic below. 1. Page title The title of each page is the most important SEO element on your website. The title tells search engines what visitors will find on the page: It’s the blue clickable text found on the search engine results page.You can boost your chances of getting found by search engines by: Including keywords as close to the beginning of the title as possible Limiting the title to 50-60 characters 2. Page URL Including keywords in the URL will help search engines better understand what the page is about. Be careful not to cram a bunch of words into your URL. Instead, try something like: www.anniesbakery.com/how-to-make-strawberry-frosting. Notice that it’s descriptive, but not overly so. Don’t use the URL “how-to-make-strawberry-frosting” if the page is actually about employees, the location of the bakery or another topic not related to strawberry frosting.  3. Meta-description The meta-description does not show on your website, but appears as the text underneath the blue clickable text in a search result. Beyond being relevant to that page’s content, the meta-description should be engaging and make people want to click. Give searchers a tease of the information they can discover by visiting your site, but don’t be too vague: You still want potential customers to know what they’ll learn or how they’ll benefit from trusting you with their time.  4. Primary headline The primary headline is the second most important SEO element, so…

Deluxe Small Business Seminar: Alton, Illinois

424 E Broadway, Alton, IL 62002 In this FREE one-day seminar, small business experts will share insights and suggestions to help you operate and market your business. One lucky attendee will win $1,000 worth of marketing products and services from Deluxe! Learn how to: Get found online locally Enhance your marketing with email and social media Leverage customer experience to improve your website Build a budget and plan your finances And more The post Deluxe Small Business Seminar: Alton, Illinois appeared first on Deluxe Small Business Resource Center.

An introduction to website analytics

A well-designed website is an indispensable tool small business owners can use to reach their goals. However, setting up your website is only half the battle. The other crucial task is measuring whether your website is pulling its weight to support your business. This is where website analytics come into play. Regularly viewing key web metrics is a great way to determine what’s working about your website and what isn’t, which then helps you increase web traffic and encourage visitors to take action. Analyzing your website should not intimidate you. Yes, there are some advanced tools and metrics that can confuse even the savviest of web experts, but there are also a number of relatively basic measurements that are easy to track. In the end, taking advantage of these metrics will help improve your website’s effectiveness. Here we will take a quick look at which metrics you should pay attention to, as well as tools you can use to easily measure your website’s performance. Which web metrics should I track? For those just getting started with web analytics, here are five metrics you’ll want to begin with: Unique visits. Unique visits are the number of people who visited your website over a specific period of time, e.g. daily, weekly or monthly. Each person is counted only once, even if they returned to your site multiple times during the period. You can also track total visits, which counts all the visits made by each person. Visits should not be confused with pageviews. Visits is the number of people who landed on your site, while pageviews refer to the total number of pages those visitors browsed while on your website. Bounce rate. A bounce rate is the portion of total visitors who landed on your site but then immediately exited by either clicking the back button or closing their browser window. This indicates that the visitor didn’t see anything they were looking for and decided to move on. A high bounce rate signals there is something about your site that makes visitors leave right away. And each lost visitor means you’re also…

4 marketing moves that get results: Lessons learned on Main Street

For many entrepreneurs, attracting customers and getting found by people in the community is a game of trial and error. In the small town of Bristol Borough, Pennsylvania, business owners tried everything from newspaper advertising to coupons to community events to promote themselves. But nothing seemed to deliver more customers.  In early 2017, the town won a Main Street makeover: Deluxe provided a $500,000 revitalization to Bristol Borough and its businesses. The transformation was captured in an original eight-episode series telling the story of the transformation.  One year later, the featured businesses look back on the experience and share which marketing improvements have made the biggest difference. Google drives customers to auto shop Megan and Roland Hems have owned Hems Truck and Auto for the last 10 years. Their challenge is the same as many other small business owners — finding the right balance between work and home life, and making ends meet on a weekly and daily basis. Deluxe provided business and financial advice, and showed the Hems how to create a better online presence and mobile website experience. Since getting verified on Google, the shop has gotten noticed by thousands of people searching for automotive services. Hundreds of those searchers have visited the website, called the business or gotten directions to the shop. Traffic to Hems’ Yelp page has also risen significantly, resulting in more inquiries and a steady stream of new customers. “All of the changes, upgrades and improvements Deluxe made help us feel like a ‘real shop,’ and the customers, vendors and locals are treating us accordingly now, too!” Megan said in an interview with a local newspaper. Social media attracts weeknight diners Chef Robert Angelaccio opened Annabella’s Italian restaurant in 2003, bringing his passion for Old World cuisine back to the community where he was raised. Robert and his wife, Alison, take pride in making every dining experience memorable. Nestled in Bristol’s historic corridor, Annabella’s is perfectly situated just steps from the popular Bristol Riverside Theatre. When a play hits the main stage, Annabella’s is bustling, but in between productions, the restaurant is often empty. There was a big…

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