January 16, 2019

The Ultimate Guide to States with Laws Requiring Collection of Internet Sales Tax

List of States With Internet Sales Tax

As of June 21, 2018, the United States Supreme Court changed the laws regarding the collection of sales tax by internet sellers. The Supreme Court ruling in South Dakota v. Wayfair Inc., established that individual states can require ecommerce retailers to collect state sales tax on the goods they sell. The ruling overturned previous law which made the consumer responsible for paying sales taxes to the state, rather than through the retailer.

The former legislation meant that states were only able to tax sales by businesses which had a physical presence in the state. In the wake the new legislation, retailers that have an economic activity — known as an economic nexus — in a state can be obliged collect sales tax.

If you sell items online, it is important you keep track of the different rules for different states, as each state has its own rules and procedures for the collection of internet sales tax.

List of States With Internet Sales Tax

To give you a helping hand, check out the following information on laws for collecting internet sales tax in the different states.

States with Economic Nexus

Certain states have enacted economic nexus standards, which requires businesses that have a selling connection to that state other than a physical presence to collect sales tax on remote commerce. These states include:

  • Alabama
  • Hawaii
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Kentucky
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • New Jersey
  • Nevada
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin

Thresholds for Economic Nexus

As well as being aware of the states that have enacted economic nexus standards, you should be conscious of the different states’ thresholds for economic nexus.

TaxJar offers insight into the gross revenue thresholds, which, if retailers hit, make them subject to sales tax collection laws.

$10,000 a Year Sales Threshold

  • Oklahoma
  • Pennsylvania

$100,000 a Year Sales Threshold

  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Hawaii
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Lowa
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Nebraska
  • New Jersey
  • Nevada
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Washington
  • Washington D.C.
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

$250,000 a Year Sales Threshold

  • Alabama
  • Connecticut
  • Georgia
  • Mississippi

$500,000 a Year Sales Threshold

  • Massachusetts
  • Tennessee

Economic Nexus and B&O Tax

The states of Washington imposes a Business and Occupation (B&O) Tax that is levied on gross income rather than net income, as well as Economic Nexus, which online retailers should be aware of.

States with Affiliate or Click-Through Nexus

Affiliate or click-through nexus refers to an in-state business receiving a commission for referring a specified amount of sales to out-of-state sellers through a website link.

The states with an affiliate of click-through nexus include:

  • Washington
  • Idaho
  • California
  • Nevada
  • Utah Colorado
  • Kansas
  • Oklahoma
  • Texas
  • Minnesota
  • Iowa
  • Missouri
  • Arkansas
  • Louisiana
  • Illinois
  • Tennessee
  • Alabama
  • Georgia
  • North Carolina
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia
  • Ohio
  • Michigan
  • Pennsylvania
  • New York
  • Maine

States with Use Tax Reporting for Non-Collecting Sellers

As Avalara notes, a small but increasing number of states impose rigorous use tax notice and reporting requirements on non-collecting vendors. While use tax notice and reporting requirements differ from state to state, they are designed to make it so onerous for a business not to collect that they voluntarily tax their sales instead.

The states with use tax reporting for non-collecting sellers are:

  • Washington
  • Colorado
  • South Dakota
  • Oklahoma
  • Iowa
  • Louisiana
  • Alabama
  • Georgia
  • Kentucky
  • Pennsylvania

Streamlined Sales Tax (SST) states

Streamline Sales Tax (SST) is an effort to simplify and lessen the burden of sales and use tax collection, administration and compliance that is made by certain states, local governments and the business community.

SST arose in response to efforts made by Congress to permanently prohibit states from collecting sales tax on internet retailing.

There are currently 23 full member states that adhere to the SST and Use Tax Agreement. These states include:

  • Arkansas
  • Georgia
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • New Jersey
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Rhode Island
  • South Dakota
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Washington
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

States that Tax Marketplace Sales

A number of states have recently created legislation which requires a marketplace facilitator to collect and remit sales tax on behalf of the transactions their third-party sellers make. These states include:

  • Washington
  • Arizona
  • South Dakota
  • Oklahoma
  • Iowa
  • Minnesota
  • Alabama
  • South Carolina
  • Virginia
  • Pennsylvania

For an overview on state laws regarding internet sales tax, check out the following infographic by Hotwire Global.

Image: Shutterstock

This article, "The Ultimate Guide to States with Laws Requiring Collection of Internet Sales Tax" was first published on Small Business Trends

January 16, 2019

4 Management Mistakes That Hurt Employee Retention

Whose responsibility is employee retention? This is a difficult question, because you can’t just make a note on a single individual’s job description that says “You’re personally responsible for making sure all the employees we hire keep working with us”.

Yet, since recruiting and training are expensive and time consuming, it’s important to retain outstanding employees. So how do you approach this? Who do you hold accountable for ensuring that excellent employees stay with your company once hired and trained?

HR professionals have come up with several different approaches for accountability. Some experts believe that everyone in an organization should be held responsible for employee retention — and that may be true, to a degree. In theory, any employee in an organization could create a troubled relationship with any other employee. Such troubled relationships can and do sometimes create such great tension that one of the employees will move on.

However, the more likely scenario is that bad managers are the cause of any employee turnover issues you may be experiencing.

What mistakes are managers making that cause employees to leave? Let’s explore 4 of the most common management mistakes that hurt employee retention:

1.   Taking Credit for Employees’ Work

According to Karen Higginbottom, writing on behalf of Forbes.com, lack of recognition is a common explanation that employees give for not liking their managers.

In contrast, excellent managers seek out opportunities to praise their employees and reward outstanding work. This is the ideal situation for engaging employees and preventing employee turnover.

Unfortunately, there are managers who not only fail to publicly recognize their employees’ achievements; they actively disengage their employees by taking credit for their ideas or their work. CNBC.com reports survey results indicating that respondents believe this is the worst workplace behavior a boss could exhibit.

2. Failing to Lead by Example

There are many cases where managers do not follow company policy, yet they expect their employees to do so.

For example, one popular shoe retailer has a policy that its employees must always present three pairs of shoes to a customer who has requested to try on a single pair of shoes. The policy is designed to enable the salespeople to upsell more expensive shoes and cross-sell additional pairs of shoes to customers, thus helping the salespeople to meet their sales goals.

When the store managers don’t follow this policy, it can create employee retention problems. The salespeople get confused and resentful when the managers discipline them for not following a policy that the managers aren’t following either.

Employees want to work for bosses who are truly leaders instead of just managers. They want to be led by example. They are likely to be disappointed by anything less.

3. Overworking Their Employees

If a manager in your organization wants to increase an employee’s workload, be sure that the deal also includes a corresponding reason and reward for the increase. For example, your team could consider making a better job title and a raise part of the deal. Simply increasing an employee’s workload without any reward is likely to lead to resentment and possibly a loss of that employee.

Be sure to maintain realistic expectations about how much work an employee can reasonably complete. Even employees with strong work ethics will burn out fast, or leave, if you overwork them.

4. Inappropriate Behavior

There are a broad variety of inappropriate behaviors managers indulge in that can cause employee disengagement and turnover. In some cases, it’s substance abuse issues. In others, it’s sexual harassment. Simply being mean, condescending or unpleasant to employees is also an issue for some bosses.

If you notice growing amounts of employee turnover in your organization, be sure to initiate exit interviews with employees to see if you can determine whether recurring management mistakes are to blame.

If it does turn out that a manager within your organization is making one or more of these mistakes, you may be able to work with him or her to resolve the problem. Without action, the problem is unlikely to resolve on its own; so you must be proactive about dealing with it as soon as possible.

The post 4 Management Mistakes That Hurt Employee Retention appeared first on MyVenturePad.com.

January 15, 2019

The Truth about Improving your Site SEO in 3 Simple Steps

3 Ways to Boost Your SEO for Your Site

If your business has a website, you know how important SEO is. Learning and mastering search engine optimization is a tactic most online business owners should prioritize.

It’s not the most exciting thing to do, but it can pay off tenfold. For starters, building your organize SEO is free. All you have to spend is time.

Once your site’s SEO improves, you can reap the benefits of increased traffic and leads. I know some business owners who rely heavily on SEO to drive their 6 and 7-figure businesses. Tackling SEO can seem overwhelming at first. If you’re just getting started or want to make some progress ASAP, here are 3 easy ways to boost your site’s SEO before the year is over.

Tips to Boot Your SEO

1. Remove or Redirect Broken Links

Google hates broken links and the more a site has, the more Google views the site as unreliable and gives it a lower rank. From Google’s perspective, they want to provide users with the best experience which means helping them find exactly what they’re looking for and fast.

If your site has a ton of broken links that are no longer active, this will just frustrate readers who are looking for information on a topic which is why Google will view your site as unreliable.

To fix this issue and get rid of 404 errors when people click on the broken links on your site you have two options. You can either delete all the irrelevant links, or you can redirect them,

If you choose to redirect the links and run your site on WordPress, you can do this easily with a plugin. I used a free WordPress plugin called Redirection and set up all my redirects in about an hour or two. You can literally turn on a movie or some music and power through redirecting all your bad links in one sitting.

2. Submit a Guest Post or Become an Expert Source

Backlinks are a very important part of your SEO strategy. It’s important to have links to your site from other credible blogs and websites. Google’s reasoning behind this is that often times, you are as good as the company you keep. If you don’t have any relevant backlinks or have links to and from a bunch of shady, low quality sites, Google will assume your site is low quality as well.

So, how do you get quality backlinks? You can start by offering valuable content to other blogs and websites in the form of a guest post. Guest posting is a great way to share your expertise, gain a valuable backlink to your site, and potentially gain some traffic to your website as well.

Be mindful that each website owner has their own rules and guidelines for guest posting so be sure to follow them and think critically when pitching ideas. Think about topics that will truly educate their audience and help them get engaged. Set a goal to submit one high-quality guest post before the end of the year.

If you don’t want to guest post, you can try becoming an expert source. Bloggers and journalists may need expert quotes and advice to enhance their articles. You can volunteer to be quoted and in return receive a backlink to your website.

Check out Facebook groups, Twitter hashtags and sites like HARO to find writers who may be in need of an expert source.

3. Make Your Website Load Faster

Loading time is everything given societies current expectation of quick convenience. If your website takes even a few extra seconds to load Google can rank it lower as this can hard the overall user experience.

To help your site load faster, you can make sure your images are compressed, evaluate your plugins, and make sure your website’s files and server aren’t creating any loading time issues.

Sometimes, you’ll find that your hosting company can be the culprit when it comes to delaying your site’s load time. If you find this is the case, talk out a solution with them or switch to another host. If you don’t want to deal with any of these technical aspects on your own, hire someone else to help you with them.

It will be well worth it as decreasing your website’s load time is an easy way to boost your site’s SEO.

Summary

Don’t get overwhelmed or intimidated by SEO. Some SEO tasks may be large, but many are small and easy to take care of. You can even get a head start on improving your traffic by using these 3 easy ways to boost your site’s SEO before the year is over.

Image: Due.com

This article, "The Truth about Improving your Site SEO in 3 Simple Steps" was first published on Small Business Trends

January 15, 2019

Wondering What the Minimum Wage is in your State? Read This

Minimum Wage 2019 -- What's the Law in Your State?

The federal minimum wage is currently set at $7.25 per hour. However, many states and local communities have higher minimum hourly rates for workers. In fact, 22 states raised their minimum wage rules early in 2019, surpassing the 2018 total of 18.

Minimum Wage 2019

To keep up with the rules in terms of your staff, here’s a rundown of where each state stands currently.

Alabama

Alabama doesn’t have a state minimum wage. So businesses here must pay the federal rate of $7.25 per hour.

Alaska

At the beginning of 2019, Alaska raised its statewide minimum wage from $9.84 to $9.89. The state has a law that the minimum wage must be adjusted for inflation annually and stay at least $1 over the federal rate.

Arizona

Arizona also just raised its minimum wage on January 1. It went from $10.50 to $11 per hour.

Arkansas

Arkansas raised its minimum wage from $8.50 to $9.25 per hour at the beginning of this year. And more increases are in the works as well, with the minimum wage set to end up at $11 by 2021.

California

For California companies with more than 25 employees, the minimum wage is increasing from $11 to $12 per hour. For companies in the state with 25 or fewer employees, the rate is increasing from $10.50 to $11.

Colorado

Minimum wage is increasing from $10.20 to $11.10 per hour in Colorado.

Connecticut

There have been recent proposals to raise Connecticut’s minimum wage, but nothing that has passed quite yet. It currently sits at $10.10 per hour.

Delaware

Delaware’s minimum wage increased from $8.25 to $8.75 per hour on January 1. And it is slated to go up again on October 1, this time to $9.25.

District of Columbia

In Washington D.C., the minimum wage currently sits at $13.25 per hour. It increased from $12.50 in 2018.

Florida

Florida’s minimum wage is set to adjust for inflation. It increased to $8.46 from $8.25 in 2019.

Georgia

Georgia’s minimum wage is actually only $5.15 an hour. Of course, the federal minimum wage of $7.25 still applies to most jobs. But those that are not covered under the Fair Labor Standards Act may pay the lower rate.

Hawaii

Hawaii’s minimum wage of $10.10 per hour is not slated to increase so far in 2019.

Idaho

Idaho does not have a set minimum wage aside from the $7.25 hourly rate set at the federal level.

Illinois

The state minimum wage in Illinois is currently $8.25 per hour, with no increases slated for 2019. However, Cook County and Chicago both have higher rates, at $11 and $12, respectively.

Indiana

There are currently multiple proposals in Indiana to raise the minimum wage, but nothing that has passed as of early January. The current rate is consistent with the federal rate of $7.25.

Iowa

Iowa’s minimum wage is also consistent with the federal rate of $7.25 per hour.

Kansas

Kansas’s minimum wage is also consistent with the federal rate of $7.25 per hour.

Kentucky

Kentucky’s minimum wage is also consistent with the federal rate of $7.25 per hour.

Louisiana

Louisiana actually does not have a state minimum wage. So workers covered by the FLSA are subject to the federal rate of $7.25 per hour.

Maine

Maine increased its minimum wage on January 1 of this year, from $10 to $11 per hour.

Maryland

Maryland’s minimum wage currently sits at $10.10. It increased from $9.25 in 2018.

Massachusetts

Massachusetts raised its minimum wage from $11 to $12 at the beginning of this year. And incremental increases are scheduled throughout the next four years, eventually raising the rate to $15 per hour.

Michigan

Michigan’s minimum wage is currently $9.25. It is set to increase to $9.45 in March of this year.

Minnesota

For businesses that employ 50 workers or more, the minimum wage in Minnesota is $9.86 per hour. The rate is $8.01 for smaller employers.

Mississippi

Mississippi is another state without an official minimum, so the federal rate of $7.25 applies.

Missouri

Missouri’s minimum wage rate for 2019 is $8.60 per hour, up from $7.85 in 2018.

Montana

Montana increased its minimum wage to $8.50 per hour from $8.30 on January 1 of this year.

Nebraska

Nebraska’s current minimum wage is $9 per hour.

Nevada

Nevada’s minimum wage is $7.25 for employees earning qualified health benefits and $8.25 for those who are not.

New Hampshire

New Hampshire’s minimum wage is consistent with the federal rate of $7.25.

New Jersey

New Jersey raised its minimum wage to $8.85 per hour from $8.60 on January 1.

New Mexico

The minimum wage rate in New Mexico is currently set at $7.50 per hour.

New York

The statewide minimum wage in New York is $11.10 as of December 31, 2018. And it’s scheduled to go up to $11.80 at the end of this year. The rate is higher in New York City, Long Island, and Westchester.

North Carolina

North Carolina’s minimum wage is consistent with the federal rate of $7.25 per hour.

North Dakota

North Dakota’s minimum wage is consistent with the federal rate of $7.25 per hour.

Ohio

Ohio raised its minimum wage on January 1, from $8.30 to $8.55 per hour.

Oklahoma

Oklahoma’s minimum wage is consistent with the federal rate of $7.25 per hour.

Oregon

Oregon’s minimum wage is currently $10.75 per hour. It increased to that rate in 2018.

Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania’s minimum wage is consistent with the federal rate of $7.25 per hour.

Rhode Island

Rhode Island’s minimum wage increased from $10.10 to $10.50 per hour on January 1.

South Carolina

South Carolina’s minimum wage is consistent with the federal rate of $7.25 per hour.

South Dakota

South Dakota’s minimum wage increased from $8.85 to $9.10 per hour on January 1.

Tennessee

Tennessee does not have a specified state minimum wage. So it is consistent with the federal rate of $7.25 per hour.

Texas

Texas’s minimum wage is consistent with the federal rate of $7.25 per hour.

Utah

Utah’s minimum wage is consistent with the federal rate of $7.25 per hour.

Vermont

Vermont’s minimum wage is indexed for inflation. So it increased to $10.78 from $10.50 per hour on January 1.

Virginia

Virginia’s minimum wage is consistent with the federal rate of $7.25 per hour.

Washington

Washington’s minimum wage increased from $11.50 to $12 per hour on January 1. And it is slated to go up again in 2020 to $13.50.

West Virginia

West Virginia’s minimum wage is currently set at $8.75.

Wisconsin

Wisconsin’s minimum wage is consistent with the federal rate of $7.25 per hour.

Wyoming

Wyoming’s minimum wage is currently set at $5.15 per hour for employees that are not covered by FLSA. Most businesses must comply with the federal rate of $7.25.

Image: Shutterstock

This article, "Wondering What the Minimum Wage is in your State? Read This" was first published on Small Business Trends

January 15, 2019

How to Calculate Markup for Your Business

How to Calculate Markup for Your Business

Markup is defined as the selling price for goods and services as opposed to how much it costs to make them.  Small businesses need to keep in mind that the markup is different from some other terms like margin and profit.

If the whole thing sounds daunting while you slog through the day to day of your small business operations, it doesn’t need to be. Small Business Trends contacted some experts who helped us clearly define how to calculate markup for your business.

Solomon King is the CEO of Glacier Wellness. He provided a starting point via email about understanding the playing field.

“The first and most crucial step in calculating markup for your business is to assess standard market pricing and audit your expected competition. Market research should include surveying the top online retailers to look for discrepancies in pricing, which may shed light on how different retailers affect markup.”

Foundation

This is a helpful foundation. It’ll give you an idea of where your markup should be in relation to the people you are competing with. Keep in mind that getting this particular part of your small business right is essential. If you don’t charge enough for your goods and services, you can find your small business struggling when you add up expenses. On the other side of that coin, if you price everything too high you might attract the top end of people in your retail market but that number might not be sustainable.

Calculating the markup properly is an important part of your small business financial toolkit. Here’s a simple formula that includes the markup percentage that can help you arrive at your retail selling price.

The Margin Percentage= (Gross Profit Margin/ The Cost Per Unit) x100

There’s obviously a bit of math involved and understanding things like gross profit margin will help you to plug the right numbers in. Here’s a calculator that should help.

One of the other calculations that you need to make use of is your cost per unit. This will include the money that you need to spend on things like labor and materials and any overhead like the cost to keep the lights on while you’re producing your goods. These all need to be added into the formula.

Usual Markup

The usual markup is around 50% although you can obviously set the numbers based on what you think your market will withstand.

There are some other things that you need to consider as a small business owner, especially if you’re reselling products made by someone else in retail. When you’re calculating your markup it’s always important to consider the manufacturer suggested retail price (MSRP). It’s a guideline that you should consider as a benchmark.

Variables

It’s important to remember that markup is only one of the variables that goes into a pricing structure. There’s a few other things that can tweak your markup including variable costs. Keep in mind that if you order the products you resell, it’s easier to calculate how much each one of these costs you.

On the other side of that coin if you make the products yourself you need to look at a variety of factors including how you source raw materials.

Image: Shutterstock

This article, "How to Calculate Markup for Your Business" was first published on Small Business Trends

January 15, 2019

58% of Americans Believe Future will be Cashless, Is your Business Ready?

2018 Consumer Mobility Trends: 46 Percent of Generation Z Use Social Media Handles Like a Phone Number

A new Bank of America (BofA) report which looked into consumer mobility trends revealed 46% of Generation Z use their social media handles like a phone number. The report suggests phone numbers are on the verge of extinction.

With mobile technology now an integral part of the way we work and live, the latest Bank of America Trends in Consumer Mobility Report highlights just how mobile-first our mindset has become.

Nikki Katz, Head of Digital Strategy and Emerging Experiences as Bank of America, put it best in the report. Katz says, “As Americans, we rarely realize how ‘app-tive’ we are. Our mobile has become an extension of ourselves and so ingrained in our daily lives to the point where it’s fading into the background.”

If you are a small business owner, knowing how your customers communicate is essential in order to reach them more effectively. This is especially important in today’s digital ecosystem with multiple channels and platforms.

In order to find the latest trends in consumer mobility, Convergys Analytics (an independent market research company) carried out the survey on behalf of Bank of America from May 2-8, 2018.

The survey was made up of 1,001 adults 18 years of age and older who currently have a banking relationship with BofA and own a smartphone.

2018 Consumer Mobility Trends: Key Takeaways

Is there a distinction between the digital and physical worlds? For 42% of the respondents communicating virtually is just as or more meaningful than communicating in person.

When the data was broken down into generations, this was true for 55% of millennials, 44% Gen Z, 38% Gen X, and 24% baby boomers.

When Americans are communicating, they take many different factors into consideration before they make a phone call, send a text, or talk in person. This is based on the importance of the conversation (47%), relationship status (38%), and urgency of the conversation (36%).

Beyond communications, mobile devices are also a key component in how Americans manage their lives today. And increasingly they are turning to apps to make this happen.

For Gen Zers, the survey found out they access their apps more than 50 times a day. This includes everything from navigation to entertainment, retail, music, payment, and other apps.

Mobile Finance

The impact of mobile technology on the way we communicate in our personal and work lives is undeniable. However, mobile finance will be the next big user development in mobile technology as more people go cashless.

As a matter-of-fact, most Americans or 58% said an entirely cashless society will take place within their lifetime. Others said it will take place in 20 or five years, with 11% stating it will happen next year.

While the timetable can be debated, there is no question most people see cash as something which will not be around in the future, at least not in the way it is today.

This is driving more Americans to mobile banking apps, with 78% Gen Zers, 77% millennials, 67% Gen X, and 59 baby boomers saying they use them.

How do Americans see the Future of Technology?

In the upcoming decade, 60% of the respondents said it will be more difficult to disconnect entirely from technology. Another 35% stated all information will be accessed via biometrics, and 30% believe all payments will be digital.

Overall consumers predict emerging technologies will play an even bigger role in their lives within this time period

Image: Shutterstock

This article, "58% of Americans Believe Future will be Cashless, Is your Business Ready?" was first published on Small Business Trends

January 15, 2019

10 Conversion Optimization Tips to Increase Your Sales

10 Conversion Optimization Tips to Increase Your Sales

Congratulations, you have created the world’s greatest new product or service. You have hired a world-class sales team, found product market fit, worked hard to obtain paying customers, and are distributing content via email and social to the ideal audience.

There is just one thing. You haven’t optimized your website’s sales conversion rate.

Houston, we have a problem. The website is your modern storefront. You can have the greatest of everything else with your business, but you will never generate the revenue you should if your store is:

  • Difficult to find.
  • Outdated.
  • Hard to navigate.
  • Missing key information.
  • A poor experience.

Conversion optimization is vital to your business. Done properly, it will yield amazing results in brand exposure, inbound lead generation, and revenue growth.

10 Conversion Optimization Tips to Increase Your Sales

If your website needs an overhaul, here are the 10 places to start. These surefire tips will raise the ROI of your digital marketing and sales efforts, guaranteed.

Tip 1. Improve Personalization of the Landing Page

Website optimization starts with personalization. Your website should not be one-size-fits-all. In fact, according to Monetate, 94% of marketers agree that online personalization is critical to their business.

Personalize the content and headlines you show website visitors based on the distinguishing characteristics that matter to them as buyers, such as geography, device and browser, search terms, demographics, and so forth.

Website personalization may sound complex, but it can be as simple as:

  • Personalizing client logos based on industry.
  • Recommending new content based on previously read content and search terms.
  • Showing reviews from buyers in the same city.

Platforms like Evergage and Dynamic Yield make the personalization process easier than one might think.

Tip 2. Add Credibility and Social Proof to the Website

Social proof is one of the most powerful conversion mechanisms to deploy on your website. Used properly, social proof is a great way to establish credibility, build trust with prospective buyers, and create FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) among your website visitors. In fact, according to Nielsen, 92% of people will trust a recommendation from a peer, and 70% of people will trust a recommendation from someone they don’t even know.

The formula is simple: show how many people are happy with your product or service. Use the right types of social proof to get buyers over the hump once they are on your website. Provide client testimonials, ratings and reviews, social media praise, industry endorsements, flashy client logos, glowing press coverage, and so forth wherever possible.

Tip 3. Highlight the Value Proposition

Your value proposition is the most important copy on your website – and it should get top billing. Value propositions use clear, concise language to tell prospects why they should do business with you and what benefits they will get in return..

The main headlines on your homepage and key landing pages are the perfect locales to share your value proposition. What is there to gain from purchasing your offering? Emphasize the answer with copy, formatting and website placement that is impossible to miss.

Tip 4. Create a Sense of Urgency

Adding a timeframe to a proposition can induce people to make decisions faster. Offering expiring pricing discounts, limited product availability, or exclusive deals creates a sense of urgency that compels the buyer to act.

In this day and age of comparison shopping, creating a sense of urgency on your website can place you at a distinct advantage over your competition. You can preclude buyers from shopping around or stalling on a buying decision with strategically-placed notices of product discounts and special deals.

Tip 5. Be Concise with the Messaging

Brand messaging on your website should be clear and concise. Headlines should be effective and straight to the point. Moreover, they should create a visceral impact with your buyer. Communicate a simple, powerful message that resonates with the short attention span of today’s buyers.

Remember: website messaging is all about perfecting the elevator pitch. You need to convince visitors that further research on your product or service is worth their time and effort. Clear, concise messaging is scientifically proven to register with buyers on an emotional level. Avoid deep dives and blocks of text.

Tip 6. Improve Website Speed

Improving site speed will do wonders for website conversion on multiple fronts. Foremost, you will reap major search engine optimization (SEO) rewards from Google and other search engines, driving significantly more visitors to your website and giving you more opportunities to convert potential buyers.

Secondly, the buyers that do visit your website will stay longer and have an overall more positive impression of your product or service. Studies show that even a one second delay in page load time will decrease conversion rate by 7%. Challenging the patience of your website visitors with slow load times is self destructive and easy to fix.

Tip 7. Optimize Above the Fold

Your above the fold (ATF) area is typically the first thing buyers see when they visit your website. It’s your most prime piece of internet real estate – and therefore the most important part of your website to optimize for conversion rate.

Best practices for above the fold optimization include:

  • Button with main call to action. Ex. “Buy Now” or “Request a Demo.”
  • Concise headline that compels action.
  • Expiring deal announcements that add urgency.
  • Compelling visuals and background that underscore (but don’t distract from) value.

For help optimizing your above the fold, we recommend using tools like Unbounce, Optimizely, and Google Optimize to A/B test ATF presentation and gradually improve conversion results over time.

Tip 8. Keep One Conversion Goal per Page

Giving people too many options creates information overload and buyer paralysis – two things that can destroy your website’s conversion rate optimization. Limit yourself to one conversion goal per page and focus your CTAs appropriately.

Remember: Goal conversions don’t have to be purchase decisions or demo requests. They can include eBook downloads, webinar registrations, blog subscriptions, newsletter opt-ins, and so forth.

Tip 9. Add a Live Chat Feature to the Website

A study by VWO found that adding live chat on their signup form page raised form conversion rate by a staggering 31%. The subject of the study, Ez Texting, ran a controlled experiment A/B testing two versions of the landing page: one with a live chat widget and one without it.

The live chat experiment worked by giving visitors the ability to chat with a company representative about any lingering doubts or questions they had prior to signing up. Adding live chat to your website enables company representatives to proactively help website visitors overcome fear, uncertainty, or doubt that may have been preventing them from converting. There is a great thorough article by Landbot showcasing case studies of how brands use automated chatbots to increase conversion and nurture leads.

Tip 10. Remove Distractions to Reduce Cart Abandonments

This second article by VWO offers an amazing brief on the value of removing extraneous CTAs at checkout. In an A/B test run over 6 weeks, nameOn found that going from 9 CTAs to 2 CTAs at checkout raised visitor conversion rate by 11.4%.

The takeaway: once you get somebody to the tip of conversion, optimize your site for laser-like focus on completing checkout and converting into a buyer.

Final Takeaways on Website Conversion Optimization for Sales

Whichever of these 10 tips you choose to implement, it’s pivotal that you approach the process of conversion optimization scientifically.

To that effect, we recommend applying continuous experimentation, testing, and data-driven optimization to your go-to-market strategy both immediately and as a long-term best practice. Doing so will let you reap the full rewards of your sales and marketing efforts, acquire and close more potential buyers, and amplify your overall revenue numbers/

Image: Shutterstock

This article, "10 Conversion Optimization Tips to Increase Your Sales" was first published on Small Business Trends

January 15, 2019

Picking Promotional Giveaways to Best Benefit Your Business

 Businesses around the world, both large and small, rely on promotional giveaways to give them exposure. A mug with your company’s name or a t-shirt with your logo can spread the word about your business in ways and areas that cannot be reached by regular advertising.

By following some key tips on picking promotional giveaways, you can reap big rewards for your business.

Budget for Promotional Items

Naturally, the freebies aren’t free; any promotional item you give away will cost you money. That should not put you off the idea, however. There are many great promotional items that are very affordable and ordering an item to be printed in bulk offers you some great savings.

Investigate the costs of ordering promotional items so you can work them into your next budget. Investing in this marketing technique today could translate into big rewards down the road.

Picking Good Giveaways

One key to successful promotions is choosing the right promotional items.

The most valuable clue to determining which promotional item to give away lies within the nature of your company itself. Take a good long look at what it is that you do and what you want to achieve with the promotion, and you’ll find those facts help clarify the answer. Involve a few valued employees in a brainstorming session and see how creative you can get.

There are a few questions to ask as you brainstorm ideas:

  • Who is your target audience for this promotion?
  • How are you planning to distribute the promotional giveaway?
  • How many items will you need to purchase in order to achieve your promotional goal?

Talking through each of these questions will help direct you to some creative and interesting ways to promote your business.

Examples of Great Promotional Items for Your Business

Let’s look at some example businesses and how an owner might evaluate which promotional giveaway is most worth their investment.

Example 1 – Corner Grocery Store

  • Goal: Increase neighborhood awareness.
  • Target Audience: People who live within walking distance.

In this example, you want the people in your community to know the name of your store, where you are located, and that they can buy groceries from your store. You can conduct your promotional giveaway right in the store, using your existing customer base to carry the items out, so there’s no need for a mailing.

Now that you know those factors, think about groceries and what grocery store shoppers would enjoy getting for free. Why not give your customers colorful, appealing fabric bags with your store name and location clearly visible? Everyone in the neighbourhood will see groceries being carried around, and they’ll see where they were bought!

Example 2 – Travel Agency

  • Goal: Secure new clients.
  • Target Audience: People in your city.

In this example, you want to reach a larger target audience than just your immediate neighbourhood so you will likely want to consider a mailing campaign, and you’ll want to send out many more items.

With these considerations, you’ll want a small, inexpensive item that you can buy in bulk at a reasonable price and also ship easily and inexpensively. Since your ideal client will be traveling in the near future, why not help motivate their journey with trendy luggage tags featuring your company name and contact information.

If you’re planning to focus on business travel, target your mailing to businesses likely to travel. If you’re focused on personal travel, target homeowners instead.

Example 3 – Tech Start-Up

  • Goal: Create brand awareness.
  • Target Audience: Your key demographic.

Since this type of business tends to target a more specific audience, your best bet may be to set up at a tech show, a business college or a cultural event. Target tech-friendly clients by handing out a free phone case with your logo or another technologically savvy item that relates as directly as possible to the actual services you offer.

These are just a few examples to illustrate how you need to start with the basics of what your company does and then choose a kind of promotional giveaway that supports the goal of your campaign.

Skip Clichés

Try to avoid standard, cliché giveaways. It’s no longer true that everyone needs a fridge magnet, calendar, or pen. You can’t put a magnet on a stainless-steel fridge, calendars often just end up in the trash, and pens can be forgotten in the bottom of a drawer.

Think about what people are really using and how their needs fit with your corporate messaging. If you’re a real estate agent, consider something creative related to home or garden. What about packages of flower seeds or a colorful web cam cover? If you’re running an auto shop, what about free first aid kits for the trunk or sun shades for the front window?

Generating Numbers for Big Event

If you’re looking for a promotional giveaway to generate numbers for a special event, consider giving free entry to people who may not be able to otherwise attend. Think about local students at nearby high schools, colleges or universities.

If you’re hosting a film festival, offer free entry and a free t-shirt with the festival’s logo and dates to local film students. If you’re organizing a cultural festival, offer free admission to city dance schools. If you’re opening a restaurant, invite students from cooking schools, hospitality programs, or event planning courses with a gift certificate for a free meal, a free appetizer, or two-for-one desserts.

Select a Style that Matches Your Tone and Messaging

It’s important to pay attention to the aesthetics and tone of your campaign as well as the message you’re trying to convey to people about your company. People read a lot into colors and style.

Is this a serious campaign meant to let people know that you mean business? Choose a simple font for your messaging, and select colors that are clean, clear and direct, such as blue, black and white.

Are you trying to let people know you’re open and approachable, a member of the community who is trustworthy? Consider earth tones and warm colors, such as greens, oranges and beiges.

If you’re going for playful and trendy, select a more playful font and utilize bright colors such as red, yellow or pink.

For a truly effective promotional campaign, know what it is that you want to say and choose a look that supports your message.

Proof-Read Your Promotional Messaging

Whatever you do, make sure to proof-read everything before you send your order off to the printers. It may seem silly to ask, but have you spelled your company name correctly? Have you provided the correct phone number and email address? Are you missing a letter? Are the colors going to be visible on the item? Check it, check it again, and then ask others to check it as well. There are warehouses of old mugs and t-shirts with spelling mistakes or incorrect information on them, and you don’t want to pay to add to the pile.

The post Picking Promotional Giveaways to Best Benefit Your Business appeared first on MyVenturePad.com.

January 15, 2019

Risk Tolerance & Risk Appetite

Even though risk tolerance and risk appetite are used interchangeably in most cases, they are different from one another by a certain degree. With many standards and regulations focusing on the process of risk management, only a few of them define clearly the distinctions between the two terms appropriately. Nonetheless, you must know how to distinguish between risk tolerance and risk appetite to help you in developing the necessary controls for protecting data. Doing so will help you develop a suitable cybersecurity program.

Risk Tolerance versus Risk Appetite: What is the Difference?

Risk Appetite

In case you are adopting an enterprise risk management approach when it comes to cybersecurity, your risk appetite ought to focus on amount or type of risk that you consider acceptable based on both your business resources and objectives.

For instance, if you operate as a payment processing entity, your attention may be in retail.  Nevertheless, part of your enterprise risk management (ERM) may involve moving into the healthcare space. In such a case, if you are willing to accept all the legal risks that stem from the Healthcare Portability and Accountability Act or HIPAA, then you have created your risk appetite.

Risk Tolerance

Alternatively, risk tolerance entails how you decide the degree of risk you want to accept. Looking at the payment processing example, although you may be willing to take on the risk associated with shifting into healthcare, you might withhold from recognizing all the inherent risks involved in constantly monitoring protected health records. Hence, you will end up transferring the risk to another entity, a third-party vendor.

When you have an appetite for steak dinner, you might fail to consume the entire piece due to reaching your tolerance point.  This case also applies to cybersecurity risks.

What does a Risk Appetite Statement mean?

It entails a written document that helps in explaining your risk decisions. The statement not only enables you to inform both external and internal stakeholders about your risk appetite but also triggers more necessary conversations for driving strategic objectives.

How to Develop a Risk Appetite Statement?

Back in 2018, ISO or otherwise known as the International Organization for Standardization revised the risk management guidelines featured in the popular ISO 31000 standard. Even though this particular standard does not use “risk appetite,” it hints the term, particularly under “establishing the amount and type of risk that may or not be taken.”

Aside from creating a risk management framework, which allows you to come up with a risk appetite statement, ISO 31000 helps in formalizing the process of risk management. Through integrating the process and framework, you can develop the right risk appetite statement.

Step 1: Communication and Commitment

Talk about the business objectives and strategies with the other leaders in your organization. Doing so will help you in knowing the amount of risk you are willing to accept and determine whether such risks can meet the most critical organizational goals. Communication across the entire business allows you to take into account the necessary views for creating ownership and defining risk criteria.

Step 2: Defining the Scope, Criteria, and Context to be integrated across the Organization

For the case of integrated risk management, you must determine your position in the entire supply chain. Then, make sure that you review your whole ecosystem. By focusing on the external and internal risk factors, you can define the appropriate evaluation criteria and amount of risk.

Step 3: Designing the Risk Assessment

You can determine, describe and evaluate your risks by communicating your organization’s risk management strategy based on your position in the supply chain. After doing so, you can leverage controls, potential events, control effectiveness, and likelihood to determine whether the levels of risk match your risk tolerance.

Step 4: Implementing a Risk Treatment

It involves the creation of a plan with specific deadlines for identifying the reasons and decisions behind them. Nevertheless, part of this implementation consists in choosing the approaches for handling the risks. Since you need to decide whether to accept, mitigate, or refuse the risk, you must create a treatment plan that will help in implementing such decisions.

Step 5: Evaluating through Monitoring

As part of your organization’s risk appetite statement, you must determine whether to use a combined, qualitative or quantitative evaluation process. After setting metrics, regularly monitor your data ecosystem and environment to ascertain compliance with your organization’s internal risk assessment.

Step 6: Make Improvements based on Reports and Records

Constant monitoring can identify vulnerabilities in your organization’s control environment. Boosting your risk monitoring tasks and communicating such weaknesses enables you to maintain a robust risk management program.

Step7: Summarizing Results for Release

Utilize your risk appetite in fostering communication with both external and internal stakeholders. Nevertheless, numerous risk appetite statements are intended for public consumption including financial reporting.

Author Bio

Ken Lynch is an enterprise software startup veteran, who has always been fascinated about what drives workers to work and how to make work more engaging. Ken founded Reciprocity to pursue just that. He has propelled Reciprocity’s success with this mission-based goal of engaging employees with the governance, risk management, and compliance goals of their company in order to create more socially minded corporate citizens. Ken earned his BS in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering from MIT. Learn more at ReciprocityLabs.com.

The post Risk Tolerance & Risk Appetite appeared first on MyVenturePad.com.

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