Can You Start a Business When You’re Collecting Unemployment Benefits?

You’ve been laid off from your job and you’re applying to collect unemployment benefits. But instead of looking for another job, this time you want to finally start a business, like you’ve been dreaming of for years. Can you use your unemployment benefits to finance your startup?

Back in 2012, the Department of Labor announced its initiative for a program called Self-Employment Assistance (SEA) that would allow people collecting unemployment benefits to keep getting those benefits while starting their own businesses.

At the time, of course, the nation was just recovering from the Great Recession. Today, the employment picture is much brighter and the unemployment rate is lower. But still, not everyone is happy to remain an employee (if you were, you probably wouldn’t be reading this). And despite low unemployment rates, there are still many people who are eligible for unemployment benefits for one reason or another.

Each state has its own rules regarding who can file for unemployment benefits and how to qualify. However, most of them require the recipients of unemployment benefits to continually prove that they are searching for a new job, or lose their benefits.

The DOL encouraged states to create their own SEA programs and at one point, provided funding to do so. Today, however, only a few states offer SEA programs:

Of course, this isn’t “free money” or easy money—far from it. In order to receive self-employment assistance benefits, recipients generally must prove that they are starting a legitimate business by taking steps such as developing a business plan and attending courses to gain the business skills they’ll need to start their own ventures. (If you are in one of the four states offering SEA programs, check with your state for specifics.)

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So what if you’re not in one of those four fortunate states? Generally, any income that you earn while drawing unemployment benefits will reduce your benefits. Of course, ultimately you want to rely on your self-employment income, but in the meantime, you might need those benefits to keep going. So while you can start a business during your period of unemployment, you need to be careful about how you do so.

Here are some tips for making the most of your period of unemployment by launching a sustainable business venture:

  • Follow the state rules. Be sure you clearly understand how your state’s unemployment benefits work. It’s important to cross all the t’s and dot all the i’s if you want to receive the benefits you are entitled to. This includes honestly reporting any self-employment income (or other income) that you generate.
  • Look for employment in the industry you want to enter. Are you planning to start a business in an industry that’s new to you? For example, maybe you were laid off from your bookkeeping job and now want to turn your passion for home-baked pies into a food business. See if you can apply for jobs at bakeries, food-service businesses, or other places where you can learn more about the industry you hope to enter. (Just don’t try to work for a business directly competitive with the one you hope to establish, and clarify any noncompete agreements before accepting a job.)
  • Look for a part-time job. A part-time job could be just what you need to keep yourself afloat while your new business gets off the ground. However, be sure to check if looking for part-time work will affect your unemployment benefits. Do you have to look for full-time work in order to keep receiving benefits?
  • Make the most of your time. You have to spend a lot of time looking for work to keep your unemployment benefits going. After hours searching job boards or sending resumes, working on your business idea may be the last thing you want to do. However, it’s important not to waste this valuable window while you have both some income and some time to work on your idea.

RELATED: 7 Ways the U.S. Government Helps Small Businesses

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How Employees Can Remedy a Toxic Workplace

Welcome to the toxic workplace! You may have already been here before, actually. Maybe you worked for a business you knew was bad out of necessity. You might have taken the job for a paycheck, desperate to find work, only to discover a unpleasant company culture and dysfunctional boss lurking beneath the surface.

The inverse could have happened, too. You might have started a rewarding position, only to watch it gradually fizzle over time. Great leadership was phased out, perks and benefits were cut, and the overall atmosphere diminished as talented employees saw the warning signs and exited quickly.

A toxic work environment isn’t one where you had a bad day or made a couple of mistakes one time. It’s a place where negativity champions every aspect of the business every day. This kind of atmosphere impacts your own sense of self, causing your health to take a nosedive and making you less productive. Instead of feeling confident and proud of what you have accomplished, you’re wracked with fear and worry that everything you do is wrong. You want to speak up and initiate change, but are too afraid of the consequences.

What can you, a lowly employee, do when confronted with the reality of spending your days in a toxic workplace?

Before you dive into taking action, you must first recognize and understand what makes the company toxic—and not having your favorite snacks stocked in the break room doesn’t count. You may have spotted common red flags at the beginnin, or found out about them later.

  • There’s a high employee turnover rate; you’re losing a handful of people on a monthly basis. Everyone who sticks it out gossips about how awful the business is and how much they hate their boss, manager, and even the coworkers they gossip with. (You may gossip with coworkers, but you’re not immune to being the target of said gossip.)
  • Higher up individuals routinely go on power trips with employees they perceive to be beneath them. They’ll never provide constructive feedback, but they give “this is wrong and you are stupid” criticisms.
  • You don’t feel good being there, physically. It’s not uncommon for you and your fellow coworkers to call in sick on a regular basis.
  • You have legitimate complaints, but can’t approach anyone with them. You don’t have anyone you can trust or think anyone will listen. Not even HR seems like they can help out—and that hurts.

Despite it all, you still believe in your job and what you do. (If not, you would have been part of the turnover crowd a long time ago.) You want to make changes and believe shifting to a transparent environment can be done.

If you want to remedy a toxic situation for the better, here’s what you need to do.

Confront the toxic environment’s source

The toxicity may not be your boss or any one person within the company. There could be a variety of factors that have had a domino effect over the years aiding to the poor work environment. It’s time for you to do a little research and find out what went wrong.

Try to connect with former employees who worked for the company years ago—you can find them on LinkedIn. Ask them how they remember the business. Let them share with you what the company did right and try to uncover a common thread to the slippery slope downward. You can keep all of this information confidential, of course, but you want it on your side. The more you know what led to the creation of the toxic workplace, the easier it will be for you to find a way to end its reign.

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Be the example

Don’t waste your time on idle gossip. Be the employee who brings positivity to conversations and turns around catty chatter for constructive collaboration. Discuss with coworkers projects you would like to get off the ground running and see who wants to join you. Encourage everyone to contribute ideas and applaud their brainstorming efforts. Work hard, map out a strategy, then take your plan to the boss along with your coworkers. Share what you’ve been doing and how this particular initiative can provide a return on investment for the business.

You can’t change anything if you stay quiet or refuse to speak up and break the mold. Being the example ultimately means being brave enough to leave fear at the door. Your behavior will speak volumes about the type of leadership capabilities you possess and the kind of trust and faith your teammates have in you.

Be kind

There is a phrase “Kill them with kindness” that is often used in situations like this. The gist is that no matter how many people are mean to you, you should not acknowledge their behavior and you should always be kind. This tends to throw individuals for a loop. After all, they’re expecting you to sink to their level.

However, there’s something about this phrase that feels forced to me. It’s almost as though you’re only focusing on being extra kind the to people who have wronged you specifically. Why not treat everyone with a mutual amount of kindness and respect? Be kind to everyone you work with, no matter which department they may be in. Act as their cheerleader. Applaud their hard work and motivate the team to keep on doing great things!

RELATED: 5 Problem Employees That Bring Down Companies—And How to Fix Them

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Fellow Generation-Xers: Here’s How We Can Influence Our Workplaces for the Better

By Karyn Chylewski

As far as age and impact go, for us Gen-Xers, some may say we are past our so-called prime, that we are on the verge of being dismissed, becoming irrelevant, and have had #ourturn. With all the buzz around millennials and their coming of age, as far as they are concerned, it is now #theirtime. Baby boomers . . . well, with all due respect to my parent’s generation, they are definitely at the tail end. While many boomers currently are in very high leadership roles, there are 10,000 new boomers who turn 65 every day.

Gen-Xers, though, are sitting pretty. We have enough life experience that we are well-respected by our BBB’s (Baby-Boomer-Bosses). In fact, they relish that we have been on this earth long enough to be able to go without texting for five minutes, that we remember how to have a face-to-face conversation or even one on the phone, and that we have the patience to spell out btw.

Because of their age and time on this earth, they tend to get frustrated by youth who “have had everything handed to them on a silver platter” (don’t worry, every generation says that one about the next), and they are still wrapping their heads around 9th place ribbons. (No, millennials, that joke will never get old.)

As Gen-Xers, we understand that we are all doomed for some level of crotchetyness one day, so we have enough patience to let our BBB’s vent, brag, and do whatever they like without taking it personally. BBBs love that we know how to write a check and balance a checkbook (not that anyone does either anymore, but we could) and that we know how to write period (the slow death of cursive).

Millennials, the generation right on the cusp of their turn at world domination, outwardly tolerate us, but inwardly love that we are by their side. We are their mentors, coaches, buffers to the BBBs, and confidants to help them maneuver the turbulent times of entering leadership roles in the workplace, and keeping the balanced life that we all want with it.

They value our opinions, look forward to learning from us, and love trading secrets in preparation for them to light their own fire. Human interaction . . . teaching them how to handle conflict, survive difficult client scenarios, deal with peer jealousy, and to eat a little crow when necessary, are the lessons we can pass on to these tech-savvy grasshoppers. And they graciously tolerate a jab here and there, because they secretly crave our advice.

Millennials love shortening the learning curve. They grew up with life hacks and are more than willing to learn from others who have been there done that. As you mentor them, you’ll enjoy seeing their eyes light up when you validate an idea or when they are successful in some way and experience the thrill of a work victory. And they will need you when they get passed on for the promotion, are chewed out by a disgruntled client, or when there just doesn’t seem like there’s a hope left in the world. They will need to know how you survived, and that they will, too.

So while each generation is usually vying for the title of “Coolest/Smartest/Most Value Driven/Purpose Minded/Well Off/Every Other Superlative Generation” right now, I’d say being a Gen-Xer is pretty darn awesome. So how can you embrace this opportunistic time? Easy!

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How to shine brightly while bridging the generation gap

1. Be the connection. Sitting pretty in the middle means you relate to people up and down from you. You can be an incredibly effective go-between the newly arrived millennials and the established BBBs. Break down uncertainty and build camaraderie.

2. Mentor. This is imperative to create longevity of leadership within your company. Plus, there is something exciting about taking someone under your wing. You can have them suffer through stories of “the old days” by weaving in lessons of patience as you describe the anguish of inventories without barcodes. In return, they can teach us what #dubstepping is so the kids think we’re on it.

3. Diversity and inclusion. When you create teams or are working on a project, include not only leaders of departments, but different rungs of the ladder (this allows for inclusion of young and old, of boots on the ground); it promotes thinking and understanding.

4. Partner teach. Successful leaders are amazing at developing key relationships so the machine works successfully. Have your millennials share their expertise, and have BBBs do the same. Both are so knowledgeable within their peer group—you have experts and dreamers in your midst—embrace that. Set up coffee talks with yourself, your mentee, and your BBB. Everyone offers a five to 10 minute insight gift, and all walk away more knowledgeable.

5. Time vs. energy. At this stage of the game, BBBs and Gen-Xers have toiled through and seen a lot. We can sometimes get beat up by life. The younger generation is all gusto, ready to conquer the world! They love goals that stretch them—you will never hear them say it’s too hard because they have no fear and no idea of challenges yet. Let them run with your company’s goals; tap into that energy!

The point is, as we all travel on this spinning rock together, if we can ultimately create a workplace that leverages every generation’s, and our own gifts, to realize it’s okay to embrace strengths, to acknowledge different world views (when you grew up on this earth and what was happening in that time shapes your world view), then you will always find a way to stay relevant through serving one another. Those of us, no matter the generation, that share respect and connect to learn, impact, contribute, love . . . and are living our lives in that way, then our prime time never ends.

RELATED: Why Marketing to Generation X Can Be a Gold Mine for Your Business

About the Author

Post by: Karyn Chylewski

After 20 years of corporate life, Karyn Danielle Chylewski walked away to leverage her knowledge in neuroscience and share her expertise with business leaders on how to become strong leaders that influence and inspire their teams. Ultimately, it’s about building their legacy through tapping into their warrior-spirit, through honorable leadership, through which radically impacts the world we live in.

Company: karyn danielle leadership
Website: www.karyndanielle.com

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Everything Small Business Owners Need to Know About Drug Testing

By John Hawes

Substance abuse in the workplace is a very real problem for small businesses. It’s also a costly one.

According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, drug abuse alone costs workplaces $130 billion in lost productivity, while alcohol abuse is costing upward of $240 billion—73% of which is due to lost productivity—according to the Centers for Disease Control. Alcohol, cannabis, and opioid pain medications are the most frequent substances used. To give you a sense of the extent of the problem, consider this:

Both alcohol and drug abuse have also been linked to absenteeism, accidents and injuries at work, not to mention the established link between substance abuse and both workplace harassment and violence. This workplace problem affects all age groups, genders, and professions.

The legalization of marijuana in several states, as well as in Canada, is likely to further complicate and accelerate the issue for employers. Like any other business owner, you need your employees to be alert, responsive, and accurate and you want to avoid the exposure attached to substance abuse related errors and accidents. A workplace drug testing program is one possible solution. If you’re considering one, here’s what to consider.

Your legal obligations

While a drug testing program can help you reduce risk, there are additional concerns around privacy, discrimination, and reasonable exercise of management rights. Essentially, the restrictions on testing are related to either privacy concerns or the use of testing as a threat or punitive measure against employees claiming illness or injury.

In addition, there are numerous federal regulations and a myriad of state regulations. Federal laws include those that regulate Department of Transportation (DOT) associated employers and mandate drug and alcohol testing for employees. DOT-regulated employers include those in the aviation, trucking, railroad, mass transit, pipeline, or maritime industries as well as companies whose employees work in specific DOT-identified safety-sensitive positions. Employers who have contracts with the federal government or have received grants from the federal government may be required to implement a drug and alcohol testing program for their employees.

State regulations are generally classified as open, voluntary, or mandatory. Open states have no regulations about drug or alcohol testing in the workplace. Voluntary states offer a worker’s compensation discount to employees who implement testing in the workplace. There are laws to follow if you opt to join the voluntary program, but no restrictions if you don’t.

States with mandatory requirements have laws that clearly govern what you’re allowed to do with respect to drug and alcohol testing in the workplace. Generally, to legally administer drug and alcohol testing in your workplace you must meet at least one of the following conditions:

  • Your employee’s job poses a significant safety risk.
  • Your employee is enrolled or has recently completed a drug rehabilitation program.
  • Your employee was involved in a work-related incident where drug use is suspected.
  • You have a reasonable suspicion that a given employee has been using illicit drugs.

Although 29 states and DC have legalized the use of medical marijuana, employers aren’t required to accommodate employees who use it. Employers can still be held liable for workplace injuries that occur due to an employee’s use of medical marijuana. Federally, marijuana—whether it’s for medical purposes or recreational—is considered an illegal drug, so for any companies required to do federally-mandated drug testing, there is also no accommodating for medical marijuana.

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Pros and cons of implementing a drug testing program

There are several benefits to implementing a drug and alcohol abuse program at your company. These can include:

  • A safer workplace for everyone
  • Reduced legal liability
  • Higher productivity
  • Reduced employee turnover
  • Reduced absenteeism

The cost of implementing a drug and alcohol testing program varies according to the type of tests, frequency, and the volume of tests conducted at the worksite. For small business owners, the cost of drug testing could be a drawback: A Society for Human Resource Management study pegs the cost at less than $40 per employee. So while a smaller workforce means fewer tests, it also means the cost per test is likely to be higher than for companies with more employees. Keep in mind, however, the cost of drug abuse per employee has been pegged at $10,000 per year according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

In addition to testing costs, legal costs can be incurred to defend the company if workers allege privacy violations or launch unfair dismissal suits. If the costs associated with testing are prohibitive, an alternative to drug testing is launching an employee assistance program that offers counseling and other measures designed to reduce or eliminate substance abuse.

Every company needs a drug and alcohol policy

A drug and alcohol policy should be part of any testing program, but it’s also a good alternative to testing. Involve your employees in the creation of your policy and to get legal advice, particularly with respect to any punitive actions. Your policy should include:

  • Definitions of substance use, abuse and impairment
  • Descriptions of who the policy covers
  • A statement of employee confidentiality rights
  • Employee education provisions
  • Training provisions for employees and supervisors
  • A statement regarding drug and alcohol testing (if planned)
  • Provisions for disciplinary actions

Promote your policy among existing employees in employee communications with workplace advertising and during staff meetings. New hires should be made fully aware of the policy via welcome packages and during the onboarding process. Don’t shy from continually advertising the existence of the policy and its components through chunked sound bites delivered to employees as part of a safety or worker health education process or through additional advertising.

Let’s face it, workplace drug and alcohol testing isn’t for everyone. But for employers seeking to protect both their assets and employees, it’s a smart option when it’s well designed and carefully implemented.

RELATED: 5 Ways to Address Addiction in the Workplace

About the Author

Post by: John Hawes

John Hawes is the president and co-founder at WorkplaceTesting.com, an online resource for employment testing and employee wellness. He is also the CCO and co-founder at SureHire Occupational Health Testing, an occupational health testing company based in Edmonton, Alberta.

Company: Janalta Interactive
Website: www.workplacetesting.com
Connect with me on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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Why Facebook Ads Are Still Essential to Your E-Commerce Marketing Strategy

By Graeme Caldwell

As an e-commerce entrepreneur, you’re constantly looking for ways to increase profit margins. A favorite saying among business owners is “Work smarter, not harder.” One of the best and easiest ways to work smarter when it comes to marketing your e-commerce shop is to utilize Facebook ads.

Facebook has evolved from a place for friends and family to virtually socialize to a place where businesses can form deep engagements and relationships with current and potential customers. It’s a rich playground of potential sales for smart entrepreneurs who know how to use the tools correctly.

There are currently 6 million active Facebook advertisers, so businesses are seeing value from this marketing solution. Considering that there are over a billion monthly active users spending an average of 20 minutes per day on the site, it’s an appealing ecosystem in which to advertise your goods.

Facebook ads are on target

Facebook enables some pretty specific targeting. You can target users based on their interests, behavior, demographics, location, age, and more. This can be extremely helpful if, for example, you’re selling jewelry online. If you sell women’s fashion jewelry with limited shipping options, you can hone down your audience by gender and location to keep your audience relevant. Alternatively, if you sell men’s watches and can ship globally, you’ll want to target your ads slightly differently.

Facebook also allows you to create Custom Audiences by uploading data collected from your website (with permission), which can be used to target and retarget customers. You can also use website traffic as a foundation for showing your ads to people who have viewed specific pages of your website or who have visited at a particular time.

Funnel your way to financial freedom

Returning to the jewelry example, depending on the price point of the jewelry you’re selling in your e-commerce shop, you may want to consider building funnels to drive people through the buyer’s journey up to the point of purchase. If you are selling lower-priced items, like fashion rings or bracelets that fall in the under $50 bucket, you may be able to get by with direct Facebook ads that encourage people to buy by clicking through. For higher-priced items, you’ll want to set up a sales funnel.

Let’s say you sell high priced vintage jewelry that costs anywhere from $500 per piece to over $1,000 per piece. Your audience may range from people who buy jewelry to wear as a fashion piece to collectors who purchase jewelry to hold and display or possibly resell. You may want to invest some time and resources into content marketing that can attract visitors that fall within these two personas.

If we look at the collector persona, you could start with a blog post that highlights the history of several pieces of jewelry you offer on your site. It may talk about the materials used, how these pieces traveled through various hands to arrive at your storefront, and the potential value increase of the items over time. By using Facebook’s intricate targeting tools, you can promote that blog to your audience, driving relevant traffic back to your site. That is part one of the funnel.

Part two is retargeting those visitors by gathering information about them from your website. Perhaps you ask for an email address to subscribe to your blog or to receive a special discount or promotion. Once you have accumulated a list of people, you can create a Custom Audience in Facebook with that data and retarget those people with sales ads that are more likely to convert because these people are warmer leads.

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The future of commerce via Facebook

It doesn’t stop at Facebook ads for e-commerce entrepreneurs. The pace of technology is increasing and new tools and solutions to sell to customers are emerging daily. Conversational commerce is the next frontier for social selling and allows e-commerce shops to engage with customers and potential customers via Facebook Messenger. Not only can this be used as a customer service tool, but business owners can actually use chatbots to help sell to customers in a very personalized way. As technology continues to automate things and facilitate greater personalization, e-commerce entrepreneurs can invest in solutions that result in greater conversions and happier customers.

Whether you’re a seasoned Facebook advertiser or a newbie, there are plenty of tricks that can help you achieve your sales goals. This is an especially appealing tool for e-commerce shops that sell items that consumers want to see before they order. Start with your end goals in mind and build a strategic road map backwards from there. With a little time and energy, you can fine tune your Facebook ads into a well-oiled, sales-generating machine.

RELATED: Lead Generation Lessons From the Facebook Data Scandal

About the Author

Post by: Graeme Caldwell

Graeme Caldwell works as a writer for Nexcess, a leading provider of Magento and WordPress hosting. Follow Nexcess on Twitter at @nexcess and check out the company’s tech/hosting blog: http://blog.nexcess.net/

Company: Nexcess
Website: www.nexcess.net
Connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+.

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Business Opportunity and MLM Lead Generating

Business Opportunity and MLM Lead Generating; by WDigigns

After speaking with a friend today who is active in Network Marketing and discussing the common issues in his line of business. I told him that I have a lead generating system that I use for my businesses which has generated 56 Business Opportunity Leads for me in the last 2 weeks. I have got 13 of those leads to sign up for my services without 1 phone call. I am so busy that I have not had time to call them and I’m sure I could convert more of these leads into customers with phone follow up.

I create Lead Generating Landing Pages for my Website Design Customers and myself. I asked my customers what the hardest part was of Making Money Online or in MLM.

These were the top issues that I found.

  1. Generating Qualified Leads on a consistent basis.
  2. Following up with and closing sale
  3. Training Downline (MLM)
  4. How to market on Facebook
  5. Working with Email List and Autoresponders
  6. SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

This will solve your problem with Generating Qualified Leads on a consistent basis.

I have found a solution to all these issues through various sources, based on trial and error over many years.

After working for several Network Marketing and MLM companies, I always found the company websites and landing pages to be lacking in many areas and not very good at generating leads or capturing leads. You must get your customer to go to the company page that thousands of other Reps are sending customers too also. They don’t usually work very well if at all. Building Websites, Blogs, Landing Pages, and my Online Marketing experience has made me fortunate enough to understand the issues and offer a solution to the problem.

You must have a Custom Landing Page that is Search Engine Optimized to generate organic leads as well as convert leads that you refer for your personal landing page. You also need an autoresponder to thank your leads for signing up and to let them know that you will follow up with them regarding your opportunity. This landing page will allow you to send Targeted Traffic to your page from Solo Ads, Google Ads, Bing Ads, as well as Organic Targeted Traffic.

If you are competent enough to build your own landing pages, there are companies that offer the tools necessary to design your own Landing Pages, Capture Pages, and Autoresponders. I                use The Conversion Pros which makes it easy to set up these pages for my customers.

If you are not comfortable designing the pages yourself, you can opt for a Website Design Company that can set these pages up for you. WorldSubmits.com is more that capable for designing  your Website or Landing Pages for you at very reasonable cost.

This will solve your problem with Following up with and closing leads.

If your Landing or Capture Page is designed properly, your leads will be expecting a call back from you based on your Auto Responder Message. This will make it easier to close leads.

This will solve your problem with Training Downline (MLM).

Training your Downline to repeat your efforts DEPENDS ON YOUR EFFORTS! If you think outside the box and use the tools that are available to you that others in your line of business don’t take the time to learn, you and your Downline will become extremely successful. Your people will be able to train their people to do the same and you all will reap the rewards of your efforts.

This will solve your problem with How to Market on Facebook.

Facebook has many ways to market available. You can buy Facebook Ads, you can post your opportunity in your timeline, you can instant message your friends, and you can join Facebook Groups and market there.

You must be careful not to spam and to only contact people you know or in groups that you have joined.

Your Ad must contain very good content and catch your intended audience attention. I recommend 3 to 4 short lines with a link to your URL, and an image. You can use this same ad in different groups or change it up to avoid looking like spam.

This will solve your problem with Working with Email List and Autoresponders.

Once you have created a Capture Page and generate leads, you will have to make sure that your Autoresponder has the right content to let your customers know that you appreciate them signing up on you page and to expect your follow up call. You will need a way to track your leads and this can be done with various tracking tools. The Conversion Pros offer tools that will assist in tracking leads as well as all the other tools you will need for working with your email list.

You will have to contact people from your list with follow up emails and other offers to keep them comfortable with opening your emails.

This will resolve your problem with SEO (Search Engine Optimization).

After you have taken the time to build a Landing Page, Capture Page, or even a Website for your business, people will have to be able to find it. You can only send people to your page that you know, refer, purchased leads, or use SEO (Search Engine Optimization). My suggestion is to use all methods. SEO takes time but will outlast all the other methods. SEO if done properly will generate leads for years to come. You can hire a SEO Firm to do the work for you or there are features designed in the programs used for generating these pages. Take time to research keywords and descriptions of your competitors to assist in a good SEO strategy.

In closing I hope that you will find this information useful and be able to apply it to your Online Business.

What if I told your that you could get all the tools you need on one website?

You will find all these tools and more in The Conversion Pros.

8 Ways Marketing Automation Makes Your Business an Efficiency Powerhouse

Marketing automation is here, and has made its way into every business and every industry. Using an automation system can help make mundane tasks more manageable and increases your business’s efficiency in the process. No longer will you be a slave to social media or email blasts, as marketing automation can create those posts in advance and develop those drip campaigns that keep customers coming back.

To help you identify ways that automation can make your business more efficient and save you time with your marketing, we asked members from YEC Next this question:

How have you employed some level of automation to improve the efficiency of your marketing?

1. Automate sales and marketing tasks

Working smarter, not harder, can make a huge difference in your business. Keep an eye out for tasks that you do over and over that are similar each time. With marketing automation tools like HubSpot or Active Campaign, you can automate a lot of marketing and sales tasks—all you need to do is think things through. Even if there are some differences, marketing automation can still work; you just need to build a little logic into your automations. —Zack Hanebrink, HookLead

2. Practice what you preach

Being the co-founder of a social media marketing agency, I strive to practice what I preach and implement similar strategies for our internal marketing efforts as we do for our clients. One tool we use to help with automation is called Sprout Social. This helps with scheduling social media content, and I highly recommend it. —Stephanie Cartin, Socialfly

 

3. Automate the right channels to gain traction

Most methods of reaching customers have a way to automate portions of their marketing, such as self-serve tools or specialized marketing agencies. The key is to not focus on channels that don’t have strong returns, since even if you do automate things, you will still need to put in the time to measure results and tweak your formula. We prefer tools like MailChimpClose.io’s CRMHootsuite, and Revealbot. —Paul DavidescuTangoo

4. Use project management tools to organize your automation tasks

I use a project management tool called Swipes, which integrates with Gmail and automatically collects all my tasks in one place. With many things going at once, it helps me stay focused on what is timely, and allows me to share with others what is a priority, so we can continue working on marketing to make the business grow. I also use IFTTT.com to replicate posts and save even more time. —Jessica Baker, Aligned Signs

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5. Leverage artificial intelligence to automate content curation

With so much content being produced daily, it should be tailored to your target audience to directly reach your customers. Artificial intelligence (AI) can filter through masses of data in ways that simply aren’t feasible manually. As a result, we believe AI-led content curation is the future for business marketers. —Tom Chalmers, Legend Times Group

6. Plan ahead and learn the curve

There are ways to automate everything, which saves a lot of valuable time. Time savers include automation in social media posts with tools, such as Buffer or Hootsuite, setting up email auto-replies that integrate with a CRM and/or email marketing platform and/or e-commerce site to trigger activity, pre-planning email marketing and drip campaigns, integrating the Response Assistant on your Facebook business page, pre-posting blogs and articles. —Angela Delmedico, Elev8 Consulting Group

7. Automate to double your sales efforts

For my company, with a very small sales and marketing staff, we heavily rely upon marketing automation to drive our business development efforts. We have built our entire sales process into our automation system. This allows key individuals to be notified and critical tasks to be assigned at the proper point in the sales cycle. —Frank Bravata, Cyber Brigade

 

8. Automate qualification and booking

To save time on having calls with prospects who won’t be a good fit, you should first educate them via automated email sequences on what you do, your philosophy and values, and ballpark pricing. You can also implement an application process that segments based on their answers, and only if they qualify are they are sent a link to book a call in your calendar. —Todd GiannattasioTresnic Media

RELATED: When Automation Does and Doesn’t Work in Social Sales

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How to Set Up an Effective Remarketing Campaign

By Adam Witty

Remarketing is a powerful online advertisement strategy, targeting the consumers who already showed interest in your product. Instead of seeing online ads that are completely irrelevant to them—which used to be a lot!—they see you.

Innovations in technology have completely transformed how we, as business leaders, can market our services, making it easier than ever to reach your ideal audience. This contrasts starkly with the overbroad marketing efforts of yesteryear (Sorry, Don Draper).

With remarketing, you can target those who were on the brink of converting (becoming a paying customer), but stopped just short. This not only allows you to re-engage lost visitors, but increase brand awareness. So, how do you do it?

Smart cookies

Remarketing hinges on a little thing called “cookies”—not of the chocolate chip variety! First, let’s explain what a cookie is. An internet cookie is a simple text file that is stored in the web visitor’s device when they enter your website. This text file contains information about their behavior on your site.

Cookies tell marketers:

  • What pages the consumer visited
  • What products and services they looked at
  • How many pages the consumer looked at
  • How long they stayed on the site

To set up cookies for remarketing, you add a small piece of JavaScript to your website’s code. This will “drop a cookie” every time you get a new web visitor. (It won’t affect their web experience in any way). After your web visitor has been “cookied” and proceeds to visit other websites (or use social media), your remarketing ad service provider will display an your ad on these other web locales.

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This ad might be personalized in some way to the particular visitor seeing it. The way it’s “personalized” depends on how that user behaved when visiting on your site. Let’s see remarketing in action:

Lola visits Target.com. She puts a lamp, a bedspread, and a blouse she loves in her shopping cart. She doesn’t purchase any of them, closes the tab, and forgets about it. Lola is prime for a remarketing campaign, if Target has such a campaign in place.

Lola is reading a gossip news site a couple nights later—in the margins, she sees the same lamp, bedspread, and blouse she’d selected in a banner ad for Target. All Target has done is present Lola with the same items she already liked, putting them back in her line of sight.

It’s a simple truth: Consumers usually don’t make a purchase or dial a phone number their first time visiting a website. But now, they’ve shown some degree of interest in your product. That’s more than you can say for Joe Schmoe, who has never visited your website, has no use for your product, and should in no way account for any of your ad spend. When you zero-in on your “lost visitors” and court them until they convert, this is one of the smartest possible uses of your marketing budget.

Remarketing: a smart strategy

I’ll be frank—remarketing can feel a little weird to consumers. When you’re wearing the hat of consumer, you may find it odd, too. It certainly raises a few eyebrows, with consumers wondering, “How do they know I looked at that product? Why am I seeing it again now?” But once you put on the hat of business owner and marketer, you understand why companies employ this strategy.

Remarketing has proven indispensable in the ad game. It allows for increased user touch points, drives repeat traffic to your site, and increases brand recognition and awareness. In practice, you begin to appreciate just how intricate the process is.

This article only serves as an introduction to the concept, which can be employed on the web, social media, and other platforms. Every remarketing strategy is a little bit different, depending on the nature of your business and what you offer. It can actually be exciting to tailor a remarketing campaign to your business, reviewing the behavior patterns of web visitors to determine who is ripe for retargeting.

If you don’t have a remarketing campaign in place, it’s time to consider one.

RELATED: 7 Simple Ways to Reduce Shopping Cart Abandonment by Half

About the Author

Post by: Adam Witty

Adam Witty is the founder and CEO of Advantage | ForbesBooks, the authority marketing specialists. Working with business entrepreneurs and professionals to elevate their brands and grow their businesses through publishing, he has built the company into one of the largest business book publishers in America, serving over 1,000 members in 40 U.S. states and 13 countries. Adam is also a sought-after speaker, teacher, and consultant on marketing and business growth techniques for entrepreneurs and authors.

Company: ForbesBooks
Website: www.forbesbooks.com
Connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

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5 Ways to Help Your Brand Make a Great First Impression

With more than a billion websites on the internet, it’s going to take a lot for your brand to stand out from the crowd. At the same time, even if someone does visit your site, it’s likely they will only spend a few seconds scrolling through your content before moving onto the next site. This doesn’t leave very much time to make a great first impression or to brand your site or service.

In this post, we are going to highlight some of the best ways to take advantage of the short amount of time we all have to create a better blog, brand, and business on the internet today.

1. Create a name, logo, and identity for your brand

Before doing any type of marketing or branding for your business, you are going to want to have a logo. This is something every successful business and brand in the world has today. Just take a look at names like Nike, McDonald’s, Starbucks, and Target. Some of these logos are so well-known, people know what they are without having to see the company name.

When it comes to creating a logo for your brand, you can go a few different directions—creating your own logo, hiring a designer, or using the some of the best tools the internet has to offer. Since most new businesses are working on a budget, I would recommend going with one of the many free logo making tools out there to see if they can get the job done for you. If not, see what you can create, and then pass them along to a professional designer to refine them.

In addition to creating a logo design and identity for your brand, you may still be trying to decide on the right name. If that’s the case, you can refer to any of these name generators to get the job done. From brand names, domains, products, and more, there are plenty of free logo and name generators to take advantage of, which will save you a lot of money in the process.

2. Make the most of social media

As we all know, social media works 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. With the number of people accessible through platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram in the billions, it’s important to make sure your brand is working for you as well.

Here are a few simple steps to get the most out of your social media marketing efforts, even when you aren’t actually working:

  • Secure your brand name as your social profile username or URL.
  • Update your social profile photo with your brand logo.
  • Create a custom background on Twitter and Facebook.
  • Set up and schedule social updates on your brand.

Also, just creating a social presence and uploading generic content isn’t enough—you also need to be interesting and engaging in the process. You can see some good examples of how this is being done by Neil Patel through his massive online social followings.

By following these tips and making sure your social profiles match your brand image, it will be much easier for your audience to find you and get more familiar with what you have to offer.

3. Take advantage of a customized email signature

While many brands and businesses are focused solely on their websites and online marketing, they might be missing out on one source of exposure that gets thousands of one-on-one impressions daily: This resource is your email!

Take a moment to think about how many emails you receive and send out per day. At the same time, are you effectively branding these emails in the best way possible?

A few years back, I made the change to include a custom email signature within my emails, which include my name, a profile picture, links to my social profiles, and also my latest blog post, and the results have been amazing. It’s a great way to not only make a first impression, but to also show you are a real person and not just a random business or brand.

You can follow these simple steps to get started with a custom email signature of your own.

4. Become the authority within your niche market

As we mentioned at the beginning of this article, the internet is more saturated than ever before. With so many websites and blogs creating new content daily, it’s almost impossible to rank at the top of Google and reach new audiences daily.

One method that continues to work extremely well for getting your name and expertise out in front of new audiences, is guest blogging and article contribution. This article you are reading right now is a perfect example of this method in action.

To get the most of out of your expertise and writing time, find other authority sites and blogs within your niche that are looking for guest bloggers or experts willing to contribute content. Once you build a relationship with these sites and submit content, be sure to promote what you’ve written. Not only will you be reaching a whole new audience through the site you’re getting exposure on, you are helping the site owner increase their own reach as well—both ultimately helping with the continual reach and branding of yourself and your business.

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5. Give video and audio a try

Another area where way too many businesses and brands are focusing on is text content. As we continue to see more users access the internet through their mobile devices, and rely on social platforms like Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram to consume content, shouldn’t businesses and brands be doing the same?

We aren’t recommending you give up writing website or blog content; we are simply offering the suggestion to expand into different areas and convert your existing content in the process. These new areas of content creation that are performing extremely well are video and audio.

It’s a no-brainer that YouTube continues to grow in size daily, and the power of gaining new subscribers through the platform is priceless. With audio, it’s all about podcasting. Not just creating your own content or even a show, but also the power of getting interviewed or profiled with other shows as well. Think guest blogging, but with audio.

Each of these methods of content creation are extremely effective for brand building and showing off your expertise. Gone are the days when one should focus on starting their own brand and relying just on SEO and traditional traffic sources to grow their business. Leverage platforms and audiences that are already built, and put in the time and effort to make sure your message and services are being seen by the right people.

RELATED: Build Your Business Brand by Writing a Book—It’s Easier Than You Think!

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5 Latest Payment Trends Impacting Small Businesses—Are You Keeping Up?

Payment processing has taken several major leaps forward over the past two decades. As the internet has opened up new possibilities for processing payments, as well as new ways to pay for things, businesses have been forced to adapt.

Now, consumers are starting to have higher expectations for SMBs; they’re paying attention to the latest payment trends, and if your business can’t keep up with them, your customers may choose to support one of your competitors over you.

So which of these trends are most important to watch?

1. Mobile payments

Mobile payments are becoming more advanced, but 65% of consumers in the United States still don’t see any benefit in paying with a mobile wallet. In time, the increased convenience and ease of accessibility for this technology may catch on, the way it has in markets like the United Kingdom and Australia, where “tap to pay” terminals are becoming increasingly common.

If you want your business to be on the leading edge, you should be thinking about how to upgrade your capacity for mobile payments—if you haven’t already.

2. Digital currency

Even though just 8% of consumers are currently invested in cryptocurrency, the world is watching the development of Bitcoin and other digital currencies. Being one of the first businesses to accept cryptocurrency as payment could make you seem like a thought leader in your industry, and could win over a crowd of crypto enthusiasts to your brand. Expect to see more brands accepting Bitcoin and altcoins in the near future, and try not to get left behind.

3. In-depth customer rewards

More than 60% of Generation X and millennial consumers say that loyalty programs are important to them. More stores are offering customer rewards and loyalty programs as a result, which adds even more competitive pressure on you to meet or exceed those standards. Offering your own store credit card, or some type of card that can be used alongside payment to support coupons, promotions, and deals in the future is one of the best investments you can make for customer retention.

4. POS user experience

If you have a brick-and-mortar store, you also need to think about the point-of-sale (POS) experience for your average customer. Do you have an intuitive device to help guide your customers through the payment process? Is it fast, easy, and straightforward to check out? If not, your customers will be comparing your business to similar businesses with more streamlined POS user experiences.

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5. Fraud (and fraud prevention)

Payment technology is growing more sophisticated, but so is the technology available to cybercriminals and other propagators of fraud. There are many types of payment fraud your business is vulnerable to, including the theft of your customers’ payment information. These types of attacks can rob your business of money directly, hurt your customers, and, if your business is found to be vulnerable, harm your brand’s reputation as well. Accordingly, you’ll need to stay tuned to the latest schemes and weaknesses exploited by cybercriminals, and invest in more secure payment resources as necessary to keep your business protected.

The importance of flexibility

There are a few different reasons why it’s so important to keep up with the latest trends:

  • Customer convenience. Customers want the most convenient payment experience, which means being able to pay with the currency they prefer as quickly and efficiently as possible. Offering this advantage can boost your customer retention and loyalty significantly.
  • Competitive differentiation. Adopting new trends relatively early also helps set you apart from your competitors, one of the most important factors for success in a crowded market. Conversely, if you fall too far behind, your competitors will look superior to you, and you may lose even your most loyal customers.
  • Brand reputation. Depending on the appearance and reputation of the new payment trend, adopting it could make your brand look like a thought leader or a trendsetter. Cryptocurrency, for example, is a popular, exciting topic, and showing off that your business accepts it could make you seem more advanced or more stylish.

Ultimately, you don’t have to have the latest and greatest payment standards, or be ahead of the curve, to accomplish these goals. Instead, you can keep your business relevant and keep your customers happy just by being flexible—accepting as many payments as possible, upgrading what you can, and remaining open to new possibilities.

Think critically about which new upgrades will be most beneficial to your business and stay agile as payment tech grows even more sophisticated.

RELATED: Looking for a Modern Payment Solution? Here Are 10 Cash Alternatives

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