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Business Consulting and Business Consultants
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  • 05/18/19--02:15: Small Business | USAGov
  • Learn the steps to start a small business, get financing help from the government, and more.

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    The Butler Business Consulting Group is a team of experienced professionals working with companies to solve business challenges at the highest levels. With years of expertise, plus access to the University’s resources, the Consulting Group builds solutions for immediate and long-term success.

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  • 05/18/19--02:15: Kamyar Shah
  • Small business advisor helping you increase profitability and productivity, offering remote CMO and Remote COO services

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    There is more than one type of Cloud Provider. We take a look at two of the more notable options, Containers and Serverless, and determine if one is better than the other.


    Episode 10

    On this episode of the Centric Biz and Tech Talks podcast, Jason Fisher leads a discussion about Containers versus Serverless architectures.

    Centric technologists Mike Brooks and Matt Miller join Jason Fisher to talk about Containers versus Serverless – the major differences, pros, cons and trends.

    Containers are a light-weight standalone execution environment for your application, with a complete operating system, applications, and all dependencies including your network. We discuss how containers benefit you.

    In Serverless, you only care about the code, since the Cloud Provider manages the servers. You write your code and deploy it to the Cloud, and they manage and scaling how it is run.  Listen in to hear what Serverless is ideal for.

    Finally, we discuss trends for both and determine if one Cloud Provider is better than another.

    Join in the discussion on this installment of the Centric Biz and Tech Talks podcast!

    Listen Here

    The post [Podcast] Containers Versus Serverless Architecture appeared first on Centric Consulting.


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    This Magic Monday, we reflect on the transitional theme of autumn and how every moment matters.


    Nothing lasts forever, and it’s during this time of year, especially in which that sentiment becomes crystal-clear in nature. The days get shorter, leaves transition from their summer green, resplendent in their new red, yellow and orange hues. And above, flocks of birds of all kinds overrun the skies seeking warmer weather as the temperature shifts.

    The Japanese have a proverbial phrase to recognize this transience in all life, called “ichi go ichi e” (pronounced: ee-chee goh ee-chee eh), which directly translates to “one time, one meeting,” although we typically understand the meaning as “a once in a lifetime encounter.”

    This phrase is most typically applied to our encounters with one another, igniting awareness of the fact that you may never again see the people you encounter today. Ichi go ichi e” encourages a state of mindfulness as we come into contact with new lives each day. In business and personal terms, it asks, ‘How would you create an unmatched experience for this person at this moment? If it’s someone you typically see every day, how will this encounter be different from the previous?’

    During this season of transition and gratitude, let us continue to be mindful of the lives we touch each day.

    The post Magic Monday: Embracing the Season of Transience and Transition appeared first on Centric Consulting.


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    As we prepare to head to Dreamforce 2019, we take a look at a few tips and tricks to make the experience seamless and memorable.


    I can’t believe Dreamforce is less than a month away. Dreamforce is Salesforce.com’s annual conference in San Francisco. This year will be my seventh year. It never ceases to amaze me how many people attend, how difficult it is to get a hotel room, and, of course – the concert (hello, Fleetwood Mac!). Last year 170,000 fans of Salesforce attended the event, which covered 13 city blocks in downtown San Francisco.

    Clients often ask me how to prepare for Dreamforce, especially if they are Dreamforce newbies. Below are five ways I’ve shared on how you can prepare for the conference.

    • Book four to five sessions per day and quickly! You can access sessions now. Don’t wait to book sessions on the plane ride there. Sessions fill up quickly, but keep an eye out for these to occur at other times—sometimes, sessions appear on the schedule more than once. I’ve had luck as a “walk-in,” but last year was more challenging because of the increased attendance.
    • Skip the keynotes! You heard me, they are not a great use of time, and they are all recorded. Unless you are a huge fan of a specific celebrity speaker, watch them later. You won’t miss anything, because the same themes for each reoccur in the sessions and other smaller settings.
    • Get a certification or two! The conference offers certifications at a discounted rate, and Salesforce always makes the experience fun (if you pass) by taking your picture, sending tweets, and, in general, giving great high fives.
    • Traveling alone? Ask your Salesforce Account Executive if any of their clients have similar interests to you, and could meet for coffee or lunch. Dreamforce is more fun with friends! It sounds like blind dating, but meeting new people is part of the Dreamforce experience. And it’s a great way to build your network.
    • What to pack? I always bring a jacket with a hood, an umbrella, bandaids, and comfortable walking shoes (or several pairs). It’s not uncommon to log 25,000 steps in a single day! A battery pack, or two for cell phones, snacks, and maybe some aspirin!

    Dreamforce is a fantastic experience, and you will learn more about the various platforms from Salesforce and the community. But most of all, you’ll have fun!

    The post Five Ways to Prepare for Dreamforce 2019 appeared first on Centric Consulting.


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    Customer retention is more cost-effective than acquiring new customers. We imagine the journey of recognizing the need for machine learning from beginning the process to the execution of the plan in a sales environment.


    As Sales Manager, customer retention is always top of mind. Getting new customers can cost five times more than retaining current customers. But, staying on top of keeping customers happy and accounts open takes priority. You feel like you spend all your resources fighting the pop-up fires instead of being proactive. It’s the first Monday of the month and time to review the account closures from last month, and this routine is getting old fast. It’s like it follows a script:

    1. Review the accounts on the ‘Closed Last Month’ list.
      • Look to see if any accounts on the list completely surprise you.
      • Scan for the accounts you “knew” would close. Of course, “knowing” is mere intuition, but it occasionally serves you well, so you check if you were right.
      • Spend time figuring out any signs leading to unexpected closures. Then, spend even more time trying to understand why only half of the accounts you expected to see are on the list.
    2. Prioritize the accounts you can save.
      • Determine how to allocate the limited amount of resources (and time) available to spend on closed accounts.
      • Spend more time determining if it’s worth the effort.
    3. Dig deeper into the accounts to find trends and commonalities.
      • Attempt to prioritize keeping these accounts. But the day gets away from you, and despite your request, your team can’t afford to prioritize this list either when active accounts need their attention.
      • Reside to the fact you’re not getting to it again this month.

    How Do You Improve the Script?

    You start thinking about how to write a better script for customer retention. There is valuable information hidden in the report that can not only keep customers from closing their accounts, but it can improve processes and gain more time for employees. Ideally, you’d acquire a list of the customers likely to close, then proactively work with them to resolve any issues, instead of reacting after they close the account. In fact, your dream script would include the following steps.

    1. Obtaining a proactive list or lists covering multiple pain points
      • Accounts likely to close the previous month and didn’t
      • Accounts likely to close this month
      • Insights into these accounts
    2. Reviewing the distribution of accounts to team members
      • Making sure there is a game plan for these accounts and getting them any additional resources they need
    3. Reviewing insights provided into accounts on each of the lists
      • Working with your team to focus on process improvements to improve the department and keep customers happier

    This script moves beyond the administrivia clogging up your calendar and keeping you from making progress on departmental goals. This set up allows you to focus on actionable work versus planning.

    Putting It into Action

    Now, you need the time to create and implement this script. But, theorizing about the solution doesn’t create the solution. You need someone who can take your ideas and write the script for you. You need a ghostwriter.

    How do you find them, and what will they do? You know there must be tools that can build the lists you want. A quick web search on predicting customer retention shows articles on predictive models and various services around machine learning. Does this require a level of specialized work? Maybe the solution is a project manager.

    Those are all areas you can support. You can answer the questions around the business processes, and you know who on your team can clarify any data questions.

    You remember to loop in the IT department because accessing the data and getting any resources set up requires their support, as well. You wonder briefly about the results and output from a model and hope that you can see what data goes into the predictions as well as the potential impacts from using the results.

    You need a ghostwriter with skills in both business analysis and machine learning. You’ve worked with enough data scientists to know this is a tricky mix. Finding the right fit for this job will take more time and energy than you have to spare. You push the whole project to the back of your mind.

    But, you can’t ignore the need for a better solution. You find the next available time in your calendar and reach out to your preferred consulting company to schedule a meeting with your Data & Analytics contact. They always have the resources for the projects you need, and they can provide the perfect ghostwriter to get this done. A discussion on the topic reveals they have done this exact work before and have developed a stepped approach for these Customer Retention Prediction models:

    • Conduct a business objectives workshop.
    • Build a trial model to validate predictive capability exists using available data.
    • Conduct a controlled experiment to apply model-directed interventions in a real-life operational setting.
    • Expand on the trial model with new data and features to improve accuracy.
    • Integrate the model into operational systems and incorporate interventions into the business process.
    • Adapt the model as you achieve business benefits. Focus on new issues or continuously improve on the existing model.

    This process addresses all the areas you found in your web search, and you know this team will provide regular updates and stay engaged throughout the project to ensure that the model aligns with your processes and meets your needs. Feeling confident in the decision to move forward, you reach out again to schedule the workshop. You’re ready to flip the script on customer retention.

    The post Using Machine Learning to Flip the Script on Customer Retention appeared first on Centric Consulting.


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    We take a look at how Robotic Process Automation improved one our of own manual processes through the creation of a bot named Remi.


    recently received an opportunity to learn Robotic Process Automation (RPA) as onthejob training. I signed up for the UIPath self-directed training, and I completed it in about a week, passing the test on the first try.

    As a newly certified RPA Developer, I received an assignment on a project to automate the timesheet reminder process for Centric Consulting. It was a safe project since it’s internal, but a visible one since almost everyone in the company gets a reminder to submit their timesheets at some point.

    It was challenging. I had to figure out some complicated information about variables, Visual BasicCSS, and how our time tracking system works. There were times I didn’t think it would work, but I was willful and experimental.

    I broke the process down into many small pieces. And, oJune 3, our timesheet reminder bot named “Remi” launched without a hitch.

    The Remi Team

    While I did the bulk of the development work behind Remi, I was part of a team that worked together to make sure it went well. Our RPA leader, Mike Ryba, saw the value of applying RPA to our workflows internally. He made sure I had access to the resources I needed to complete the work.  

    Our RPA experts, Scott Drudge and Zach Tesler, were also critical team players. There were a few areas in which greatly appreciated their help and expertise, particularly around converting data into the proper format so that we could handle it with variables.  Development using UIPath requires an understanding of Visual Basic commands, user interface elements of web-based applications, and basic coding concepts like arrays, variables and strings.

    UIPath is great in automating tasks that are typically done by an end-user interacting with a web application.  In our case, we started with automating the report generation process in Oracle NetSuite. Then, we automated the analysis of the report data to determine who had errors on their timesheet. Finally, we automated an email campaign to help these folks update and submit their time correctly. Today, this automated process takes a little over one minute to run and results in about 300-400 reminder emails sent twice a month.

    Our business users in shared servicesespecially Carrie Falls, immediately saw the value of Remi and jumped in with both feet. Carrie figured out the bot’s functionality and is comfortable testing and updating Remi. She even used it as a framework to create another bot to carry out reminders related to expense reports.

    Finally, Ellie Petro provided Remi with her name, which is short for “reminder.”

    ROI: We Saved Time and Money

    Centric saved time and money automating low-level manual tasks (see tables below). Our business users can spend more time on higher-level tasks and skill development than before.

    This process translates to a higher level of satisfaction and engagement with their work. Carrie took the lead in managing Remi. She experiments with the code, fearless in the face of error messages, and she shares her knowledge with other members of her team.

    Time and Money Saved per Month by Automating One Manual Email Process

    RPA Remi

    Time and Money Saved per Year by Automating 10 Manual Processes (that are similar in effort to the process automated here, such as manually emailing reminders to hundreds of employees 

    RPA Remi

    We saw an 88% reduction in the number of hours spent manually sending email reminders to employees who are late submitting their timesheets. Treating these resources as billable hours, at a rate of $150 per hour* the potential cost savings is quite substantial when calculated over a year and applied to ten new processes that meet criteria for automation (rules-based, use discrete data, repeatable, enterprise-level scale).

    The time commitment for me to learn UIPath and coordinate this project was 84 hours, using a billable client rate of $150 per hour, the Centric investment was $12,600. Even with only one process automated, we expect an ROI within two months of launch.

    Increasing Satisfaction

    While it’s good we are saving time and moneywe are also growing task-level satisfaction and engagement for our employees. They are willing and able to spend their time on higherlevel tasks and want to dive in to learn new technology. They are happy and engaged.

    Our employees have been empowered to improve the way their work gets done. I can’t wait to see how Robotic Process Automation further improves our workflow.

    The post RPA: How a Bot Saved Time and Money Automating Manual Tasks appeared first on Centric Consulting.


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    Redirect to: https://go.centricconsulting.com/BSC-FY19-11-CTNT-RBTWhitepaperMSDFocus_LandingPage.html

    The post [White Paper] Rethinking Business Transformation: Thrive Through Disruption with Modern Software Delivery appeared first on Centric Consulting.


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    Using the USA acronym to introduce Robotic Process Automation into workflow processes makes it an easy to remember business solution.


    Many of us have seen the classic movieForrest Gump, with Tom Hanks. There were several memorable lines from the movie we still reference today, and this post is no different.

    Putting on your best Forrest Gump impersonation, repeat to yourself, “Process is, as Process Does.” Of course, this was not the line from the movie, but you get what I am conveyingWhy this quote? How does this apply to Robotic Process Automation (RPA)? Sit back, enjoy a box of chocolates, and let me explain. 

    Process Is, As Process Does 

    can count the times where an organization spends limited time, if any, reviewing their current processes before deciding to automate. When that happens, all I can think about is Forrest whispering in my ear, “Process is, as process does.” Without making any attempts, or very few, to try and understand the process first, an organization puts itself in a position where, as one of my colleagues likes to say, “when you automate a bad process, you get the same bad results, faster.”  

    All that you are doing in that scenario is moving the initial work from a human actor to a digital worker, but in the end, the work ends up back with the human actor for cleanup. It’s not a very efficient use of your human or digital resources. 

    So, how can you fix that problem? How can you minimize those situations where you automate a bad process? We find this solution in repeating three simple letters: USA, USA, USA!

    • Understand 
    • Simplify 
    • Automate 

    first learned of this approach to process automation from a colleague I met at a speaking event. Our meeting happened months ago, but it is something I daily use as I speak with customers, prospects, and even our internal resources. Will it solve all your process and automation issues? Of course not, but it will help set the stage for more effective and efficient use of time and resources in your automation strategy. 

    Understand

    Does anyone truly understand the intricacies of their processes? Probably not, and that is why it is so important to understand, as deeply as possible, how you execute your process, its touchpoints, its failings, and more. Without spending time with those users who live the process, day in and day out, you cannot make an informed decision as to whether a process is viable for automation.  

    Utilizing process discovery sessions with the ability to record not only the discussion but the work done on the user’s desktop, it’s easier to understand how you execute the process. And, in some cases, it reveals the potential exceptionsAll of this is essential information as you move to the next step in the processsimplification. 

    Simplify

    Without a clear understanding of how a process works executed, it is nearly impossible to simplify and improve the process. You can make assumptions to attempt simplification, or you can collect more data. 

    With that said, don’t oversimplify a process and lose the overall quality of its output. Insteadget to where you achieve the same level of quality but in fewer or more refined steps. Once you reach that desired level, you can move to the final stepAutomate. 

    Automate

    Once you Understand and Simplify a process, it is time to Automate. Or is it? 

    Many organizations arrive at this point and jump into automation without further investigating if the process they simplified is still a viable candidate for automation. In some cases, the company improved the process to the point where they no longer require automation. I know of some situations where the organization repurposes current tools in use, forgoing the need for robotic automation.  

    If you are still unsure about automating the process you improved, take the following guidelines into account. 

    • There are no more than five decision points in the current process, and you easily define and provide objectives to those decisions. 
    • There are no more than five integrations or applications used as part of the process solution, i.e., internal applications, external websites, internal sites like SharePoint. 
    • There are no more than 50 clicks in the process (and based on my experiences, most simple processes don’t come close to that threshold).

    Does this mean if a process does not fall into all three of the above guidelines, it’s not a good candidate? Absolutely not. It means you may need to take another look at the overall process to see if you can automate certain pieces of the process while keeping other parts of the process in the hands of human actors. I find for most processes, automation covers specific and straightforward tasks. This inclusion allows your non-digital staff to continue handling the more complex pieces. 

    In Conclusion

    RPA is a great way to make a difference in your organization by helping to reduce costs, reallocate resources to more value-added activities, enhance customer and employee experience. The list goes on, but it isn’t the solutionYou need to evaluate each process for its merit, and in the process, pardon the pun, you may find a process improvement is all you need.

    As Forrest so eloquently put it, “Life is like a box of chocolates. You’ll never know what you’ll get.” I believe we can say the same thing for processes. You truly do not know what you have until you take the time to dig a little deeper, and once you have done so, you will be in a better position to make an informed automation decision. 

    At the end of my own Forrest Gump movie, I quietly hear Lieutenant Dan whispering to me, USA! USA! USA! 

    The post Using RPA to Understand, Simplify, and Automate Processes appeared first on Centric Consulting.


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    Everyone knows that keeping the consumer happy is the first priority. The importance of considering the customer’s experience in all areas of engaging with your business, not just customer service is becoming even more clear.

    I’m seeing an increasing number of my peers in the marketing world take ownership of the customer experience with their brands. As a result, we’re all learning how to borrow and blend tools to help us find ways to gain deeper customer understanding.

    Three approaches I’ve been exploring the most are:

    1. Design Thinking 
    2. Journey Mapping  
    3. Personas.  

    Design Thinking

    When practicing design thinking, you flex your empathy muscle and work on immersing yourself in your customer’s life. The practice of customer engagement here is different than polling or interviewing customers about what they receive today. It’s about understanding what they’re trying to do, what they want and what they don’t have.

    Design Thinking also brings an iterative approach to your work by creating prototypes that map out how to deliver the new solutions to your customer’s world while allowing for feedback on what’s working and what’s not. I like this approach because you can fail fast, make adjustments and then find the winner to bring to life. The whole practice here is to try a variety of tactics out and nail down the frontrunners. You may think you don’t have time for this type of practice, but getting it right earlier through prototypes helps you move fast in your next steps.

    Personas

    Personas focus entirely on gaining an understanding of the customer by using qualitative and quantitative methods. There’s nothing better (and in my opinion, every marketer should be doing this) than engaging and talking to your customers about their experience with you. Spending time with your clients helps you have a foundational knowledge of why they’re coming to your company and how that experience has been so far.

    This information is valuable –  not only can you gather themes around how to improve your processes and their experience but you can also learn what friction points exist and how to remove them. Gathering the feedback is only one half of the equation, using it effectively is crucial to your success.

    Journey Mapping

    Now let’s throw Journey Mapping into the mix. A combination of tactics helps put the end-to-end experience together, whether that’s to examine a current state experience or to get more creative and explore a future state vision. Having that visual will help everyone in your company understand how your buyers interact with your brand. This is powerful for supporting your work as a customer-first team.

    Smart companies have learned that competing on price doesn’t last long and may even backfire. They also have concluded that marketing on the merits of their product doesn’t always pan out to their desired expectations, especially when competitors easily close the gap on product advantages. What is resonating against the competition is how your audience experiences your brand. That experience can be closely tied to increasing revenue, driving loyalty and increasing opportunities for word of mouth recommendations.

    Final Thoughts

    When it comes down to it, customer experience is everyone’s responsibility. From a marketing standpoint, doing your part could be spending more time hearing from your customers and learning who they really are, ensuring a positive experience at every interaction with your brand or a combination of both. While choosing an approach should be based on your customer’s pain points and your business needs, it’s important that you get started and consistently help deliver on the best experience possible.

    This article was originally published on Inside Indiana Business.

    The post How to Create Consistent and Positive Customer Experiences with Your Brand appeared first on Centric Consulting.


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    This article was originally published on July 24, 2015, and was updated on November 8, 2019.

    An estimated 34 percent of the web runs on WordPress, the open-source content management system beloved by techies and technophobes alike. And for good reason — WordPress is easy to use, highly customizable, and incredibly powerful.

    At GoDaddy, we relish the dual simplicity and complexity of WordPress.

     

    It’s a great platform to help entrepreneurs with a touch of tech-savviness get online. Our Managed WordPress Hosting platform is perfect for the aspiring author, the Main Street coffee shop, or the indie musician — people who want a gorgeous, functional website without a lot of fuss or expense.

    On the flip side, we also help professional web designers and developers host fully customized WordPress sites for their clients. These web pros live and breathe WordPress, and with our GoDaddy Pro program, we’ve made it easier for them to build and manage WordPress sites for their clients.

    Related: 7 benefits of WordPress websites

    We’re big fans of WordPress, and we’re here to tell you all about GoDaddy Email Marketing as a natural companion to the platform. Here’s why:

    • GoDaddy Email Marketing and WordPress embrace simplicity
    • GoDaddy Email Marketing is WordPress-friendly
    • GoDaddy Email Marketing is built for bloggers
    • Like WordPress (or a fine wine), GoDaddy Email Marketing has complexity

    Ready to take a closer look? Let’s go.

    GoDaddy Email Marketing and WordPress embrace simplicity

    The team behind WordPress is proud of its simplicity and for good reason! They’ve brought classy web design to the masses — no easy feat. Our mission is to do the same for email marketing, and GoDaddy Email Marketing might just be the simplest email marketing on the planet.

    Our software is designed to help you create a clean, modern, branded email in minutes.

    Our email composer makes it easy to drag and drop a variety of text- and image-based modules to build the perfect email. You can also create a unique Theme with colors and fonts that reflect your brand.

    With GoDaddy Email Marketing, your emails aren’t weighed down by complex, multi-column templates. Why does that matter?

    Emails designed with our software are highly readable (check out a few GoDaddy Email Marketing examples here). When your emails hit the inbox, your subscribers will be able to read them with ease and (hopefully) heed your call to action.

    That means more clicks and sales for you.

    GoDaddy Email Marketing is WordPress-friendly

    WordPress and GoDaddy Email Marketing are both simple to use, and they’re also simple to use together with our GoDaddy Email Marketing Signup Forms plugin, which allows you to place — you guessed it — a signup form on your WordPress site.

    If you’re not currently collecting email addresses on your site, you’re missing out on gobs of potential business!

    For instance, here’s a simple WordPress site for my imaginary doggie cafe.

    Screenshot Of WordPress Page For An Imaginary Dog Cafe

    With email marketing, I don’t have to wait for customers to come back to my site — I can reach out with an email chock full of entertaining, useful content. Even if customers don’t open every email, seeing my subject line might remind them to stop by.

    WordPress users with a GoDaddy Email Marketing account can use the plugin to add signup forms using (1) a widget (great for sidebars), (2) a shortcode (great for inline text) or (3) a template tag (great for developers).

    There’s no need to worry about matching up fonts and colors. When you use the plugin, your signup form will automatically match the style of your WordPress theme.

    Screenshot Of WordPress GoDaddy Email Marketing Plugin Live

    WordPress users can easily add our plugin from their WordPress dashboard. Just go to Plugins, click Add New and then type “GoDaddy” in the plugin directory search bar. Locate the plugin and click Install Now.

    Complete setup instructions are available in our help section.

    Add GoDaddy Email Marketing WordPress Plugin

    GoDaddy Email Marketing is built for bloggers

    WordPress-based bloggers will feel right at home on the GoDaddy Email Marketing dashboard. Like WordPress, we make it easy to draft, edit and send (or post) content. But why should bloggers care about email marketing?

    Savvy bloggers use email marketing to create a deeper connection with their followers.

     

    They use email to connect with their tribe on a different level, often with a chattier writing style.

    Many bloggers set up a welcome email with our autoresponder feature — a great way to tell new subscribers what to expect and point out key resources on your site.

    If you also sell products and services, you can use email to run subscriber-exclusive deals, host email-based courses or send coupons on subscribers’ birthdays.

    But if I had to pick just one email marketing tool for bloggers, it would be RSS to Email, the mother of all email-based blogging tools. With this tool, you can automatically send your latest posts to your subscribers in a gorgeous, branded email. You add your blog feed, design a quick email and specify the frequency. Huzzah — your blog just became a little more sophisticated!

    Like WordPress (or a fine wine), GoDaddy Email Marketing has complexity

    By design, we’ve kept the complexity of GoDaddy Email Marketing out of view. But like WordPress, it’s a sophisticated tool, and when you’re ready for more advanced options, we’re ready for you! We offer add-ons like personalization tags and triggers and have a host of useful integrations with apps like Facebook and Eventbrite.

    So whether you’re new to WordPress or you haven’t missed a WordCamp, GoDaddy Email Marketing is designed for you. And while it’s easy to get started with GoDaddy Email Marketing, we offer GoDaddy’s signature 24/7 support to help you get the most out of your account.

    The post Why GoDaddy Email Marketing and WordPress are meant for each other appeared first on GoDaddy Blog.


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    With the recent surge in the popularity of podcasting, you might be wondering how to podcast for yourself or your business. After all, even former President Obama signed a deal to launch a podcast with Spotify, and other celebrities are hopping on the podcasting bandwagon as well. I recently learned that even NASA (yes, that NASA!) has not one, but several podcasts.

    Podcasting still feels like the next big thing, and people want in on this platform before it becomes as saturated as other media platforms have become.

    According to Podcast Insight, people are listening to podcasts in growing numbers over the last few years, and these numbers don’t seem to be slowing down any time soon.

    Given that there are fewer than 800,000 podcasts online at the moment, this relatively new platform is a lot less noisy than the 75 million-plus WordPress websites that are out there competing for attention in a wide variety of niches.

    In August 2019, I traveled to Orlando, Florida, to one of the largest, if not the largest, podcasting conferences in the world – Podcast Movement. My mission was to learn more about the still relatively new world of podcasting, connect with the power players of the industry, and get the inside scoop on how to do a podcast from the pros.

    How to podcast — Everything you need to get started

    Interested in learning how to do a podcast? Here’s what you’ll learn in this guide:

    The people I met, the sessions I attended, and the connections I made at Podcast Movement taught me about all of this and so much more. We’ve got a lot to unpack in this post, so buckle up because you’re in for an exciting ride.

    So, without further ado, let’s dive into how to podcast.

    What you need to make a podcast

    When I spoke to people at the conference, the most widely debated topic was what you need to make a podcast.

    Some people said you could just start with your smartphone and a really good sound editor. Others said you need a boom mic, editing software, a soundproof recording studio and a bunch of other equipment.

    At the risk of ticking off the masses on this disputed topic, I’m going to try to be as unbiased as possible and give you a few different options for how to do a podcast.

    I will preface this equipment advice with this — it’s understandable to want to purchase the most expensive equipment out there to give yourself the best chance of success. But, it’s also important to note that not everyone starts at the pro level. Sometimes we allow our desire to keep us from even getting started.

    And, many of the well-known gurus I spoke to at the conference acknowledged that no matter how you start, your first episodes will always make you cringe.

    Besides, you might start and realize you don’t like podcasting at all. Isn’t it better to just work with what you have to test things out before shelling out a bunch of cash? I think so! You can always upgrade later if you decide that podcasting is a medium you want to commit to.

    Equipment

    Pat Flynn and John Lee Dumas are two well-known podcasters. Speak to virtually anyone about podcasting, and odds are they have heard of these two men.

    They are considered authorities on how to make a podcast.

     

    Both of them teach both free and paid courses on the subject, and both have been hired as consultants to help popular online business owners launch podcasts for themselves.

    Because they were at the conference, of course I had to pick their brains on everything I could in the limited time we had. Luckily, since they get a lot of the same questions regularly, they were able to point me to some awesome resources they already had on their websites.

    How To Podcast Pat Flynn
    Pat Flynn

    Pat’s show is called Smart Passive Income, and he runs a website of the same name. His show features weekly interviews, strategies and advice for building an online business. His show has had more than 47 million downloads.

    How To Podcast John Lee Dumas With Kate Erickson
    John Lee Dumas and Kate Erickson

    John, known by most people as JLD, runs a show and website called Entrepreneurs on Fire. JLD’s claim to fame is being the first podcaster to do a daily show interviewing entrepreneurs of all types. He has more than 2,200 interviews on his website, and 1.5 million monthly listens.

    Below is the equipment they say you need to get started.

    Pat Flynn says you just need the following:

    • Microphone: He recommends the ATR-2100 USB microphone, or the Samson Q2U if you’re not in the United States
    • Microphone stand: He recommends a “Boom Arm” extension
    • Shock mount (to reduce vibrations being picked up on the mic)
    • A pop filter or windscreen (to reduce the explosive sounds made by B- and P-words, which blow air into the mic)
    • Computer
    • Editing software such as GarageBand for Mac users or Audacity for Mac and PC users (both of which are free)

    You can download Pat’s Podcast Cheat Sheet for free here.

    JLD says at a minimum you need:

    • Computer
    • Microphone: No. 1 mic recommendation is the ATR-2100
    • Recording and editing software such as Garageband or Audacity
    • Headset or Earbuds

    Grab JLD’s free podcasting course here.

    Other people I spoke with at Podcast Movement suggested having the following equipment before getting started:

    • A webcam in case you need to do video interviews
    • Skype/Zoom/some other video chat service to record interviews
    • The Blue Yeti microphone with USB connection (though several podcasters disagreed about this)
    • An adjustable boom microphone clip
    • Design software
    • A vanity URL for your podcast’s name — again this was a topic of significant debate
    • Microphone stands
    • A shock mount
    • Microphone cables
    • Backup hard drives (external or internal)/cloud storage service

    Pro tip: Before purchasing any equipment, do your own research, read reviews, and be realistic about your budget. You don’t want to go into debt trying to launch your show!

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    Website and hosting recommendations

    Do you really need to buy a domain before you launch a podcast? That’s a question that I never got a solid answer to. The most common response, however, was that it depends.

    If you are launching a podcast of the same name as your business, for example, you might be able to get away with creating a podcast page on your current domain as Pat and JLD have both done.

    On the other hand, if you want a name completely different from your business or blog name, it is a good idea to purchase a separate URL. Even if you never use it, it’s good to keep it in your back pocket so you have options.

    I personally own several URLs with GoDaddy just in case I use them for future business, blog, book or other product ideas.

    Find your perfect domain now!

    What about hosting? Do I need a podcast hosting service when I’m just starting out?

    The short answer is, yes. You do need somewhere to host your podcast episodes because you can’t exactly record some audio and simply load it to iTunes. You’ll need a podcast host to store and distribute your audio files.

    Editor’s note: Need to find a podcast hosting service? GoDaddy has you covered.

    How To Podcast Sound Mixer

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    How to plan a podcast

    Now that you’ve gotten the equipment under control, what’s next? Planning your podcast before you launch.

    There are several things you need to consider before you record your first episode, let alone put it out for the world to hear. When you begin your planning process, here’s what you should think about at a minimum:

    What will the title of your show be?

    While this may not be your first consideration, it is important to figure out what you will call your show before you start recording.

    There are several options for your show’s name. Some people choose to use their business name for their podcast, like Pat Flynn and John Lee Dumas. Others choose to use their personal name.

    For example:

    Then there are others who create a name completely different from their business and personal name such as:

    If you choose to do an intro and/or an outro for your podcast, you’ll want a podcast name in place before creating it. It’s also a good idea to purchase your domain name once you’ve settled on your name as well.

    You’ll also want to consider your show’s subtitle and summary or description. Your show’s summary should be 4,000 characters or less because that’s how much room iTunes gives you to promote what your show is about.

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    What are your podcast goals?

    Are you hoping to make money directly or indirectly off of this new venture? Is this simply going to be a hobby? Or are you just learning how to make a podcast to see if you even like it?

    It’s important to establish what you want to get out of podcasting before diving in. Like starting a blog, creating a podcast is not a fast thing to do.

    Yes, you can start a blog in less than 30 minutes, but actually creating the content, building your audience and gaining traction with it is an entirely different ballgame.

    Figuring out your initial goals may also help you with other decisions related to launching as well.

     

    For example, if this will be a hobby project, you might not need the most expensive equipment to get started. If, however, this will be used as a tool in your business to reach a new audience or yield potential leads, you might want to put more thought into how you produce and launch your podcast.

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    Who is your target audience?

    This might be based on your podcast goals. Your target audience might be the same as your ideal customer avatar if your podcast is launched as a business marketing tool. If not, you should sit down and think about who your ideal listener will be.

    The reason this matters so much is you should never go into content creation attempting to appeal to the masses.

    Like blogging, book writing and business, if you try to appeal to everyone you’re more likely to not reach anyone.

    Let’s say your podcast will be about how to train your dog. Your target audience would be dog owners who are wanting to learn how to train their dog, and your podcast should be developed and marketed as such.

    How To Podcast Dog Training

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    What topics will you discuss?

    Using our dog training example, a podcast about that subject would likely have topics including, but not limited to:

    • Potty training
    • Teaching them to sit/stay/come/etc.
    • How to stop them from jumping/barking/chasing/etc.
    • Training with treats (or without)

    You get the idea.

    Once you start thinking about the subject and title of your podcast, you can hone in on the topics, and subtopics, most appropriate to create content around.

    Is the show going to be fact or fiction? Yes, there are fiction podcasts!

     

    This was news to me at Podcast Movement! I naively didn’t realize that as with the book industry, there is an entire genre of fiction podcasts. And, like novels, they are broken down into romance, crime, horror, etc.

    I was fortunate enough to stumble into a fiction podcast meetup at the conference, and I can honestly say I was fascinated by the various shows that are in existence right now.

    The biggest challenge, these fiction storytellers told me, is that they sometimes hit a creative roadblock, and that can be problematic if they are trying to meet a publishing schedule.

    Unlike a novel that is released all at once, if you have promised your listeners a new chapter or story each Monday, it can be difficult to continue a storyline without hiccups.

    That’s not to say that fact-based podcasts are not without their hiccups.

    Many podcasters — both fiction and non-fiction — told me they plan content several weeks, if not months, in advance to ensure they will have something ready to go live on the days and times they have set up for their listeners.

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    What will the format of your podcast be?

    Podcast formats include:

    • Interviews
    • Educational
    • Conversational
    • Non-fiction storytelling
    • Fiction storytelling

    While you don’t have to commit to a strict interview format, consistency is a good idea if you hope to build an audience.

    Some of the podcasters I spoke with typically use the interview format, but they also have a regularly scheduled episode where it’s just them either recapping past episodes or doing a deep dive into a topic on their own.

    Other hosts will dedicate one season to interviews, and another season to just sitting down by themselves with a microphone.

    If you set up your podcast to be an interview series you’ll need to line up people for content creation.

    You’ll likely need scheduling software, you’ll need to create a waiver or legal release for your guests to sign, and you’ll have to figure out how to actually host and record the interview.

    Some podcast hosts even require their guests to have a certain microphone to be on their show to maintain audio consistency and quality.

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    Are there branding considerations you need to think about?

    If your podcast is a hobby or new business venture, you may be creating a brand from scratch.

    On the other hand, if you’re treating it as a business marketing tool, you’ll need to consider your business’s current branding, goals, values, etc.

    For branding, you should start thinking about artwork including the image you’ll use on podcast platforms such as iTunes, as well as logos and other images you may want to use on your website, social media, newsletters and in all other messaging about your show.

    One final branding issue to think about is whether to trademark your show’s name.

     

    Virtual attorney Andrea Sager discussed trademarks and copyrights for podcasters at the Podcast Movement conference, and she explained you shouldn’t wait to trademark your brand.

    As she explains, “One of the top reasons you shouldn’t wait to file a trademark application for your brand is because you want the maximum protection possible. Once your brand has a registered trademark, the world will have notice of your registration in the United States. It will still be important to monitor your registration for infringers, but your registration will appear in a TESS database search, which is what many new small businesses depend on when choosing a name.”

    She went onto say that registering a trademark gives you “the ability to shut down an online business that is infringing on your registered trademark. If all of the online platforms close the accounts of the infringer, then you have shut down an online business without filing a lawsuit. This can save you an incredible amount of money and time.”

    I highly recommend her blog if you want to learn more about your virtual rights.

    Related: Trademark vs. copyright: Which one does your business need?

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    How long will your episodes be?

    The topic of how long a podcast should be was another heated one amongst several people I spoke with. And when I got home and researched it I couldn’t find a definitive answer.

    Unlike a blog post where the length can affect SEO, a podcast can be as short as 10 minutes or as long as 90 minutes.

    Some people I talked to said your content should be just long enough to address your topic. Others swore by keeping it to 20 minutes or less so that someone grocery shopping, on their commute, or working out could listen to an entire episode in one sitting.

    The best advice I heard is to ask your audience what they want in terms of length.

     

    You can send listeners a survey in a newsletter, or ask on social media. After all, you’re creating the content for them, so why not let them simply tell you how long they want the content to be?

    How To Podcast Woman Listening To Headphones

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    What’s your message?

    One of the podcasters I had a wonderful conversation with was David Hooper. He wrote a book on podcasting called “Big Podcast,” and he says the message you want to spread with your podcast “is the foundation on which everything else about your podcast will be built.”

    He went on to say that “a general message won’t be motivating to you or interesting enough to keep listeners engaged — you need to be specific.”

    In order to do that David says you need to ask yourself a few questions:

    • What are you excited about?
    • Where can you add the greatest value, and how can you do it in a unique way?
    • What outcome do you want for people who listen to you?

    David explained that your podcast’s message starts with you, but it’s not about you.

    It’s ultimately about your listener, and what they need and/or want to hear.

     

    In a way, you’re just a messenger delivering the message.

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    How often will you release new episodes?

    You have so many options for your release dates.

    Some podcasters choose to release 10 episodes at once so their listeners can binge on them Netflix-style. Others commit to once a week or twice a month.

    Then there’s JLD, who for a while was releasing new episodes daily. He’s since scaled back, but for several years his listeners got used to daily episodes of Entrepreneurs on Fire.

    Whatever you choose for your release dates, do yourself a favor and stick to your schedule.

    Like I mentioned earlier, consistency is an important factor in building a new audience. If your listeners expect a new episode every Friday and you suddenly take a few weeks off, they may move onto something else.

    How many episodes are you willing to commit to before you launch?

    Most podcasters I spoke to suggested launching with at least 5 to 10 episodes. The reason for this is the same reason you should launch your blog with that many posts. If you have a new visitor, you want to give them more than one thing to consume when they first “meet you.”

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    How to create great podcast content

    At some point, you’ll need to start planning what will actually be recorded on your show. With that in mind, here are some simple tips for how to create great podcast content:

    Winning at storytelling

    At first blush, storytelling may seem like it’s only for the fiction podcasters, but it’s really not.

    Storytelling is an important component for every podcast host. It’s the best way to relay your message or share a lesson with your audience.

    You’ll set the stage with an interesting subject, you’ll paint a picture, and then you will tell a story that will begin with a hook that keeps the listener there through the middle and until the end of the episode.

    Your story needs to have a theme or guiding concept — like in fiction, this key idea will give focus and meaning to your story.

    You need a strong character taking action, moving the story forward. You also need a voice, whether it’s suspenseful, impassioned, or comforting, that sets the tone for your story.

    With any luck, it will be so good that listeners will come back for another episode to hear another story.

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    Interviewing

    If you are using an interview format for your podcast, there is an art and a science as to what makes for a good interview.

    I have to share the brilliance from JLD’s session on top actions world-class podcast hosts take for every interview. Here are his best tips on interviewing guests on your show:

    Ask unique questions that your guests haven’t gotten before.

    This is sound advice because the truth is, the more popular podcasting becomes, the more likely your guests will be to have heard all the questions before.

    A great idea would be to ask your interviewee if they have any questions that they’ve never been asked before. Do this before recording day so they have time to think about it, and give you a solid question and answer.

    Give your guests the questions ahead of time.

    Don’t treat your show as a shock value news interview. The last thing you want is your interviewee to be stunned or tripped up by the questions you’re asking. That is unless you’re going for a Howard Stern-vibe or trying to entrap your guest.

    Chat before you begin recording.

    Don’t just dive right into your interview. Most people are nervous to be recorded. So, a warm-up chat helps calm everyone’s nerves and ease into the interview session.

    This next tip might honestly be my favorite.

    Don’t waste time introducing your guest and reading their bio. You can do that in post-production. Use their limited time to focus on the stuff they need to be there for.

    Remember this is a recorded interview and it can be edited.

    If you’re having audio trouble such as a scratchy mic, background noise, etc., take a moment to pause the recording and make adjustments and note when in the interview you paused. It’ll be better for everyone, especially your audience.

    Make sure your guest’s call to action at the end of the interview is clear and concise.

    How can your audience continue the conversation with the guest? Where can they follow them on social media, buy their book/course, learn more?

    At the end of the interview, after you’ve stopped recording, engage in a post-interview chat.

    As a past guest on a handful of podcasts, I’ve been left wondering if I did OK, when it was going to be released, and what would happen next. In the post-interview chat, addressing these concerns will not only help your guest feel more at ease, it will give you the opportunity to ask for a share once the episode is live, and continue building the relationship.

    I’ll add to this that you should also be prepared with backup questions on the fly. While you want to give your guests their questions ahead of time, some people will give short answers and need a little help. In other words, you may find you have to drag the material out of some guests.

    Think of it like the people you send a paragraph long text message to, and they send back “Yep” or “OK.”

    You need more than just a one-word response for a good interview episode.

     

    Therefore, prepare some follow-up questions for those moments that you need additional information, clarification, or for lack of a better phrase “filler.”

    Pro tip: Make sure you get a podcast release form from your guest ahead of time.

    Attorney Gordon Firemark has a free podcast guest release form you can grab from his website.

    Why do you need a release? As he says, without one your guest could demand you edit their episode a certain way, demand payment, force you to take the episode down, and a whole host of other issues. His best advice is to cover your rear, and protect yourself!

    How To Podcast Free Release

    Related: 11 ways to prepare for your first podcast guest appearance

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    Basic production tips

    Aside from storytelling and interviewing, there are some basic things you should do before recording your podcast episodes. These include, but aren’t limited to:

    Check all of your equipment before you begin recording.

    A test may be helpful if you haven’t used your equipment in a few days, or if you’ve had to unplug or restart anything.

    I met a gentleman who had done an entire episode into his microphone, only to realize an hour later that though it was being recorded, the microphone wasn’t plugged in.

    If you are interviewing someone, make sure they check all of their equipment as well. That’s why the pre-interview chat is so important — it’s a great opportunity to make sure everything is working.

    If you don’t have access to a recording studio, try to find a quiet space to record in.

    Many of the podcasters I’ve met actually recorded in their closets until they could afford better equipment and recording space.

    Another method several people told me they have used was covering their workspace with a blanket while recording.

    For additional ideas on reducing background noise, echo, etc., I recommend checking out this article.

    Be conscious of where your microphone is in relation to your mouth, and keep that distance throughout your recording session.

    This tip I learned from Pat Flynn is so simple, but I honestly never would have thought of it when researching how to podcast.

    He said, “If you drift away from the mic or even look away briefly, that will reflect directly in the sound quality of your episode. The key is to stay consistent throughout the whole recording.”

    Don’t begin recording without a plan.

    You don’t need an entire script, but you should have a flow in mind to avoid rambling incessantly.

    Try to avoid “ums” and “uhs.”

    Don’t let it scare you to the point that you stutter and get tripped up, but at least be cognizant of how often these filler words are said. Remember, this can be edited later.

    Keep in mind that your listener only has audio.

    You shouldn’t reference something your listener can’t see. They’re not going to care that your co-host or interview guest is looking at you with a funny facial expression because they are unable to see it.

    Try standing while you’re recording.

    This can provide better air support while you are speaking because there is less pressure on your diaphragm. You’ll also come across more confidently in your delivery.

    Use two microphones.

    If you have a co-host or are interviewing someone, make sure you have two separate microphones, and record the audio of each person separately when possible.

    Sharing a microphone will throw off the sound and make it awkward to talk to each other.

    Do some vocal warmups before you start recording and stay hydrated.

    Practicing some simple vocal warm-ups can help clear your voice and get any roughness out of the way.

    You may also want to consider drinking some water or tea while recording. Avoid soda, milk and coffee, however, as those beverages can cause coughing, burping and other sound distractions.

    If you’ll be recording several episodes, honey in a cup of tea may be a good idea because of its soothing effects on your throat and vocal cords. Take time between episodes to drink some water and relax your vocal cords a little as well.

    Some of the podcasters I met even use a humidifier the night before they plan to batch record to hydrate their throats.

    Understand that certain topics will be difficult to discuss

    Depending on what your podcast is about, you will need to be cognizant of the fact that some subjects will need more thought than others.

    For example, if you are bringing up the #MeToo movement, and women being sexually harassed or assaulted, you have to take a careful approach.

    One of the sessions at Podcast Movement touched on this beautifully. The creators of the podcast “Believed,” discussed their multi-episode documentary about former USA Gymnastics national team doctor Larry Nassar, and how for years he got away with abusing hundreds of women and girls for two decades.

    NPR’s N’Jeri Eaton, deputy director of programming and new audiences, moderated the session with “Believed” co-host Lindsay Smith and editor Alison MacAdam as they told the story of how the show came to be.

    Before they recorded a single episode, they had to get clear on the story they were telling, and how their audience would react. The intention was to be honest, unbiased, and sympathetic towards anyone listening who may have suffered the same way as Larry’s victims.

    Lindsay and Alison said they had an intense planning session to figure out just how much hand-holding would be necessary for their listeners and to make sure this wasn’t just a show about shock and awe.

    Rather it was a show about helping listeners relate to the narrative to see how easily something like this could happen, and why women are scared to tell their stories for fear of no one believing them.

    The truth is with hot button subjects such as abuse, diversity, politics, racism and many others, you will have to keep your audience and their reactions in mind.

    It’s important to have facts before simply jumping into an episode so as not to offend or misspeak. You can’t bring your own biases into the narrative — instead, you need to do a little research before recording.

    Even when your subject matter seemingly has nothing to do with hot button issues, it’s imperative that you plan ahead.

    Off-color comments and jokes can destroy a show and a host’s reputation — and if it’s related to your business, it could shut that down, too.

    While it’s easy to brush this advice off as “worrying too much about what others think,” the reality is your listeners will be from diverse backgrounds. How you handle what you discuss matters.

    Of course, there are some shows that intentionally cross lines and push buttons, but if you want your show to be a thoughtful one, this is something important you must consider in your content creation.

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    The technical side of podcasting

    For the most part, all you really need to do to record your podcast is plug your microphone into your computer, open your audio recording software, hit record, and start talking. Again, make sure everything is working properly before you sit down to record a full episode.

    It’s OK if you’re nervous the first time. It’s normal, and with time, you will become more comfortable.

    In fact, several podcasters I met recorded several test episodes that have never seen the light of day just so they could get used to being behind the microphone.

    Another thing that may help calm your nerves is the realization that you can edit it. You don’t have to be a pro in the beginning.

    How To Podcast Jared Easley
    Jared Easley, co-founder and co-organizer of Podcast Movement

    As Jared Easley, co-founder and co-organizer of Podcast Movement, says, the most important thing when you’re ready to start a podcast is to just start.

    It’s not going to be perfect, and that’s completely fine.

     

    Just start recording, and packaging your podcast for public consumption. The faster you do that, the faster you can start learning, tweaking, fine-tuning your voice and sound, improving your delivery, etc.

    Record your intro and/or outro

    You might want to hire someone for this, but however you choose to do it, your intros and outros should be ready to add to your podcast sooner rather than later.

    Some podcasters like to have a different intro every time, whereas others choose to use the same one.

    If you are planning on using music for your intros and outros, you’ll need to make sure you are using music legally.

    The music you use must be royalty-free, bought and paid for by you, or an original creation by you. Do your research into the music you are using before using it. It’s better to be overly cautious and safe.

    Side note: Some of the podcasters I’ve talked to online and at the conference used freelancers found on sites like Fiverr and Upwork for their intros and outros only to get hit with legal trouble.

    One had to remove every episode, re-edit with new music, and reload them. Another was hit with some pretty serious fines.

    There is a myth that you can use seconds of a song without getting in trouble for copyright infringement. Several attorneys that were at the conference told me this is completely false.

    Don’t risk your podcast, your money, your business or your reputation. Make sure whatever music you use on your podcast is legal.

    Bottom line: Be careful who you hire, and the music that is used in all aspects of your podcast!

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    Editing your podcast

    Even if you will eventually outsource the editing, it’s a good idea to get a grasp on basic editing techniques.

    This is especially important if you have a tight schedule because if you have to publish an episode by Tuesday and your editor is suddenly sick with the flu, it will fall on you. It’s better to have some understanding of what to do.

    While we obviously can’t go into a full lesson here on how to edit your podcasts, Pat Flynn has created a free tutorial for editing in both Audacity and Garageband. You can get them on YouTube here:

    If you aren’t using either of those software programs for editing, there is probably a tutorial for whatever program you have.

    Check YouTube and the website of the software you’ve acquired. Learn the ins and outs, and you might just surprise yourself with how quickly you can nail down the process.

    The other popular software programs I’ve heard about for recording and editing podcasts include:

    • Adobe Audition
    • Apple Logic Pro X
    • Zencastr
    • Hindenburg Journalist

    Note: I have not personally used any of these programs, so I cannot attest to their quality. I’m simply relaying information from those I’ve met on my journey of researching how to podcast.

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    Best WordPress plugins for podcasters

    Some of the plugins recommended to me are:

    Again, do your research, and read all the reviews before simply installing a plugin on your WordPress website.

    What about mobile recording?

    I have met several people who record podcasts on their phones.

    They said the trick for using a phone to record is to use a high sound quality microphone made specifically for recording audio with your smartphone and install an app made for podcasting on the go such as Anchor or Audioboom.

    How To Podcast Anchor
    Photo: Anchor App Screenshots on Mobile

    The most common complaint I heard about mobile recording is that the audio quality is never as good as using a computer.

    However, I did learn there are SaaS (software as a service) companies that can take your mobile audio and clean it up, making it broadcast ready. But again, I can’t speak to which of the options available are the best for the money.

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    How to publish your podcast

    Once you have recorded your episodes, it’s time to publish for the world to hear.

    Publishing to iTunes

    iTunes is the most popular to get podcasts, so you should start there. Here are the steps for publishing your podcast to iTunes:

    • First, take your final audio file and load it to your podcast hosting service. This is where your audio and video files will be stored on a server, and from there you can broadcast those files to users on the Internet.
    • With your podcast host, you’ll be given a unique web address — an RSS feed — of your podcast. Before you can load it to iTunes, Apple requires you to test and validate it.
    • Additionally, Apple requires the following for submission:
      • Make sure you have an Apple ID
      • Give your podcast a title
      • Write your description
      • Load your artwork
      • Choose the category that best suits your podcast—many podcasters recommend choosing up to three
      • Select the language of the episode
      • Mark whether the podcast is “Explicit” or “Not Explicit”
    • Once you have tested and validated your podcast, and provided the requirements mentioned above, you should be able to simply copy and paste your podcast’s RSS feed into iTunes and click “Submit.”

    At this point, you will need to wait for Apple to approve your podcast. This can take up to a few weeks, but could be approved in as little as one to a few days.

    Publishing to other platforms

    Many podcast directories actually use iTunes to distribute your podcast, but you may need to load it to others. The top four that most people suggest adding your podcast to include:

    For most directories, all you will need to do is create an account, add your RSS feed, verify ownership, and then press publish. Click each of the directories mentioned above for their instructions.

    Publishing to YouTube

    A lot of podcasters are choosing to upload their podcasts to YouTube as well to increase their reach and tap into some SEO juice.

    Simply create an image for your podcast, convert the MP3 to an MP4, add the image as a static graphic, and voila! You’ll have a video version of your podcast that you can load to YouTube.

    Your static image for Youtube should include your podcast name, the title of the episode, who’s featured on it (i.e. the host and/or guests) and a logo.

    Some podcasters choose to add an additional graphic to this static image that represents what the show is about, or who is appearing on the episode.

    For example, if I was interviewing an ice cream shop owner, my static image might have an image of the owner, their shop, or a scoop of ice cream.

    Of course, to convert your audio to a video file and add a static image, you’ll need video editing software. From what I’ve learned most PC users can get away with using Windows Movie Maker and Mac users can use iMovie for this step.

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    Tips for monetizing your podcast

    At this point, you might be thinking, “Wow, this is a LOT of work.”

    And, the truth is, it is.

    The work involved is the biggest thing keeping so many people from launching after learning how to make a podcast. However, it can be rewarding, and yield income over time.

    In fact, with a little planning, you could start monetizing from the moment you release your first episode.

    Here are some ideas and tips you can use to monetize your podcast:

    Crowdfunding

    Patreon was one of the sponsors and speakers at Podcast Movement and the crowdfunding platform provided some interesting insights:

    • Have a timeline to launch and a plan for how you will deliver rewards to people who are donating money
    • Start your donations at a minimum of $2
    • Make it scalable so that you aren’t doing a lot of work
    • Limit patrons to make it more exclusive
    • Only offer recurring monthly donations instead of one-off donations so that you can continue earning income

    Patreon’s advice for the easiest and most scalable rewards were:

    • Early access to episodes (24-48 hours prior to it going live for others)
    • Livestreams of your podcast
    • Special Q&A sessions after the episode is over
    • Shoutouts of your donors in episodes
    • Check out more of Patreon’s ideas podcasters can offer fans.

    Related: Top 20 crowdfunding platforms of 2019

    Sponsorships

    If you have a knack for sales, you could start asking brands to sponsor for your show. In the beginning, you might not be able to command much money, but it could be enough to at least offset your equipment, domain and hosting fees.

    I highly recommend reading Entrepreneurs on Fire’s Ultimate Guide to Podcast Sponsorships if you want to go this route.

    Affiliate marketing

    This is by far the fastest and easiest way some of the podcasters I spoke with have monetized their podcasts.

    They write show notes for every episode, and in the notes they include a section for products mentioned with affiliate links to those items. I’ve also seen people add a section at the bottom of their show notes for their favorite podcast tools, equipment and services — all with affiliate links, of course.

    If you want to use affiliate marketing for monetization, you have to check out “Pat Flynn’s Epic Guide to Affiliate Marketing,” which you can download for free here.

    Related: How to start affiliate marketing on your blog

    Pitch your business services at the end of every episode

    Let’s say you’re a coach or a photographer, and your podcast is a marketing tool for finding new clients. You could monetize your podcast by delivering a call-to-action in your episodes that you are taking on new clients, with a link to your website.

    Charge your guests to appear on your show

    While this is certainly not popular amongst podcasters, I did meet and learn of a few in the industry who actually charge appearance fees for their guests. How much to charge is certainly open for debate, but some charge based on how big their following is.

    When you’re just starting out, this might not be a good option for you, but in trying to be unbiased in this post, I’m sharing actual strategies I’ve heard people using.

    Sell premium content for “after the show”

    Some episodes simply aren’t long enough to dive deep into the subject you’re discussing on your podcast.

    As a result, you might want to consider creating virtual workshops or extended episodes that you sell for download to your audience.

    For example, let’s say you’re discussing how to get more mentions in the media. Your premium content could be a digital workshop you sell on your podcast that breaks down the exact strategies someone can use to get in the press.

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    How to get more podcast listeners

    Once your podcast has finally been launched, how can you get more listeners? Honestly, it’s the same way you would get the word out about any other venture you’re working on — you market and promote like crazy, and then you keep doing that even after you start gaining a large audience.

    Essentially, you’re going to have to market your podcast forever to keep growing. Here are some ideas to help you do that without breaking the bank in advertising costs:

    • Start by telling friends and family: Tell everyone on your email list and in your circle about your show and ask them to share it.
    • Share it on social media: Use relevant hashtags when you can, and share it to all the places.
    • Blog about it: You should create a blog for your show, and have a post for every episode complete with show notes so that you can take advantage of SEO.
    • Go to podcast conferences and meetups to meet people in the industry: I don’t even have a podcast and I came home with hundreds of business cards to check out and podcasts to look up.
    • Get on other podcasts: The best way I’ve learned to grow your podcast is to hijack other people’s audiences. Try to become a guest on other podcasts, and in your call-to-action at the end, tell people how to find your podcast. Guest podcasting is the new guest posting — so many people with and without podcasts are using it to reach new audiences.
    • Find a way into the media: If you can set yourself up as an expert in your field, leverage that expertise to become a source for your local media outlets.

    Like I said, marketing a podcast is a lot like marketing any other venture, so I highly recommend checking out these GoDaddy posts for further marketing help:

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    Conclusion and next steps

    We’ve covered a lot in this post. From the research I’ve done so far into how to podcast, I know firsthand how overwhelming all of this information can be. Here’s a brief summary of what we’ve discussed here today:

    • Get some recording equipment, but don’t pull out the credit card just yet. It’s OK to start with the less expensive equipment and upgrade as you grow your podcast.
    • Plan ahead for all aspects of your podcast — like the name, topic, format and content — before recording a single episode.
    • Record the podcast, edit it, and get it ready for publication.
    • Load it to your podcast host, and share the RSS feed to podcast directories, starting with iTunes (since it’s still the most popular).
    • Use crowdfunding, sponsorships, affiliate marketing, etc. to monetize your show.
    • Become friends with other podcasters, collaborate with them, and promote like crazy to grow your show.

    There you have it, folks. The down and dirty guide to how to podcast. I hope this has inspired you to consider creating a podcast for yourself or your business.

    I know it has personally inspired me to start my own, which I plan to launch in early 2020.

    To close things out, here are some additional tools and resources to consider as you research and prepare to launch your own podcast:

    Books:

    Videos:

    Facebook Groups:

    Want to launch a new podcast, or grow your existing podcast community even faster? GoDaddy has your back with fast and affordable podcast hosting.

    The post How to podcast — A complete guide to starting and growing a podcast appeared first on GoDaddy Blog.


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    Whatever your niche or sector, email marketing is a promotional medium that will generate amazing results — if you do it right. Harness that power for holiday email marketing and you stand to increase brand awareness, grow your audience and boost your bottom line, big time.

    Studies show that more than 50% of U.S. consumers check their personal email account more than 10 times a day. And it’s their favorite way to receive updates from brands.

    During the holiday season, eight in 10 shoppers are influenced by online information before making a purchase.

    When we say holiday email marketing, we’re not just talking about Christmas or Thanksgiving. There are countless annual holidays and celebratory seasons out there. By tapping into the right ones, you can transform a promotional email into an invaluable profit-generating tool for your business.

    Related: Holiday marketing checklist 

    Guide to holiday email marketing

    We’re going to show you how to create a holiday email marketing strategy for your business from start to finish — a definitive guide that you can use for seasonal success all year round.

    Without further ado, let’s get started.

    A few steps to get started with holiday email marketing

    Whether your holiday email efforts are centered on Hanukkah, Christmas or Groundhog Day, to enjoy maximum promotional success, you need to start planning early.

    Get together with your colleagues or team to decide on the holidays you feel will work best for your business and mark them in a dedicated content planner as early as possible. This will give you ample time to prepare, plan, create and deliver.

    But, before you start creating content, the first thing you need to do is get under the skin of your customers.

    Related: Editorial calendar — The content, keyword and SEO connection

    Know your audience

    If you don’t know who you’re aiming your holiday email marketing efforts at, it’s unlikely you’ll see any return on investment (ROI). That said, you should build a holiday-specific buyer persona so that your marketing communications will resonate with your audience.

    By building a solid customer profile or persona, you’ll be able to personalize your emails to offer a level of personal value to all of your recipients, based on their preferences and needs.

    Armed with your buyer persona (or personas), you should make sure that your existing email lists are up to date and your subscribers are segmented into sub-lists (such as repeat customers, frequent buyers, new subscribers, special offer redeemers, etc.) so that you can enhance the personalization of your content for maximum results.

    Related: Beginner’s guide to starting an email list

    Consider your email subject lines

    If you’re going to send out a holiday email, you need to get your subject lines right. It’s the headline that will make people click though, after all.

    Tip: Always aim to make your email subject lines short, sweet and relevant.

    Here are a couple of our favorites from Black Friday for your reference:

    • “Let’s sweeten the Black Friday Deals with …”
    • “Are you taking time for YOU this Black Friday?”

    Once you’ve taken the time to plan, get to know your audience and create effective email subject lines, it’s time to start rolling out your strategy.

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    Building your holiday email marketing strategy

    Acorns Greenery Illustrate Holiday Marketing Design

    When creating content for your holiday email marketing strategy, you should always try to speak to your customers on a personal level, remaining conversational while designing your emails in such a way that makes your intent clear and concise.

    These tips will help you create promotional email content that works for any holiday or occasion.

    Create a holiday-themed design

    When it comes to holiday email marketing, a digestible design coupled with striking themed imagery will excite and inspire your customers. And that’s likely to result in action — people buying stuff from you.

    By creating a holiday-themed email banner image and creating call-to-action buttons (“Buy now,” “I want one,” “Start shopping”) that match it, you’ll build a sense of festivity.

     

    Plus, if you place your discount codes, deals or offers near the top of your holiday email, you’re more likely to encourage click-throughs and increase sales.

    Related: How to use discounts and coupons to increase eCommerce revenue

    Share holiday gift guides, deals and teaser emails

    When you’re creating a holiday marketing email strategy, it’s important to provide a unique level of value while offering exclusivity and, of course, creating urgency — for example, “Quick, buy now while you still can!”

    With this in mind, when crafting a holiday email, employing these additional tactics to encourage your subscribers to buy your products or services will yield positive results:

    • Create a holiday gift guide with tips, advice and consultancy on what’s best to buy this holiday season.
    • Send out holiday teaser emails leading up to the holiday in question, getting your prospects excited by promising to deliver exciting seasonal content, news, and offers. Our guide to email drip campaigns will help you get your timing and ideas just right.
    • Offer exclusive holiday-based deals, offers and discount codes. Encourage your customers to take action by placing a redemption time limit on the offers you provide.
    • Send last-minute emails offering free shipping or reminding your subscribers of their deal, offer or discount redemption deadlines.
    • Offer one-click or instant purchasing options.
    • Launch a holiday-themed competition, encouraging your email recipients to enter by replying to your email or sharing a piece of content via social media. Brand awareness and engagement in one neat promotional package.
    • Go the traditional route by designing and sending out an eye-grabbing custom graphic or image to use as a greeting card.

    Related: What’s the best day to send a holiday email marketing campaign?

    Be aware: While encouraging action and creating urgency works, don’t over do it.

    Putting too much pressure on potential prospects to subscribe to your list or buy your products could hurt your brand reputation.

    Offer deals and incentives and implement redemption time limits, but whatever you do, be natural and conversational when speaking to your customers rather than forcing their hands toward the shopping carts. Essentially, you should create excitement and leave the hard sales pitch at the door.

    Produce a holiday marketing video

    As humans, we’re visual creatures. In fact, 54% of today’s consumers want to see more video content from the brands they subscribe to or follow.

    By creating a fun, inspirational or topical holiday-themed marketing video, not only are you likely to boost your brand awareness, but you’ll have a powerful asset to share in your promotional emails.

    To help you on your quest to video marketing perfection, read our guide on different types of video content to move customers through the sales funnel.

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    Holiday email marketing optimization and retargeting

    With your timing, content, deals, design, offers and visuals firmly in place, now’s the time to optimize your holiday marketing email efforts while thinking about retargeting subscribers to enjoy maximum value from your campaign. Here are four ways to do that.

    Set up referral rewards

    Reward repeat buyers or first-time holiday purchasers by sending a follow-up email offering an exclusive referral reward.

    The reward could come in the form of a discount code, two for one offer, first dibs on brand new products or free shipping for a month — the choice is yours.

    By prompting existing holiday customers to encourage their friends or relatives to subscribe to your email list, you’ll have a bigger, more engaged audience to target when the next holiday rolls around. A real win-win.

    Deliver post-holiday or follow-up emails

    Follow-up or retargeting emails work well when delivered near the end or shortly after your holiday marketing campaign.

    When it comes to following up with a holiday marketing email recipient, there are several approaches you can take.

    First, if a promotional email recipient has clicked through to a purchase page but for some reason, decided to stop their transaction, it’s possible to retarget them with a cart abandonment email.

    Cart abandonment emails allow you to re-engage your subscribers with some sweet holiday messaging while reminding them of their previous purchasing activities.

    If sent in a timely fashion, cart abandonment emails earn solid results. If you have a template up your sleeve that you can edit according to campaign or occasion, sending out these types of emails will take minimal effort.

    It’s also possible to send follow-up or retargeting emails with personalized holiday gift suggestion or, as mentioned, free shipping or deals with expiration dates. These approaches boost engagement while creating a sense of urgency.

    Whatever approach you decide to take when following up with a promotional email, it’s important to include a clear-cut call-to-action to guide your customers to the next stage of the sales process — whether it’s a product page or instant purchase shopping cart.

    But, whatever you do, make sure you avoid these costly mistakes.

    Tip: When creating calls to action for your promotional emails, keep it simple! Even adding a linked phrase like “Shop Now” can do the trick.

    Also, you should make your links noticeable. Most clicked links have slightly larger text or are in all caps, with a different color than the rest of the text surrounding them. Red often works well.

    Try to stick to just one link per email to keep your promotion simple and clutter-free.

     

    You also can try using a linked image. Visuals immediately catch the eye and you can use them to incite a call to action. The example below features a clickable image that yielded the lion’s share of the clicks:

    Holiday Email Craftsy

    Embrace email automation

    Email automation is a process that makes it possible to send time- or action-triggered emails to your subscribers with relevant content.

    With automation, it’s possible to create and schedule emails to be sent to different segments of your subscriber base at times when they’re most likely to be engaged.

    Essentially, you can set everything up and monitor your success with minimal intervention.

    For a seamless, time-saving email retargeting experience, there’s no denying that email automation is your best option.

     

    This practical guide will help you get started, saving you time and money in equal measures.

    Holiday Email Woman Holding Phone

    Don’t forget holiday email mobile optimization

    Studies suggest emails that display poorly on mobile are usually deleted within three seconds. And, when you consider that emails are now opened more on mobile than desktop, making sure your holiday email marketing communications are optimized across all devices is essential.

    It’s a make-or-break situation.

     

    Your promotional emails must be fully mobile-optimized, offering a seamless level of user experience (UX) while looking great on screen. Otherwise, your customers will put them in the virtual trash bin, posthaste.

    With testing, time and development, you can ensure that all of your emails work perfectly on mobile devices. But the most effective solution is to use an email marketing tool like GoDaddy Email Marketing that will optimize your designs automatically.

    Doing so will allow you to preview them across devices before sending them to your recipients, resulting in time and money well spent.

    Related: How to ‘sleigh’ holiday marketing campaigns

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    Research, track and refine your holiday email efforts

    Sector or niche aside, your marketing success as a business owner will depend on your ability to test and refine your activities for future holiday campaign success.

    Testing your holiday emails boils down to good common sense.

     

    In terms of checking and testing your emails before sending them, you might catch typos or broken links, or discover a better way to lay out a module. And by measuring the success of your emails after your campaign, you’ll be able to identify what works well in addition to areas that require improvement.

    If you don’t have a marketing team to test your emails, you should send a test to yourself or a trusted friend. It really does help to see your newsletter as it appears in your readers’ inboxes.

    Plus, if you’re starting a drip campaign, or continuing one, it’s important to ensure your campaign is functioning optimally.

    Here are two tried and tested strategies to ensure you holiday email efforts work for you time and time again.

    Benchmark your results

    By using email campaign data to your advantage, you’ll be able to benchmark your holiday email marketing efforts, empowering you to make vital improvements during the next seasonal period.

    The best way to benchmark your campaign efforts is by analyzing metrics — such as open rates, click-through rates and conversion rates — based on the performance of individual emails. You can do this through platforms like Google Analytics or your email marketing platform’s built-in performance data, using your discoveries to understand your strengths and weaknesses.

    By drilling down into your performance data, you’ll be able to decide the best and worst times to send emails, the types of content or offers that work best, and figure out which elements of your holiday marketing efforts need improvement, so you can take action where necessary.

    If you measure, track and benchmark your efforts on a continual basis, you’ll keep evolving, increasing your holiday marketing sales year after year in the process.

    Failing to do so will only dilute your promotional email efforts.

    Peek at your competitors

    The best thing about holiday email marketing is the fact that the holidays (in their various forms) happen every year, offering a fresh opportunity to dazzle, amaze and engage your audience every 12 months.

    One of the best ways to get inspiration for your holiday marketing efforts is to look at what your competitors are doing.

     

    Follow them on social media and sign up for their email lists to gather as much intell as possible.

    Peeking at the competition is great because not only can you utilize the best parts of their campaigns to your advantage by placing your own spin on their ideas and delivering them to your customers, but you can also spot content gaps to exploit.

    For example, if your competitor is doing a “12 offers of Christmas” campaign — sending out a different deal each day on the lead up to the big day — you could evolve this idea by delivering an email that includes a “12 days of Christmas advent calendar” graphic that your customers can open for exclusive deals and content.

    With holiday emails, the sky really is the limit. But it certainly doesn’t hurt to look at what your competitors are doing with their holiday email marketing activities.

    Related: How to find inspiration from your competitors (without stealing their ideas)

    Conclusion and next steps

    There’s no doubt about it: for businesses of all shapes and sizes, the holidays offer a prime opportunity for increasing your sales, boosting brand awareness and growing your audience.

    By planning early on and delivering content that will inspire as well engage your audience in equal measures, you stand to enjoy great success with your holiday email marketing campaigns.

    “Email has an ability many channels don’t: creating valuable, personal touches — at scale.” —David Newman, author of “Do It! Marketing”

    As a quick recap, here is a rundown of the best general practices for holiday email marketing:

    Be clear and direct

    Always have a clear goal for every promotional email you send to make your communications concise and impactful. Plus, if you’re looking to attract new subscribers, make sure your opt-in information is easy to read, letting prospective subscribers know what you intend to do with their contact details.

    Stay recent and engaged

    When dealing with your email marketing lists, make sure you remove any subscribers who are inactive or unresponsive, giving yourself the space to focus your efforts on new customers or existing recipients who are likely to engage.

    Exert no pressure

    Adding a sense of urgency to your holiday emails with deal and discount code expiry messaging, for example, is effective. But, don’t over-pressure your holiday prospects as it could damage your brand reputation. Make sure your communications are as natural as possible, leaving the hard sales pitch at the door.

    Test your emails

    Measuring, tracking and testing your emails is essential to your ongoing holiday marketing success. Testing your emails before you send them will ensure you capture any typos or formatting issues across devices.

    And, by drilling down into your performance data, you’ll be able to see what works and what doesn’t, empowering you to make improvements for future campaigns.

    Care for your customers

    Make sure you reward loyal subscribers with exclusive content and incentives, and always remember to offer a unique level of value with every single piece of content you send.

    Whether it’s a greetings card, gift guide or an exclusive discount code, you should always strive to keep your holiday email recipients coming back for more.

    This article includes content originally published on the GoDaddy blog by the following authors: Christina Berry, Emma Wilhelm, Macdara Bracken and Mira Lynn.

    The post Your definitive guide to holiday email marketing appeared first on GoDaddy Blog.


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    You hear about domain names selling for hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars, but how can you find out what your domain names are worth? Great news! GoDaddy has a domain valuation tool to help you determine the value of your domains.

    Related: The top 25 most expensive domain names

    GoDaddy domain valuation tool

    Hands Holding iPad Scrolling Through GoDaddy Domain Valuation Tool Website Page

    In the past, finding out the value of your domain would mean contacting an expert and trusting their expertise to give you a calculation. This could be inconvenient — especially if you have a lot of domains or if you are concerned the trust may be misplaced.

    Now you have a tool at the touch of your fingertips from GoDaddy.

     

    You can get a valuation of your domains from a trusted leader in the industry.

    Ready to learn more? Here’s what we’re going to cover in this post:

    • Why a domain’s value is important.
    • How the domain value is calculated.
    • How to use the free GoDaddy domain name value tool.
    • How to use the valuation results to your benefit.

    Let’s get started.

    Related: What is a domain name

    Why a domain’s value is important

    All domain names have some kind of value. While the million-dollar headliners aren’t as common, the domain name in your pocket could be worth more than you think.

    A domain is an asset with intrinsic value.

     

    Just like all the other things you own, your domain could be worth a lot. Think of a domain name’s value like online real estate.

    A beachfront condo in Miami is going to be more expensive than a condo in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and a storefront in New York or Paris is going to cost you a lot more than one in downtown Lincoln, Nebraska.

    Zillow has made things easier to navigate when looking for a ballpark idea of your home’s value or the value of that condo in Miami, but until recently, domain names have been harder to value in an automated fashion.

    We all know why understanding the value of your home is important. If you’re planning on moving to another city or daydreaming of a house on the beach, checking the home’s value on an automated tool is really pertinent.

    Maybe you’re sitting on one of those great names worth millions of dollars. Even if you don’t have a name worth millions, it’s a good idea to understand the value of your domains. You might find out that a domain you own is worth more than you initially thought.

    When it comes to domain names, the uses might be less obvious, but there are some cool things you can use the free GoDaddy Domain Name Value & Appraisal tool for.

    How domain name value is calculated

    GoDaddy’s domain valuation tool’s algorithm uses proprietary machine learning and real market sales data to estimate domain values, providing you with comparable domain name sales so you can price your domains with confidence.

    The tool also looks at similar domain names based on the TLD (Top-level domain) and SLD (Second-level domain) — the words to the right of and left of the dot respectively (e.g., in the case of Cars.com, cars is the SLD and .com is the TLD).

    Each domain name is different and the domain valuation tool factors uniqueness (among other things) into the equation, too.

    The length of the domain name is also examined. A domain with less than 15 characters has a greater value.

    Basically, the shorter a domain, the higher the value.

     

    This is especially true with the limited amount of domains still available using just the 26 letters of the English alphabet (excluding numbers, dashes and IDNs).

    In 2013, WHOAPI.com confirmed that all the four-letter domains are registered.

    Coincidentally, most domains less than four characters long are valued in the thousands, tens of thousands and even hundreds of thousands of dollars — depending on their TLD and SLD.

    How to use the domain valuation tool

    First, you want to visit the GoDaddy Domain Valuation & Appraisal page. In the provided box, type in the name of the domain for valuation.

    GoDaddy Domain Name Value Enter Box

    Once the name is submitted, the tool will provide you the valuation results along with an explanation of its value based on similar domain name selling prices, the value of the keywords, the popularity of the keywords and the type of extension being used — .com in the below example.

    Screenshot Of The GoDaddy Domain Valuation Tool Results

    At a high level, it operates in a similar fashion as appraisal tools in other industries do. These tools look for similarities in other goods that have previously sold somewhere and then figure out how alike or different your object is.

    For instance, Zillow considers, among other things, the prices of nearby homes that have a similar amount of space and amenities to determine an approximate value for your home. The GoDaddy Domain Value & Appraisal tool does the same thing, but with domain names.

    GoDaddy’s free domain valuation tool helps you figure out the value of the domain names you own — or one you might have your eye on.

    The tool also allows you to email or download and print the report for later reference. If you are shopping for a domain, it will tell you if the domain name is available and the price.

    If the domain is being sold by an individual, it will give you their asking price and instructions on purchasing it. If the domain isn’t registered, there will be a link to buy it on the front of site for the standard retail price.

    How to use the valuation results to your benefit

    Now that you know the value of the domain, are you going to keep it, sell it, use it or buy it?

    You might want to keep your domain

    Knowing your domain’s worth might come in handy when you’re looking to prioritize the renewals in your domain’s portfolio.

    Understanding the value of the domain you already own will help you rethink deleting it or allowing it to expire.

    You will want to make sure it is set to auto-renew so you don’t risk losing it if it expires by mistake.

    If you are keeping your domain, you will want to treat it with all the importance of physical property and keep it safe. Adding in extra protection to a domain name you own, like privacy with protected registration and added account security, like two-step verification, will help further protect your valuable domains.

    Related: What is two-step verification?

    You might want to sell your domain

    Seeing the actual value of a domain might even point you in the direction of selling.

    The valuation gives you insight into how much you can sell it at auction or privately.

     

    If you wish to sell it at auction, choosing a site with a lot of affiliates, like Afternic.com, gives your domain name the most visibility.

    If you have a good domain name, at some point you’re likely to get an unsolicited offer to purchase the domain privately. If you’ve used GoDaddy Domain Name Value & Appraisal ahead of time, you’ll have a good idea of the value it holds and whether or not the offer is on point.

    Related: 5 tried-and-true tips for selling domain names for profit

    You might want to use it

    Using a domain for customized productivity — professional email — or for a website is common. If you use one for an email address, the shorter and easy-to-remember, the better. If you need a domain for your website, find the one with the most market value to use for the address.

    Pro tip: Since the value of a domain is based on keywords, among other things, you will want to use the domain with the highest keyword value to connect to your website for better SEO.

    If you’re not using your domain for a website, you can actually make money on it by using GoDaddy’s CashParking service. All you do is sign up for the service and when someone visits your parked site, they will see ads that are relevant to them. When they click on these ads, you’ll make a percentage of the revenue generated.

    You may want to buy it

    The domain valuation tool can be used when making the decision to purchase a domain. If you are looking at a new registration, it will give you insight into its future value.

    If you are looking to purchase a domain at auction or from an individual, the free domain name value tool will let you know the market value — but that’s not to say that someone can’t list it for whatever amount they desire.

    Find the value of your domain

    GoDaddy’s domain valuation tool will give you insight quickly and efficiently on the domains you already own or domains you want to buy.

    While it’s still prudent to do your own analysis before determining the value of any domains, having this automated, efficient and free domain valuation tool at your disposal is a great place to start.

    Go ahead, see what your domain name is worth.

    This article includes content originally published on the GoDaddy blog by Joe Styler.

    The post GoDaddy Domain Name Value & Appraisal: A domain valuation tool appeared first on GoDaddy Blog.


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    In eCommerce, preparation is key to get ahead and capitalize on the increased demand that most companies experience during the holidays. The holiday season is typically defined as the last 61 days of the year covering the months of November and December. In this small window, some industries can see up to 30% of their year’s total revenue. This means that your marketing campaigns, tactics and website must all be working toward a robust holiday eCommerce strategy.

    Now more than ever, companies of all sizes have access to abundant resources and information that can help them gain a competitive edge.

    Bright Holiday Lights Represent Ecommerce StrategyOnline businesses have the advantage of having a wealth of data at their fingertips, literally. They can track consumer behavior and use metrics to plan winning marketing and sales strategies.

    For example, we know from data that the majority of online holiday spending happens during a five-day period known as the Cyber Five. This shopping phenomenon starts on Thanksgiving and goes through to Cyber Monday. A survey found that 54% of American consumers intended to shop during these five days of sales.

    Competition has ramped up so much that companies are running Black Friday-level sales as early as November 1 to try to secure a competitive advantage.

    So, how do you better prepare for the season that can make or break your company’s year? The answer lies in strategy.

    Related: 11 ways to get a jumpstart on holiday eCommerce planning 

    5 steps to measure and improve your holiday eCommerce strategy

    We will go through the following steps to make sure that your holiday eCommerce strategy results in a jolly good holiday season:

    1. Conduct a situational analysis.
    2. Identify your business objectives.
    3. Determine your KPIs.
    4. Set your strategy.
    5. Experiment with different marketing tactics.

    It’s important to note that not all eCommerce sites are created equal. If you’re new to eCommerce for your business, choose one or two steps to focus on first.

    Ready? Let’s take a closer look at each step below.

    1. Conduct a situational analysis

    Let’s start by looking at what your industry standards are. This will put things into perspective and keep you from getting confused by the generic numbers that tend to be tossed around. After all, you can’t expect an eCommerce store that sells durable goods to sell as many units as a company that trades in fast-moving consumer goods.

    Clarifying this early on will give you some insight into how relevant players in your market are performing.

    It’s always a good idea to keep tabs on what your competitors are doing.

     

    Carrying out a competitive analysis periodically is another way to make sure that you get ahead of the competition and stay there.

    Related: How to find inspiration from your competitors (without stealing their ideas) 

    Once you have outlined some key metrics in the industry that you cover, identify where your company is in its business life cycle.

    The current stage of your company will greatly affect how you interpret your performance metrics.

    Take a look at the five stages below. Which one sounds like you?

    1. Launch: Low sales volume with slow growth and the few employees that are present are wearing many hats.
    2. Growth: Sales volume is increasing rapidly and starting to realize profits. The company uses this cash flow to hire more employees to sustain growth.
    3. Shakeout: High sales volume but the growth has begun to slow due to saturation and competition. The company is well-staffed, but profits are beginning to decline.
    4. Maturity: High sales volume begins to decline along with profits. The company remains well staffed but has the money to research and develop new ways to explore new revenue streams.
    5. Renewal/Decline/Exit: Sales volume and profits are declining with the company no longer able to maintain a competitive advantage. The company exits the market.

    To figure out where you want to go, you have to know where you currently are.

    How to perform a situational analysis

    If you’re not sure, a situational analysis does exactly this. It can help you map out how you can leverage your strengths and seize opportunities to be successful.

    There are three main models to perform a situational analysis:

    All three work exceptionally well to outline strategic opportunities in your current business and will help you to find where your business is currently.

    Evaluate past performance

    With the strategic opportunities in sight, it is time to evaluate how well your holiday eCommerce strategy worked last year.

    This is where Google Analytics and eCommerce platforms come into play. We tend to overlook the vast amount of data that these platforms provide. Granted, the capabilities vary from platform to platform, but they almost always offer the key performance indicators (KPI) you need to make sure that your eCommerce site is streamlined.

    Take note of as much information as you can about your performance during the months of November and December.

    If you can go back multiple years, even better!

     

    Try to identify what strategy, campaigns and tactics you were running, too, since this will help you evaluate your previous marketing efforts so you can replicate successful campaigns.

    With this done, you’ll have a benchmark of your previous performance and be able to set goals for the upcoming holiday season.

    Related: How to make data-driven decisions using Google marketing tools 

    2. Identify your business objectives

    Holiday eCommerce Strategy Writing At Desk

    What is something that you would want to have if you were lost? Perhaps a compass? Business objectives play this directional role as you navigate through the market.

    Without knowing where you are heading, you are bound to run around in circles and run into stagnant performance.

    Setting proper goals needs to become second nature to your business. Whether they are related to customer service satisfaction or sales quotas, your goals should always be SMART.

    Specific

    There should be no ambiguity to your goal. It will act as your compass and your business’s heading must be clearly defined.

    Measurable

    A good goal is something that can be measured. For example, don’t set “increase website traffic,” instead, try “increase website traffic by 10% month over month.”

    Attainable

    While everyone loves an optimist, it is also important to stay realistic while setting goals. Set something that is achievable and challenging so you won’t be too demotivated if you miss your target.

    Relevant

    In what direction is your company going? The goals that you set should help your company move along that path. Something too far out of your realm could scatter your team’s focus.

    Timebound

    Give yourself a deadline. This will keep you on top of things and keep the goal from eventually fading into the background.

    Need some ideas for SMART goals? Here are a few examples for the holiday season:

    • Increase sales: Increase eCommerce sales by 10% in the 3rd quarter.
    • Market share: Gain 5% market share by Jan. 1, 2020.
    • Customer acquisition: Acquire 1,000 new customers in March 2020.
    • Awareness: Increase Facebook impressions to 500/week.

    The fewer objectives you have, the better. This will let you and your team focus on what is important. Otherwise, you risk becoming overwhelmed with all the different factors it takes to keep your site competitive.

    With your starting point realized and your goals set, it’s time to put everything into a marketing calendar. After all, your goals now have deadlines!

    Getting organized before the holidays hit is a sure-fire way to stay on top of your holiday sales and marketing.

    3. Determine your KPIs

    A key performance indicator, or KPI, is a quantifiable measure used to evaluate the success of an organization, employee, etc. In short, these are the performance measurements of your business objectives.

    In order to run your site successfully, you need to identify what does and doesn’t work, why it works and whether it will work again.

    Each KPI tells a different story of the same action that takes place inside your eCommerce store.

    How did someone get to my site? How much did they spend? Is my checkout optimized?

    All these questions can be answered by key performance indicators.

    Below are the top 10 KPIs most relevant throughout the holiday season. While 10 KPIs are not nearly enough to get the whole idea of how an eCommerce store is performing, the list below does a good job of summing it up.

    1. Revenue/sales: Total sales throughout a specified period.
    2. Average order size: Average order size of a customer on a single order.
    3. Site traffic (including source): Total number of visits to the eCommerce site.
    4. Conversion rate: Rate at which users are converting/buying. Total number of visitors divided by total numbers of conversions.
    5. New versus returning customers: Comparison between new and returning customers. Highlights loyalty and potential affiliates or advocates for the company.
    6. Subscriber growth rate: Depicts the growth of the subscriber list.
    7. Social media followers: Followers on all social media channels. Useful for gauging loyalty and brand awareness.
    8. Social media engagement: Measures interactions for your brand on social media.
    9. Click-through rate: Tells the percentage of users who click on a link or asset.
    10. Cart abandonment rate: How many users add products to cart without checking out.

    With these 10 KPIs in your back pocket, you’ll be able to accurately measure brand awareness, marketing efficiency, sales and site optimization. And that’s a win for your holiday eCommerce strategy.

    Related: 7 ways to use Excel to keep track of your KPIs 

    4. Set your strategy

    Woman Walking In The Snow

    A great tool to explore what kind of growth your company could undertake is the Ansoff Matrix. This matrix analyses and depicts the risk of four different strategies: Market Penetration, Product Development, Market Development and Diversification.

    Market penetration

    This strategy option offers a focus on increasing the sales of existing products in the current market to increase market share. This is the least risky strategy for a company.

    Product development

    A development strategy involves the development of a new product to an existing market. This strategy tends to be capital intensive and typically involves a lot of R&D or a partnership that gives you access to a new product for your market.

    Market development

    Unlike the Product Development option, Market Development would be the creation of a new market with an existing product. Think expansion. This strategy typically involves moving to another domestic or international market.

    Diversification

    Diversification would include the development of a new market with a new product. This is the riskiest strategy for a company, but also offers an entirely new revenue stream.

    The strategy you choose to pursue will depend entirely on your business goals, but with the Ansoff Matrix, you are better able to weigh the strategy against the possible risks.

    5. Experiment with different marketing tactics

    Marketing tactics are the strategic actions that direct the promotion of a product or service to influence specific marketing goals.
    Much like the KPI, there is a long list of tactics that can be used for any given strategy.

    With your goals defined, your metrics ready for measuring, and your direction set, you are ready to begin experimenting! Use a combination of these popular online tactics to concoct a successful holiday eCommerce strategy.

    • Price adjustment: The oldest and most used trick in the book, principally around the holidays. This tactic entails lowering your product’s price to increase demand. Everyone battles during the Cyber Five so sales are a great way to attract eyes. Warning: Be mindful of your margins!
    • Paid ads: Placing content online or in a public place (e.g., print or online magazines, Facebook ads, Instagram ads, billboards).
    • Pay Per Click (PPC): Placing digital content in media that is charged when clicked on (e.g., Google Ads).
    • Search engine optimization (SEO): Optimizing content so consumers can find your products more easily (e.g., websites or blogs).
    • Email: Sending email to consumers, subscribers or followers (e.g., newsletters, press releases, blog posts).
    • Endorsements/influencer: Getting an influencer to post or endorse your brand to their audience (e.g., social media post, mention in an email or blog post).
    • Advocacy: Getting customers to publicly share their positive sentiment (e.g. online reviews, shares on social media).
    • Affiliate: Paying affiliates to help sell the product via their personal channels. Typically, affiliates are paid a commission for each sale (e.g., Tapfiliate).
    • Co-branding: Collaborating with another brand to attract a mutual target audience (e.g., hosting an event with other like-minded businesses, creating a gift guide with other brands).
    • Contest: Creating a reward-based tactic where consumers have the possibility of winning a prize through engagement (e.g., website, social media, email raffle).

    Another note here is to remember mobile optimization for your eCommerce site.

    These days, it’s essential that websites and ads be optimized for all devices.

     

    Mobile sales during last year’s cyber week accounted for 54% of total revenue!

    Record, rinse and repeat

    Having an eCommerce website gives you an insider’s view that no brick-and-mortar store ever could. No matter what KPIs, strategies and tactics you try this year, measure and record all your efforts. This will not only save you precious time for your plans during the holiday season but also give you a solid foundation for the future.

    Each holiday eCommerce strategy varies in cost, effort and effectiveness depending on its execution, so finding the best plan for your brand will be trial and error.

    However, once you iron out the details thanks to your eCommerce data, you will begin to see results that you can replicate all year long.

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    This post was originally published on Dec. 12, 2014, and was updated on Nov. 12, 2019.

    The years move by quickly when you’re a small business owner. Blink on January 1, right after you’ve made your entrepreneurial New Year’s resolutions, and before you know it, it’s Q4 and the end of the year all over again.

    Entrepreneurs often multitask their way through Q4. They prep their business for the first quarter of the new year, celebrate the winter holidays with their team, and file required documents to remain in good standing with the state.

    4 business filings to handle before the end of the year

    Which types of paperwork do small businesses need to file before the year ends? Here’s a look at a few common documents and reports startups must file to stay in compliance.

    1. Annual reports.
    2. Delayed filings.
    3. Articles of dissolution.
    4. Reinstatement filing.

    Let’s look at each of these important year-end business filings in more detail.

    Editor’s note: Looking to get more organized? Check out Microsoft Office 365 from GoDaddy for the apps you trust, with GoDaddy’s award-winning customer support.

    Business Filings Organizing Paperwork

    1. Annual reports

    Filing an annual report is due — you guessed it — annually with your local Secretary of State.

    Is an annual report the same as an initial report? Not at all.

    An initial report, sometimes called a statement of information, is filed when a small business owner first incorporates or forms a limited liability company (LLC).

    Initial reports share basic information about the business and its activities with the state. This information includes the name and address of the business, addresses of its members, the name and address of the company’s registered agent, and a brief description of what the company does.

    Annual reports, on the other hand, record any changes the business may have experienced throughout the year.

    This includes updating any changes made to the business name and/or address, member addresses, changes in registered agents, or drastic alterations to business activities.

    You may submit an annual report that reflects many changes made to the business throughout the course of the year, or the report may only note a few changes.

    In either case, annual reports must be filed in a timely manner to avoid incurring penalties.

     

    When is my annual report due? This is a great question because due dates vary depending on the state you do business in.

    Your legal formation, from an LLC to an LP, also reflects the frequency in which your annual report filing is due.

    For example, if you have incorporated in the state of Alabama as an LLC and do business in that state, your annual report is due each year. However, if you incorporated as an LLC in Idaho and do business in Idaho, your annual report is due on a biennial basis, that is, every other year.

    The best way to avoid any confusion about annual report filings is to contact your local Secretary of State.

    They will be able to provide you more information about your annual report filing requirements. You may also find it helpful to refer to MyCorporation’s “cheat sheet” of annual report due dates, updated to reflect the current deadlines for all 50 states.

    2. Delayed filings

    In general, I recommend that anyone starting a business forms an LLC or incorporates as soon as possible.

    However, what happens if you plan on opening your doors for business in November or December? Should you still move ahead and incorporate the business in the few remaining calendar months of the year? Or is it more beneficial to opt for a delayed filing instead?

    Typically when a small business owner decides to form an LLC or corporation, the process begins as soon as they submit their application form and pay a filing fee. However, one should not expect that their effective date of incorporation will be the day after they filed the paperwork.

    State processing times can range anywhere from a few days to weeks.

     

    As a result, it may be difficult to predict the exact date you are officially in business.

    A delayed filing, on the other hand, delays the effective date of incorporation. This allows entrepreneurs to file their incorporation paperwork 30 to 90 days in advance and set an exact start date for the business.

    More often than not, small business owners will choose to set their start date in the next calendar year. Why would they choose to put it off until next year instead of opening their doors right now?

    Tax savings

    Once you are considered to be “active” as a business by the state, you are required by the IRS to collect, report and pay taxes for that tax year. This is true of businesses that have only been active for two months.

    A delayed filing allows you to avoid paying taxes for two (or less) months in business within that calendar year.

    It also ensures you do not pay other fees associated with starting your business, like annual report fees.

    Set a specific start date

    If you’re sticking to a strict timeline for opening up shop, a standard incorporation filing does not guarantee the business will be active within that timeline.

    A delayed filing helps guarantee a specific incorporation date for the business.

    You’ll know when you’ll officially be in business, and will be able to set the wheels in motion towards preparing for that exact date.

    Delayed filings are prioritized

    Concerned that your delayed filing may get tossed into a backlog somewhere? Don’t worry!

    Most states place delayed filings in a priority queue.

     

    This ensures that the state will be able to address and approve delayed filings quickly without you wondering when — and if — they’ll get to your paperwork.

    Get a head start elsewhere

    Does your small business still need to file for an employer identification number (EIN) or a business license?

    Opting for a delayed filing gives you a good sense of when your business will be officially active.

    Use the extra time to get the rest of your ducks in a row. Some of these may include but aren’t limited to obtaining EINs, business licenses and permits, getting a lease on a retail space and opening a business bank account.

    Related: How to get a business license

    3. Articles of dissolution

    There are many reasons why a small business may file for a dissolution, and not every reason is negative. Some businesses voluntarily dissolve because they have simply run their course or the owner has decided to pursue another venture.

    Once you know you are ready to shut your doors for good, small business owners cannot simply hang up a “closed” sign and walk away from the storefront.

    Corporations and LLCs must file articles of dissolution.

     

    This is a formal closure of the business, which alerts the state that the business is no longer active. As such, the company will no longer be required to file annual reports or continue paying state fees and taxes.

    How does a small business owner file a dissolution? Here’s a quick primer for steps to follow in dissolving a business.

    1. Secure the vote

    Let’s say your business was a corporation. Corporations have a board of directors. That board must be able to approve decisions made by the company.

    Before dissolving the business, you would need to meet with the board of directors and take a vote to pass the dissolution.

    This vote must be approved by a majority of shareholders. Otherwise, the business will not be able to dissolve.

    For LLCs, a formal meeting must be held with the LLC members to approve dissolution.

    The one entity that would not need to have a formal meeting or conduct a vote is a sole proprietorship. This is because a sole proprietor conducts business as an individual. Hence, they would be able to dissolve their business without requesting a meeting or vote.

    2. File articles of dissolution

    This is an application that announces the intent to dissolve the business.

    You must include the name of the corporation or LLC, the date the dissolution will go into effect, and the reason for dissolving the company. Are you registered to do business in another state? If so, file an application of withdrawal in that state. This ensures that the business is no longer considered active in another state or responsible for filing annual reports and paying state fees.

    3. File Form 966, Corporate Dissolution or Liquidation

    Let’s go back to the corporation example. If your corporation was able to secure a majority vote in favor of dissolving the business, it would need to file Form 966 within 30 days of filing articles of dissolution.

    4. Cancel business licenses

    Small business owners must cancel all business licenses and permits issued to their business.

    5. Notify employees

    Do you have a staff of full-time employees? You must inform them that the business is in the process of being dissolved as soon as possible.

    Make sure you account for their W-4 state and federal withholding and provide each employee with information about the date they will receive their final paychecks, among other important information.

    6. Pay off remaining business debts

    Once the remaining debts of your business have been paid, the owners can liquidate and distribute the remaining assets to members and shareholders within the business.

    Business Filings Black Man Signing DocumentLast but not least, take the time to review the “Closing a Business Checklist” provided by the IRS. This list provides additional actions small business owners must take before they close their doors for good.

    Remember to file an annual report for the year you go out of business, file final employment tax returns for any employees you may have, and make final federal tax deposits.

    Depending on the entity your small business incorporated as, you may also need to report the shares of partners and shareholders, allow for S Corporation election termination, and file final employee pension and benefit plan documentation.

    Links throughout the checklist will help guide small business owners to the appropriate PDF forms to fill out and file.

    It is a bittersweet, emotional process to shutter any business.

     

    However, filing a dissolution is necessary before the year is up. This ensures your business avoids paying next year’s fees and filing annual reports for a business that is no longer considered to be active in the eyes of the state.

    Related: What to consider before giving up on a business idea

    4. Reinstatement filing

    Sometimes a business accidentally falls into dissolution. This may happen if you forget to submit your annual report or have a check bounce on filing fees.

    We all make mistakes, and the good news is that an involuntarily dissolved small business doesn’t need to remain so.

    If you find that your business was involuntarily dissolved this year, you may file a reinstatement to reinstate the business before the year ends.

    Much like dissolving a business, reinstating a business comes with a few steps.

    1. Determine why the business fell out of good standing

    One of the examples listed above might be the reason. However, if you don’t know what happened, contact your local Secretary of State to find out why you were dissolved.

    2. File reinstatement forms with your respective state

    Depending on the reason why you fell into bad standing, a reinstatement application could be accompanied by another document such as a delinquent form. If you are unsure of which forms to file, reach out to your Secretary of State.

    In addition to providing more information about how your business fell out of compliance, they may provide a list of necessary forms to file to ensure you do not forget anything.

    3. Pay any outstanding fees associated with your business

    Generally, you’ll need to pay a reinstatement form filing fee. However, there may be other penalty fees associated with your business.

    Once these have all been paid and your application has been approved, you may successfully reinstate your small business.

    Head into the New Year knowing you have your small business back in good shape and the peace of mind of being back in compliance with the state once more.

    The above content should not be construed as legal or tax advice. Always consult an attorney or tax professional regarding your specific legal or tax situation.

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    Impulse shopping is a phenomenon among digital consumers. It’s a common tale: Every now and then, people hop onto their laptops or smartphones, and perhaps get distracted by an ad. Next thing they know, they’re considering buying a fun new item — because why not?

    Another survey concluded similar results, estimating the impulse shopping industry reached nearly $40 billion this past year.

    Ecommerce businesses can increase revenue by designing and optimizing sites that cater to impulse shoppers, especially around the busy holiday season.

    Gummy Bears

    10 tactics to turn impulse shopping into stone-cold sales

    Use the following actionable strategies to make it easy for impulse shoppers to navigate and buy from your website.

    1. Keep it simple.
    2. Highlight your best-selling products.
    3. Plan for impulse shoppers on mobile.
    4. Use humor to engage shoppers.
    5. Make the checkout process a breeze.
    6. Offer different payment options.
    7. Secure your website.
    8. Consider targeted promotions.
    9. Test your site for ease of use.
    10. Offer free returns.

    Grab your favorite holiday beverage and let’s dive in!

    1. Keep it simple

    Here’s a popular web design tip, but all the truer when dealing with impulse shoppers — keep your site simple.

    Make your product pages easy to understand by getting rid of any unnecessary content.

     

    Keep the focus on the most valuable information for consumers, like robust product descriptions.

    Consider using a show/hide or accordion function so that site visitors can access further details should they want them. This will remove distractions and create a minimalist product page.

    Once a shopper lands on their potential purchase, make sure your call-to-action (CTA) is clear as day. People need to know how to complete a sale — try for almost too obvious. Your CTA should use unambiguous terms like “Add to Cart” or “Purchase.” This isn’t the time for humorous copy or trying to include clever phrases for a purchase button (we’ll touch more on humor later).

    Related: Quiz — Are you making these website design mistakes?

    2. Highlight your best-selling products

    When optimizing a site for impulse shoppers, you want to create an effortless experience, which is also a good practice to target really any shopper. For most established eCommerce retailers, you likely know which of your products are best sellers and why.

    Make it easy for those shoppers who are slightly distracted and highlight those products on your home page, hero image, landing pages, or even via gift guides.

    Remember, you want to close a sale, so stick with the hits.

    However a potential customer found your page, especially if they’re multitasking, they want to see what they came there for, not be confused by different options.

    For example, if you’re an organic candy retailer and impulse shoppers found you through a targeted Facebook ad, they want to see your flagship products, not the new vegan candles you’re testing out. Now is not the time to pitch unknown, unrelated or new products.

    Related: Best practices for using images on eCommerce product pages

    3. Plan for impulse shoppers on mobile

    We have all heard it before — everyone is shopping on their phones nowadays, so if your site isn’t mobile optimized, you’re losing out.

    Woman on Smartphone with CocktailRecent stats from Google show that 80% of smartphone users are more likely to purchase from companies with mobile sites or apps that help them easily answer their questions.

    This is even more important when you think about potential shoppers waiting in the bathroom line at their local bar or browsing online stores in bed after a night out.

    To make sure your site is mobile friendly, use Google’s free testing tool or simply pull up your site on a smartphone. Make sure each page displays correctly (not distorted), loads quickly and that your mobile checkout is as seamless as the desktop version.

    Related: 5 things you must do now to prepare for the holiday shopping season

    4. Use humor to engage shoppers

    When done correctly, humor sells. Use this to your advantage and inject some humor into your eCommerce site to connect with shoppers, and potentially even nudge them to click that add to cart button.

    Creative content and copywriting can be powerful assets when trying to engage with your audience (especially a silly audience).

    If you feel like going for comedy is off brand or inappropriate, try to create relatable content in the voice of your target audience. Conversational copywriting can help you engage with impulse shoppers.

    Use conversational language to sell your products.

    Wristology Watch Description
    Look at how Wristology describes their watches as if they’re texting with a close friend. They use millennial-friendly lingo, abbreviations and phrases like “versatility for the win(!)” This speaks directly to their demographic.

    5. Make the checkout process a breeze

    If someone is impulse shopping, getting them to put an item in a cart is half the battle. After that, you want to make it an effortless process to finish the transaction.

    First things first, when it comes to checkout, do not force customers to sign in or create an account to complete a purchase. Research shows that 31% of cart abandonment is due to websites forcing users to create an account.

    Make the process quicker by including a guest checkout option.

     

    Crate and Barrel Guest Checkout
    Crate&Barrel has guest checkout as their first option on their purchase screen. Impulse shopping is fickle shopping, so remove all barriers to purchase.

    Another valuable tool to implement in your checkout process is a progress indicator.

    These interactive meters help shoppers understand where they are in the purchasing process. After all, distracted shoppers are liable to be interrupted any moment, so make sure they know they’re almost done.

    Drunk Shoppers Etsy Progress Indicator
    Etsy has a very simple progress indicator with just three steps, but it helps visualize how long it will take to complete the purchase.

    6. Offer different payment options

    Someone who is impulse shopping may not feel like pulling out their credit cards. Alternatively, if they’ve been buying several holiday gifts, they might be reluctant to enter their payment information for an impulse purchase.

    Remedy this potential hurdle by allowing additional payment options like PayPal or ApplePay.

    These are often saved on a shopper’s phone or browser, which offers them an easier route to buy the item.

    7. Secure your website

    Imagine the following scenario: you’re shopping at a site you’ve never been to before. All of a sudden, in a moment of clarity, while typing in your credit card number, you think; “Wait, this is a new site… is it even secure?” If you look up at the URL and see a little lock symbol, that thought can end right there, and you can continue on your merry way to more shopping.

    However, if you don’t see an HTTPS or another type of security indicator, you might reconsider.

    Even impulse shoppers are savvy shoppers. This isn’t their first rodeo — 84% of Americans are shopping online for something at any given time.

    To counteract security worries, purchase and install an SSL certificate and secure your checkout process.

     

    As an added bonus, Google uses security as a ranking factor, so not only will it bolster user trust, potentially convert more shoppers, but it will also help with your SEO. Refer to this guide for more info on choosing and installing an SSL certificate for your site.

    8. Consider targeted promotions

    Take a quick look at your analytics and see what days and times your site’s traffic is the highest. If you’re already seeing an uptick of visitors on times that might constitute impulse shopping (think late evenings or weekends), consider running targeted promotions during those times.

    If you see a fair amount of traffic but not a consistently corresponding number of conversions, promotions can make a big difference.

    Turn those shoppers into customers with a discount or deal specifically geared towards them. You could also set up free shipping for orders placed over the weekend.

    Of course, crunch the numbers to make sure any promotion is feasible within your pricing structure and profit margin.

    A recent survey found that 71% of Gen Z consumers would increase their purchase to qualify for free delivery. A small incentive might be the tipping point needed when it comes to either closing or increasing sales with individuals who are impulse shopping.

    Related: Product targeting on Amazon

    9. Test your site for ease of use

    A common website design mantra is to design your site like the user is distracted. (A UX designer even offered this service for a few years, after going viral with the idea of drunk website testing).

    While we don’t suggest opening a bottle of wine and A/B testing your site, you can test functionality and make sure it’s as simple and straightforward as possible.

    If you’d like to informally test your site yourself, here’s an exhaustive checklist of ecommerce elements and functionalities for high performance.

    For those who want to integrate tools into your testing process, here are 18 free options to assess your eCommerce website. Remember you want to go for the easiest possible UX so that they can still navigate (and buy) from your site.

    10. Offer free returns

    For retailers who still might feel apprehensive about targeting the impulse shopping experience, you may consider offering free returns. You will need to figure out the cost and see if it’s financially viable to offer depending on your product and price point.

    However, with that option in place, even if a shopper has morning-after buyer’s remorse , they can still return the product without more of an investment.

    You also want a happy customer, whether they purchased first thing in the morning over a cup of joe, or late in the evening after getting home from a night out. A recent survey found that 96% of consumers would shop with an online retailer again based on their return experience.

    What’s more, two-thirds of shoppers (69%) say they’re deterred from purchases by having to pay for return shipping.

    Related: Transforming retail returns into positive post-purchase experiences

    Get your site ready for impulse shopping

    Online shoppers love the ease of one-click-ship, finding products from the comfort of their home, and the convenience of buying with their smartphone. When you throw a little impetuousness into the mix, folks are all the more likely to hit that purchase button.

    Remember, as we approach the hectic holiday gift-giving season, more and more of your target audience will be shopping.

    Make your ecommerce site super easy to navigate and optimize pages for those visitors. If impulse shoppers represent a significant portion of the industry, that’s valuable business you don’t want to miss!

    The post 10 tactics to turn impulse shopping into stone-cold sales appeared first on GoDaddy Blog.


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    Finding success in today’s “convenience economy,” you must make the customer experience as quick and easy as possible. Empowering customers to book and manage their own appointments is a good start.

    For years, one of our property management clients looked for a self-service appointment scheduling system for their tenant prospectsThe client needed a solution that integrated with a backend property management solution while managing agent schedulestravel times and site properties. We felt this type of solution could apply to other industry segments as wellso, we built it in the Azure Cloud on Microsoft Dynamics 365 CE.

    Our self-service scheduling solution leverages D365’s portal technology, a proprietary algorithm for GIS-based site and agent scheduling, and a built-out integration with Offic365 for analytics through Microsoft’s Common Data Service (CDS). 

    Why does my company need a self-scheduling solution? 

    Glad you asked! We believe your business should use a self-scheduling solution for a couple of notable reasons: staff productivity and customer loyalty.  

    If you could free up resources dedicated to fielding appointment-related phone calls (booking, rescheduling, canceling appointments), your employees would have more time to work on high priority activities that drive topline business performance. By leveraging a self-scheduling tool, you can improve process efficiency and optimize staffing through automation. Not only does a systematic approach to scheduling make a real financial impact, but it also allows for better tracking and analytics capabilities.

    Using a self-scheduling tool will enable you to: 

    1. Know where your demand is and staff accordingly.
    2. Integrate with other key systems to provide seamless information exchange.

    In addition to improving staff productivity and financials, you can drive loyalty by offering customers an easytouse self-service booking tool. People demand convenience – they expect their goods and services how they want them, when they want them. In this “convenience economy,” businesses that simplify the customer experience create happier, more loyal customers. By offering your customers a self-scheduling option, you give them 24/7 access to view available appointment times, then book and manage their own appointments on their own time, not just during standard business hours.  

    How does Centric’s Self-Service Scheduling Solution work? 

    Our Dynamics-based Software as a Solution (SaaS) innovation seamlessly integrates with your company’s website to provide customers a portal from which to schedule appointments. 

    You can capture customer contact information as they enter the portal while leveraging D365 duplicate detection to ensure each lead is unique. The highly configurable appointment scheduling form interfaces with D365 to pull only available days and times from the Dynamics Resource Calendar. Because D365 dynamically populates the date fields based on the Resource Calendar, it is impossible to double-book a resource.  

    When a customer submits the appointment formD365 creates a new appointment record and adds it to the Resource Calendar, making the resource unavailable for more appointments at that time. You can easily configure any number of additional automated activities to occur at this time, such as sending confirmation emails or creating follow-up phone call activity tied to the lead record.  

    Depending on your business, you may also need to factor in travel time to and from appointments. Our custom-built smart scheduling workflow automatically schedules appointments for the correct duration by calculating travel time to and from each appointment.  

    Because D365 CE manages this solutionyou can configure these automated activities and workflows with no custom code, so your resources increase productivity and stay up to date on all customer touchpoints. You can also use dynamic templates and e-sign capabilities to electronically send out applications, contracts and notices with no manual intervention. 

    Would this solution work in my industry?  

    Chances are, yes! The potential community for this type of product is wide and vast. We believe this solution can work in any industry in which there is an opportunity to create a more “frictionless” experience for your customers! 

    • Cable and internet providers can schedule maintenance or installation appointments.  
    • Real estate companies can let potential buyers or renters self-schedule their tours.  
    • Healthcare companies can let patients schedule their own appointments. 
    • Insurance companies can schedule appointments for claims adjusters.  
    • Industry contractors, such as roofers, plumbers and others can make appointment scheduling easier.

    The days of scheduling appointments over the phone are numbered. By adopting a self-service scheduling tool, your company can expect to see several benefits – increased staff productivity, positive financial impacts, and higher customer loyalty.  


    Our self-service scheduling solution may be the answer for your company.

    Interested in learning more and seeing a demo?

    Contact Us

    The post Our Self-Scheduling Solution Using Microsoft Dynamics Empowers Customer Independence appeared first on Centric Consulting.


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    GoDaddy and WooCommerce have teamed up to make building an online store with WordPress easier than ever.

    Our new WordPress Ecommerce Hosting plan comes with a pre-installed online store powered by WooCommerce, plus a variety of premium extensions including Advanced Notifications, Memberships, WooCommerce Brands and more.

    Why a WordPress Ecommerce Hosting plan?

    Building a successful online store can be a daunting task. You need to choose the right hosting plan, the right website builder tool, and the right eCommerce platform.

    It’s complicated and time-consuming, not only for aspiring entrepreneurs, but even for web designers and developers.

    Our new WordPress Ecommerce Hosting plan dramatically simplifies the process. We believe it’s the easiest way to build a powerful and highly-customized online store.

    Here’s how it works.

    We started with WordPress

    WordPress is the world’s most popular website builder. It’s the top content management system (CMS) powering over a third of all websites worldwide. For comparison, the next largest CMS powers under 3%.

    WordPress dominates, and for good reason. It’s open-source software built by tens of thousands of developers around the world. That focus and community effort has resulted in the most flexible, feature-rich website platform available.

    As the world’s #1 web host, powering over 5 million WordPress sites around the globe, we see WordPress used every day by tech-savvy everyday entrepreneurs alongside web designers and developers.

    We partnered with WooCommerce

    WooCommerce is the #1 eCommerce solution for WordPress. It has unmatched functionality and usage, powering millions of online stores around the globe.

    On October 22, 2019, GoDaddy and Automattic (the parent company of WooCommerce) announced that we joined forces in a formal partnership.

    Together, we’re delivering an exciting new hosting plan that makes building a highly-customized online store easier than ever.

    WooCommerce is now featured on our WordPress Hosting page

    Now it’s easier to launch & manage an online store

    Start customizing in 70% fewer steps

    It takes 4 steps to set up a typical WordPress online store:

    1. Choose a hosting plan
    2. Install WordPress
    3. Install WooCommerce
    4. Install WooCommerce extensions (add-ons that enhance the functionality of your online store, such as the ability to auto-populate USPS shipping rates into your cart)

    We’ve combined these 4 steps into 1. It not only makes the process easier, but also lets you begin editing in 70% fewer steps than leading competitors.

    Guided to success

    The GoDaddy WordPress Hosting Ecommerce plan includes an “Action Center” that helps guide you to success. It will prompt you to complete key tasks as you build your site and set setup your online presence. Some of these tasks include activating your custom domain, optimizing SEO, utilizing Google marketing credits, or setting up a business email address.

    Free SSL, configured and automatically maintained

    The Ecommerce plan includes an SSL certificate that is 100% hassle-free. Once you assign a custom domain to your site, the SSL certificate will automatically deploy and from there the maintenance of the certification is 100% automated.

    WordPress updates done for you

    Ensuring that your site uses the latest version of WordPress helps keep your site secure and running its fastest.

    As part of the GoDaddy WordPress Hosting experience, we will automatically complete all WordPress software updates. No work is required by you.

    GoDaddy and WooCommerce bring unmatched value

    You can create an amazing online store without breaking the bank. With the GoDaddy WordPress Hosting Ecommerce plan, you’ll get free access to over a $1,000 of WooCommerce extensions.

    These extensions allow you to add unique functionality to your site such as the ability to sell memberships, sell personalized products, allow payment plans, and offer rewards.

    Is the new WordPress Ecommerce plan right for you?

    WordPress is the most-used website builder tool in the world. It offers an incredible amount of freedom and flexibility, making it the tool of choice for tech-savvy DIY entrepreneurs and website designers and developers.

    But with that flexibility comes complexity.

    If you’re already familiar with WordPress and WooCommerce, or are somewhat tech-savvy and willing to learn, our new WordPress Ecommerce plan will be a great fit.

    If you’re looking for a quicker, easier solution and don’t need the highest level of flexibility, GoDaddy Websites + Marketing might be a better option.

    Ready to launch your online store with WooCommerce?

    Start creating your online store today — plans start at $15.99 per month.

    The post WordPress Ecommerce Hosting, powered by WooCommerce appeared first on GoDaddy Blog.


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    Editor’s note: This article originally published by Dutch Hill on the Sucuri Blog.

    WordPress is one of the most popular content management systems (CMS) out there. That’s why it is vital to prevent WordPress hacking.

    Statistically, over 33% of websites currently run on WordPress.

    This post is not a “one size fits all” overview, as there are many other ways to protect WordPress from hacking. Here at Sucuri, we certainly advocate researching and expanding core security values.

    Here are some tips on protecting your site against WordPress hacks.

    1 – Use strong passwords & management

    Many WordPress websites are hacked because hackers find a way to discover the website credentials, which is called brute force attacks. The risks of suffering from brute force attacks significantly decrease when you use strong passwords.

    Creating complex and difficult passwords is a great way to prevent this from occurring. Multiple services and applications require a username and password , for example, wp-admin logins, databases, FTP/sFTP, etc. It can be daunting to even think of how to remember dozens of passwords without either writing them down or using the same password across the board (neither of which is recommended).

    Fortunately, you can use a password manager to store and encrypt passwords safely. Though there are several, one password manager we recommend is LastPass.

    LastPass - Password Generator
    LastPass – Password Generator

    LastPass is an app/extension that both creates and remembers your passwords so you don’t have to. It will even alert you if some of your passwords are too weak.

    You can watch this short video on how to create a strong password:

    2 – Use the Principle of Least Privilege

    Don’t delegate access to users/developers you don’t 100% trust. If you absolutely have to give access, be sure to restrict it. Grant the lowest set of privileges allowable for each user’s tasks.  And once their task is complete, we highly recommended that you remove their access immediately. These are the actions behind the principle of least privilege.

    Here’s a simple quote that sums it up best:

    “There is only two people I can trust; you and me – and I’m not so sure about you”. ― Shon Harris, CISSP Boxed Set, Second Edition

    3 – Keep WordPress plugins secure & updated

    WordPress at its core is secure, with developers who constantly update the CMS, as well as a broad community who help further secure it by publishing plugins to assist in these efforts. Installing too many plugins without being certain they are secure can lead to WordPress vulnerabilities or your WordPress site being hacked.

    The community built around WordPress is entirely open source, meaning anyone and everyone has access to the code/content of plugins and themes. If you are interested in plugin security, we have hosted a webinar on how to know for sure if a WordPress plugin is secure.

    Think of each plugin you install as an extra door into your WordPress site. If you have the best security methods only deployed on the front and back door but forget about securing the ‘side entrances’, you are essentially inviting hackers to exploit these areas too.

    Though installing certain plugins can help alleviate the load of some tasks and even add cool and snazzy functionality to your WordPress site, ultimately these plugins can be used against you. Here’s a recent exploit we found within a WordPress Live Chat Plugin.

    In this video, we explain the importance of keeping everything in your website updated:

    4 – Use a WordPress hardening method

    You can use hardening methods to prevent WordPress from hacking, such as:

    • Adding additional allow/deny rules via your .htaccess file,
    • Restricting login URLs to specific IP range(s),
    • Protecting your wp-config file,
    • Blocking includes,
    • Preventing image hotlinking, as well as preventing directory browsing,
    • Not logging in on public WiFi or not using VPN on public WiFi,
    • Deleting unused WordPress plugins and files,
    • Keeping your server clean.

    Most website firewalls apply these methods for you by default.

    5 – Prevent a WordPress hack with a website firewall

    In 2018, among all hacked websites that Sucuri worked with, WordPress accounted for over 90% of all CMSs hacked.

    Infected Websites Platform Distribution
    Infected Websites Platform Distribution

    A common issue we stumble upon often, is that users sometimes cannot update their WordPress version due to incapabilities with plugins or themes. This can leave a WordPress site vulnerable to hacks.

    In these instances, we recommend enabling a WordPress firewall to virtually patch the site for you.

    A great option to prevent your WordPress website from hacks is enabling a Web Application Firewall (WAF).

    A WAF is essentially a pass through for traffic that visits your site, filtering out bad requests (hack attempts, exploits, DoS, etc.) and allowing the good ones to go through.

    How a WAF Works
    How a Website Application Firewall (WAF) Works

    A WordPress firewall:

    • Prevents a future hack by detecting and stopping known hacking methods and behaviors to keep your WordPress site protected against infection in the first place.
    • Adds a virtual security update. Hackers quickly exploit vulnerabilities in WordPress plugins and themes. A good website firewall will patch holes in your WordPress website software even without security updates.
    • Blocks brute force attacks. A WordPress firewall should stop any unwanted visitors from accessing your wp-admin or wp-login page and using brute force automation to guess your password.
    • Mitigates Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks which attempt to overload a server or an application resources. By detecting and blocking DDoS attacks, a WAF makes sure the WordPress site is available even if attacked with a high volume of fake visits.
    • Optimizes WordPress performance. Most website firewalls will offer to cache for faster global page speed in order to keep your visitors happy and to lower bounce rates while improving website engagement, conversions, and search engine rankings.

    The WordPress firewall Sucuri offers is a cloud-based WAF that both stops and prevents website hacks and attacks. Simultaneously, it speeds up your site by using our Content Delivery Network (CDN). No installation is needed—with a simple switch of your DNS A Record, it is enabled.

    In the video below, we explain how to protect your website with a website firewall.

    Conclusion

    Implementing these 5 ways listed above will not perfectly secure and make an impenetrable system from hacks—nothing can. Consider them useful tips on risk reduction/elimination.

    Remembering these basic concepts when creating or working on your WordPress website can help you prevent WordPress hacks from occurring. If you are looking for peace of mind and professional help, sign up for our website security platform and let us take care of your website security for you.

    The post WordPress hacks: 5 ways to protect WordPress from hacking appeared first on GoDaddy Blog.


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    If you’re a small business owner, you already know that money rarely stays in one place. Cash comes in through sales and goes out when you pay expenses. There’s a flow to it, and whether or not the term is part of your daily vocabulary, cash flow is king.

    In an ideal scenario, your business would have more cash coming in than going out.

     

    That would be considered a positive cash flow. In reality, though, bills tend to recur every month, employees continually need to be paid, and unexpected expenses crop up.

    This is when having cash flow goes from a theoretical nice-to-have to a critical piece of your business’s financial jigsaw puzzle.

    Related: Resources for Funding a Business

    Overcoming cash flow challenges

    Woman on Mountain Peak Symbolizes Overcoming Cash Flow Challenges

    In fact, according to a recent survey conducted by Kabbage, 30% of small business owners cited cash flow as their biggest challenge in the first year. A lot of that is due to a lack of experience.

    When you’re just starting out, it takes time to figure out how to manage your cash.

    Unfortunately, poor cash management is one of the biggest reasons small businesses fail.

    Cash flow affects every small business, but it can be especially tricky for labor-intensive industries like restaurants and construction. To be successful in those industries, the more in tune with your daily inflow and outflow, the better.

    If you’re on top of what’s coming in and out, you put yourself in a better position to strategically find ways to minimize volatility.

    Fewer than 50% of small business owners consider themselves generally knowledgeable about accounting and finance. If finance is not your area of expertise, finding innovative strategies to manage cash flow can involve a fair amount of trial and error.

    For the small business owners who don’t feel comfortable with running their business finances, it’s not uncommon for those owners to rely heavily on outside accountants to handle their books. Many providers that work with small businesses have started offering cash flow consulting as a service.

    Devising homegrown strategies like developing vendor relationships to gain more flexibility can also be helpful.

    There’s nothing wrong with reaching out to professionals for a step up.

    Related: Small business funding options

    Pivoting for growth

    Once small business owners master their cash flow, their attention usually turns to growth. This often means gaining access to additional capital.

    In their study, Kabbage found that 20% of small business owners felt they would need more money to reach their long-term growth goals.

    In the early years, traditional funding through banks can be hard to come by. Some turn to relatives or credit cards to get the cash they need.

    In recent years, though, mobile lending platforms have gained popularity among small businesses in search of fast, flexible funding solutions.

    After gaining access to additional working capital, the conversation shifts to figuring out the best way to spend it.

    The most common uses that small business owners cite are purchasing new inventory, expanding their operations and hiring additional staff.

    How funds are utilized varies greatly depending, but successful small business owners say that the ability to invest money back into their enterprise was a major factor in their success.

    Learn more about managing cash flow for small businesses

    If you’re ready to go deeper, read Kabbage’s Guide to Cash Flow Management for tips and insights on handling cash in, cash out and cash at rest.

    The post Why thinking about cash flow matters to small businesses appeared first on GoDaddy Blog.


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    This week on Centric’s Biz and Tech Talks, we take a look at continued learning in a professional capacity. We share tips and tricks to make furthering education less daunting.


    The continuing development of skills and knowledge is more critical than ever, even beyond the professional realm. For many of us, though, it leaves us with numerous questions: What can I do to be a lifelong learner? How can I fit that into my already packed schedule?  

    In this episode of Centric’s Biz and Tech Talks, we talk with Erynn Truex, learning manager for Centric, about her answers to those questions. We talk about the importance of continuing education and how to take steps towards professional learning. We break down specific activities everyone can do to make the most of their learning and experience.  

    We dive into the learning process itself, discussing learning styles and platforms. After all, learning is not limited to reading a book, listening to a podcast, or attending a seminar. It is also about applying your day to day experience, as well as understanding how to unlearn something when it’s no longer applicable or timely.   

    No matter how you learn or what you’d like to learn, Erynn’s tips will help.

    John Kackley is a senior manager and program manager at Centric Chicago.

    Listen Here

    The post [Podcast] Make Continued Learning Easy with a Learning Toolkit appeared first on Centric Consulting.