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4 things Amazon does well that soloists can too

http://www.flyingsolo.com.au/marketing/marketing-lessons-from-amazon

Selling products online is big business these days and one that’s only set to grow in the future. Because e-commerce is so successful and lucrative, it has also become fiercely competitive and dominated by large multinational corporations, making it harder than ever for small businesses to stand out.

Research has shown that Amazon is starting to take over from Google as the first port of call for consumers researching products. According to US based organisation Power Reviews, 38% of shoppers now start their search on Amazon, beating the 35% who start on Google.

This intrigued me so I set out to find out what it is that Amazon offers that Google doesn’t, and more importantly, how smaller businesses can incorporate some of these features into their own marketing to improve their websites and hopefully drive up their sales.

But first, how does this relate to soloists?

Many soloists I speak to are in the business of selling products online but they often struggle to compete with the hundreds of other businesses out there doing the same thing.

If you are in the business of selling anything, understanding what your customers value most is absolutely crucial if you want to market to them. Amazon clearly has the inside track on what online shoppers are really looking for and their insights can benefit businesses of all shapes and sizes.

Want more articles like this? Check out the business marketing section.

Four things Amazon does that Google doesn’t (but you can)

Even if you are not able to compete with giants like Amazon, you can still find a way to offer the same quality of experience to online shoppers and give them what they are looking for.

  1. Reviews are cited as the number one reason for the popularity of Amazon among online shoppers. Genuine customer reviews build trust and credibility and are a fantastic selling tool you can implement on your own site. Amazon’s reviews have a reputation for being honest and genuine, and this is a major factor in their success.
  2. Product information: Another reason for Amazon’s popularity is that has all the information a customer needs right there at hand. From pricing to inventory, knowing how many are available and exactly what shipping will cost is reassuring. Make sure your website displays all this information upfront. This can be a great boost to your marketing and may help you move more product.
  3. Dynamic content: Another feature where Amazon really stands out is that creates personalised content for every user. The site’s homepage appears differently to everyone who visits it depending on what they have previously viewed and their purchasing history. Even if you don’t have the technical savvy of Amazon’s IT department it’s still worthwhile thinking about how you can use dynamic content across your site to create a more personal experience for your visitors.
  4. Mobile: Increasing numbers of customers are buying from their mobile, but even more people are starting their search from their phone even if they get on their desktop computer to buy at a later stage. One way that Amazon really leads is that they are very visible on mobile. If there was ever a time to pay attention to mobile marketing it’s now.

When it comes to building your profile and enticing customers to your site, it is all about quality of experience. While your site probably won’t have all the bells and whistles of Amazon, if you can take some of their most successful features and incorporate them into your own marketing strategy you can keep your visitors happy and hopefully get the edge over the competition.

Do you go to Amazon to research products, or do you prefer Google?

Image credit Hadrian/ Shutterstock.com

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November 1, 2016 at 02:30AM

4 Ways to Optimize the Middle of the Funnel

http://blog.marketo.com/2016/11/4-ways-to-optimize-the-middle-of-the-funnel.html

4 Ways to Optimize the Middle of the Funnel

Author: Adam Hutchinson

Like the middle child, the middle of the demand generation funnel receives far less attention than it deserves.

At the top of the funnel, marketing increases traffic and fills the database with new leads through paid ads, social media, search, referral programs, and a variety of other channels. At the bottom-of-the-funnel, we help close the sale by creating urgency and helping our prospects make the business case for purchasing our product or service.

But in between, we need to nurture and qualify our leads by encouraging them to engage with our content until they’re sales-ready. It’s easy to overlook the middle of the funnel because it involves many different priorities, from quality to quantity to speed to customer experience, and it can be the most difficult to manage.

What is the middle of the funnel?

According to the SiriusDecisions Demand Waterfall, the middle of the funnel is the area where the marketing to sales hand-off happens (MQL to SAL) and where the sales development representative (SDR) to account executive (AE) hand-off happens (SAL to SQL).

The middle of the funnel, or MOFU, is like a valve. It’s where you can expand lead quality definitions to pass a higher volume of leads to your sales team or tighten lead quality definitions to give them a more specific segment of qualified leads.

At Socedo, as well many other B2B organizations, our marketing team focuses on facilitating a successful hand-off to sales. The marketing team develops content to educate leads and identifies the leads who show buying intent by implementing a behavioral lead scoring model. They also spin up campaigns aimed at accelerating leads, such as limited-time offers, product trial campaigns, and case studies.

In the middle of the funnel, marketing aims to help the sales team prioritize their time by providing clear and accurate information on each lead passed to the sales team and concurrently, sales’ focus is on creating as many deal opportunities as possible from the leads they’ve received from marketing.

Why focus on the middle of the funnel?

With so many transitions happening during the hand-off process, the middle of the funnel has the biggest potential for misalignment between marketing and sales, as well as within sales. Below are some common bottlenecks that may arise during this stage.

Misalignment during the marketing to sales hand-off:

  • Marketing does not pass enough leads to sales to create a sufficient number of opportunities to meet their revenue target.
  • Marketing hands off enough leads to sales, but leads are hard to reach because they are not ready to consider a purchase yet and need more nurturing.
  • Marketing sends too many leads to sales, and sales doesn’t have enough information about the leads to prioritize them effectively.

Misalignment during the SDR to AE hand-off:

  • SDRs could have a hard time reaching the leads marketing passed to them.
  • It can take too long for SDRs to create sales accepted leads to send to AEs.

By creating common definitions and goals, you can help alleviate sales and marketing misalignment. Here are some you’ll want to understand and agree on:

  • Lead volume helps determine whether your top-of-the-funnel marketing efforts are sufficient to meet sales’ revenue target.
  • Conversions measure lead movement from stage to stage, showing how marketing is performing throughout the entire sales cycle.
  • Velocity is the time it takes a lead to move through the funnel, typically measured in days.

These metrics help marketing understand its impact on the business and where to prioritize their investments. Weakness in any one of these areas will affect revenue, so marketers need to keep a pulse on how the middle of the funnel is performing at any given time.

The middle of the funnel also presents some unique problems. Leads become stagnant or “cold” here. They may stop responding to marketing content and thus aren’t qualified yet for a sales conversation. This can lead to slow velocity and a restricted lead flow for sales. Fortunately, there are four key strategies you can leverage to tackle these problems: 

1. Fight Low Lead Quality at the Source

Not all lead sources are created equal. At Socedo, we track four metrics for every lead source:

  • Volume of MQLs
  • % SQLs (opportunities created)
  • % closed won (new customers)
  • Average selling price (ASP)

While it’s helpful to dive into ROI goals for specific programs, these metrics help us stay accountable for driving quality leads to sales and identifying problems as quickly as possible. For example, we’ve found that leads whose last action was a trial sign-up tend to move much faster through the funnel and close at a higher rate than leads whose last action was a webinar viewing. For lead sources with lower-than-average conversion rates, such as whitepaper downloads, we require a higher qualification bar before passing the lead to sales.

Additionally, data quality directly affects lead quality. Bad data leads to low contact rates and lower conversions. At Socedo, we use several third-party lead generation programs to help us generate new leads. Sometimes, these leads look like good quality leads at the top of the funnel because they come from companies in our target market, but once we pass them over to sales, we realize that important data such as company size and phone number are incorrect. We use Clearbit data enrichment to clean up as much data as possible, but occassionally, we need to shut down sources completely due to bad data.

2. Accelerate More Leads from Specific Segments

Building a repeatable lead nurturing process is the pride and joy of any demand generation marketer. Unfortunately, the business doesn’t always follow our perfect plans. Sometimes, we need to send a large volume of leads to the sales team quickly, either to meet a strategic goal or make up for lost time.

Rather than going broad and sacrificing quality, marketers can narrow in on a specific segment of leads waiting in the middle of the funnel. For example, a couple of months ago, we needed to send more leads to the sales team. We found that we had a significant number of engaged content marketers (one of our target audiences) in our database, so we ran a campaign with a new offer specifically for content marketers and only targeted leads with content job titles in the “Engaged” stage in our database. While we can’t run this type of campaign every month, it provided a nice bump in volume when we needed it.

3. Improve Lead Velocity with Lead Scoring

Lead scoring is a key lever you can pull to improve lead velocity. At Socedo, our demand generation manager performs a regular regression analysis on our database across several different behavioral factors to determine which characteristics make up a “good” lead.

Across several actions, such as email clicks, website visits, whitepaper downloads, webinar registrations, and social media engagements, we measure how many leads who took these actions ultimately led to deals, customers, and revenue. By conducting this research, we can determine which behaviors are the best indicators of buying intent.

Here’s an example of this with dummy data:

Opportunity Data

From there, we create a weighted score for each action. If a lead who clicked on a link in an email is 50% more likely to become a customer than a lead who visited our blog, we’ll adjust our lead scoring model to reflect email clicks at five points and blog visits at three points. By adjusting our lead scoring model in this manner, we’re able to send leads who are more ready to buy to sales faster, improving our metrics.

Because our content, audience targets, and business goals do shift over time, we make sure to run this analysis every month to make sure our lead scoring model is aligned to serve our goals.

4. Reduce Handoff Friction with Content and Context

When your sales team doesn’t have enough information about each lead to follow up with them in a way that creates urgency, the result is often non-responsive leads and slow velocity. Marketing can alleviate this problem to an extent.

As a first step, marketing can provide the sales team with case studies, whitepapers, and other educational materials that sales can send to leads. As a next step, marketing can create optimized content experiences for leads by linking one piece of content to another (i.e. when a lead watches a webinar, send them a related e-book).

To ensure that our sales team can follow up with each lead, our marketing team created an alert email that gets sent to a sales rep every time a new MQL is assigned to them. This email contains lead record data and contextual information, such as the title of the webinar they just watched and a few details about the webinar. Then, our sales rep can simply reply to the email if something seems inaccurate or they need more information about the lead. A complete marketing automation platform, like Marketo, will have a way to help you communicate with sales and share all the engagement activities and interesting moments in a lead’s history.

marketo sales insight

To avoid turning the middle of the funnel into a bottleneck, work in tandem with sales to increase conversion rates and velocity for results that spread across the board. Have you experienced any middle-of-funnel bottlenecks in your marketing organization? How did you fix it? I’d love to hear in the comments below.


4 Ways to Optimize the Middle of the Funnel was posted at Marketo Marketing Blog – Best Practices and Thought Leadership. | http://blog.marketo.com

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November 1, 2016 at 01:49AM

The 7 habits of highly ineffective people

http://www.flyingsolo.com.au/live-smarter/7-habits-of-highly-ineffective-people

First published in 1989, Stephen Covey’s best-selling book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People has sold over 25 million copies in 40 languages and is one of the best-selling, non-fiction business books of all time.

Now, I love a great business book as much as the next person, but they tend to be so relentlessly positive, I find they can get in the way of truly useful self-reflection. So, I thought I’d change things up a bit and share with you the seven habits of highly ineffective people. Spot any familiar behaviour?

Habit  1 – Be reactive

Life just happens and we have no way of changing the outcome, right?  If you wake up on the wrong side of the bed, you spill your coffee, your client cancels a meeting, well that’s just unavoidable and certainly not your fault and there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it.  If a driver cuts you off on the freeway it’s both natural and justifiable to feel frustrated and start shouting at them. Nothing is your fault, so there’s no point in looking inward or at the things you could control, when you can instead, focus on and criticise what everyone else is doing.

Habit 2 – Begin with now in mind

Why bother looking at the future and making plans? After all, as we’ve learned from habit 1, nothing is in your control anyway. Don’t be concerned with what you might achieve in the next month, year, five years or a lifetime – just focus on the here and now. No need for goals. It’s best to just wing things and see where you end up.

Habit 3 – Put first things later

Brian Tracy says in his book, ‘you need to eat the frog first’. WHAT? I’ve been to France and the frog’s legs were not what I wanted to be eating for breakfast. What kind of person does the hard tasks first when there are far more important things like watching Netflix and catching up on daily funny cat videos to be taken care of? Planning is for schmucks. Best to simply fight fires when they start. It’s not like you can stop them from starting in the first place.

Habit 4 – Think win/lose

There simply isn’t enough business out there for everybody, so you have to manipulate situations to your advantage. Fight over that slice of pie, because if you don’t, you’ll be left with just a few crumbs and an empty stomach. And make sure you always take credit for all the success and none of the failure – nobody wants to be working with a loser.

Want more articles like this? Check out the health and wellbeing section.

Habit 5 – Seek first to be understood, end of story!

Stephen Covey says that only 10% of our communication is made with words, 30% by our sounds, and the remaining 60% with our body language. My recommendation, therefore, is to talk, grunt and use a commanding stance or posture.

And remember, people simply don’t know what they’re talking about and they certainly don’t know what they don’t know. YOU are the expert, so don’t waste valuable Netflix-watching time listening to others. You need to get your message out there loud and clear and make sure that people are paying attention to what you are saying. If you give potential clients a chance to ask questions, they may well decide that your products or services are not for them. This is to be avoided at all costs. Talk them into a corner and get them into your sales funnel at all costs.

Habit 6 – Separate

“When one plus one equals three or more, then the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”

Clearly, the person who wrote this did not pay attention in maths class. One plus one does not equal three, and it certainly doesn’t equal more than three! That’s like saying if you cut a chocolate cake into four pieces and put it back together, then the cake would be bigger…… if that were the case, I’d be doing it ALL the time.

Habit 7 – Blunt the saw

There are, according to Covey, four dimensions of our nature and I will endeavour to explain them below:

  1. Physical dimension: Sleep in, eat cake, relax and try to avoid any unnecessary physical exertion.
  2. Spiritual dimension: Watch cat videos on YouTube or visualise that next piece of cake.
  3. Mental dimension: Try and fit in as much Netflix viewing as possible or read a glossy magazine.
  4. Social dimension: Think about what you can get from every interaction. Don’t waste time doing things for other people if they don’t give you something in return.

So, there we have it – a bit of a different take-off one of the most popular business books of all time. Let me know in the comments – do you prefer Covey’s version … or mine?!

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November 3, 2016 at 02:35AM

How to Thrive in Google’s New Mobile Search Index

http://blog.marketo.com/2016/11/how-to-thrive-in-googles-new-mobile-search-index.html

How to Thrive in Google’s New Mobile Search Index

Author: Mike Tomita

Last month, Google announced that it will be changing the way it evaluates web pages for mobile searches. With more than 3.2 billion people worldwide using the internet regularly and nearly 2.5 billion who do so from a mobile phone, according to data from eMarketer, this could have a huge impact on your brand’s SEO efforts.

In the past, mobile search results were based on the version of your website that’s presented to a user when they visit via a desktop computer. However, many websites have a separate, stripped-down version that’s presented to mobile visitors, so the user experience and value of websites aren’t always consistent even though mobile searches return the same results as the desktop version.

Google’s solution is to split its index of web pages into two parts, one for desktop and one for mobile, to provide the best user experience on each device. Each user’s search results will be dependent on the device they’re browsing from—desktop or mobile. This is a problem for brands who have stripped valuable content from their mobile sites and it may lead to lower search rankings on mobile devices.

Here are three simple steps that you can take to ensure you’re providing a good mobile experience that keeps both your visitors and Google happy:

1. Create a Mobile-Optimized Website

Any concession to mobile users is better than nothing. There are a few ways that you can optimize your existing website for mobile devices.

For instance, you can create a completely separate version of your website for mobile devices. Many times, these are hosted on a subdomain such as http://m.example.com. While this option will require additional web development, it can be done without impacting the desktop version of your website. This is the most common route for getting a mobile site up quickly. Another method is to use responsive design. This will allow your website to match the dimensions of the browser, rearranging the content on a page to fit the available space. This approach provides a good user experience on any device size, but it does require a fair amount of work to implement.

Whatever solution you choose will signal to Google that your website is “mobile-friendly” and deserves a place in the index. From there, it’s just a matter of optimization.

2. Optimize Your Visitor’s Mobile Experience

Now that Google will be viewing your mobile website as a completely self-standing entity, you’ll need to optimize the mobile version of your site in the same manner that you optimize your desktop site. That means you’ll have to work at improving both the user experience and Google search rankings through a mobile-first lens.

From a technical perspective, Google offers a tool that will test your website for mobile-friendliness and offer suggestions for fixing the issues. This is a quick way to identify issues with your mobile website.

Mobile-Friendly Test

In addition, Google’s Search Console provides a good resource for both desktop and mobile issues. Formerly called Google Webmaster Tools, Search Console will show you if Google has detected any errors on your website, alerts you about malware complaints, and gives you insights into how your site appears in Google’s index.

Next, it’s just a matter of optimizing your content. Google doesn’t provide any guidelines on that front, but we can infer that they want more than just a light version of the corresponding desktop page.

3. Don’t Skimp on Content

One of the objectives behind Google’s decision to split their index is to discourage website owners from stripping out valuable information from their websites in order to provide a faster loading site. While both site owners and Google are pursuing the same objective—to provide a good user experience— Google doesn’t think that sacrificing depth of content is the way to achieve it, and neither should you. And now that the mobile version of your website won’t benefit from the content on your desktop version, Google is forcing website owners to make sure that content is available to be crawled by their mobile ranking algorithm.

While this may seem like Google is forcing an additional burden on website owners, they have at least offered somewhat of a solution with their Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) project. AMP is a way to speed up the performance of a website, but it comes with a good deal of functionality trade-off. Some site owners have also reported poor performance when it comes to generating ad revenue via AMP pages.

At the end of the day, Google can always be counted on to do what it thinks will provide the best user experience to its end-users. Website owners and businesses that rely on search referral traffic from Google will either adapt and provide that expected experience or tumble down the rankings to make way for others that can. Be one of the sites that adapts!

 


How to Thrive in Google’s New Mobile Search Index was posted at Marketo Marketing Blog – Best Practices and Thought Leadership. | http://blog.marketo.com

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November 3, 2016 at 01:56AM

Do I really need a business plan?

http://www.flyingsolo.com.au/working-smarter/creating-a-business-plan

Not so long ago, business plans were given *a lot* of importance. In fact, they were seen as being the first step to starting any business and the most essential part of the process. Many business awards were judged on the business plans their founders had created, and having a weighty plan under your belt felt like real progress. But in reality, a truly actionable business plan has always been a very rare thing.

More recently, especially with the trend towards ‘lean startups’, entrepreneurs seem to have forgotten about business plans and many bypass this step altogether. Which is not entirely a bad thing. Many good hours have been wasted perfecting business plans when what was really needed was some actual implementation and conversations with customers. I write a blog called ‘DoTheThings’ because I believe having a strong bias for action is what really moves the needle. It’s what differentiates the doers from the talkers.

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a strong business plan – not at all. An actionable business plan is still just as essential as ever and there’s a strong correlation between having a good plan and succeeding in business. But before you dive into number crunching and drawing graphs, it’s best to be *very* clear on why you’re writing a business plan in the first place.

Three reasons to write a business plan

1.      Feasibility Study – to determine whether a certain business is a good idea or not

This is a specific type of analysis to decide whether to begin a certain business. It’s relevant if you’re considering starting a new business but not so much if you’re already committed to making your existing business work.

2.     Investment Pitch – to convince possible investors to back your business

This is what most business plan formats seem to be aimed at but, in reality, very few businesses are going to get investors (although you may also need this for a bank loan). But given that the objective of this type of plan is to convince someone of the merits of your business, it’s unlikely to help you with running or growing a business.

3.     Actionable Business Plan – to provide your business with focus, direction and the best chance of success

An Actionable Business Plan is what all businesses need, but surprisingly, very few business plans seem to be designed for this purpose. In fact, if you search online, you’ll have a hard time finding a format for a business plan that is actually useful in the day-to-day operations and decision-making.

Want more articles like this? Check out the business plans section.

How to create an Actionable Business Plan

A useful business plan should be something that gets you clearer about what products and/or services you’re providing and to who, and provides guidance as to how you’re going to do that. It should be fairly brief (ideally one page) and displayed somewhere so that it’s easily referenced on a regular basis. Of course, it will be updated periodically, but the best businesses make a plan, do the plan, and make sure they’ve given it a really good shot before revising the plan.

Here’s what a practical business plan should include:

1.      Clear vision statement

Your vision statement should define what products/services you provide (or sometimes what problem you solve). It should also give a brief, but clear description of your target market. These two things combined serve to keep you tightly focussed on your business objectives. Once you’ve crafted your vision statement, hold like crazy and ask yourself how to deliver it best.

2.     One-year goal

In almost all cases this should be a financial goal – revenues or profits. (Remember, hobbies cost money, businesses make money!) Make it a challenging but realistic goal that stretches you a bit but you can see yourself achieving it. Break it down into your various revenue streams (if you have more than one), and then break it down further into monthly goals.

3.     Tactical strategies

Break the year down into quarters and decide what specific strategies you’re going to implement in each quarter in order to reach your goal. Most commonly, these will be marketing or sales related strategies, but they might also include organisational strategies (changes to your team), supplier strategies, or developmental strategies (eg new features to your products). First, brainstorm the possible strategies that you’d like to try but then filter them, thinking about what will work best for your clients, and what will work best for you. Don’t be tempted to try to do everything all at once. Usually 1-2 chunky strategies per quarter is about all any business owner can handle.

4.     Action items

Finally, break down your strategies into actionable items. List them by month and ensure that no task is too big (if it is, break it down further). The idea is to end up with a plan that you can refer to throughout the year, month by month, crossing off the action items as you go. And these action items will lead to your strategies being implemented, which will lead to the achievement of your overall goal.

Over the years, I’ve developed a business plan format that works for me – one that’s helped focus my efforts and keeps me taking the next steps to move my business forward.

This is the type of plan that’s going to help you get results and really move the needle for your business.

So yes, your business really does need a business plan. But make sure it’s the right type of plan – one that’s oriented for action. And of course, writing your actionable business plan is only the first step. Acting on it in the day-to-day is what counts the most. Commit to sticking to your plan for at least six months before re-evaluating and perhaps rewriting your next 12-month plan.

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November 5, 2016 at 02:32AM

The 52 Best Payroll Services for Your Small Business

https://www.fundera.com/blog/2016/11/08/payroll-services-for-small-business

Do you hire, manage, and pay employees?

If so, you’re probably aware of how tough payroll and HR can be. There are forms to fill, checks to sign, taxes to pay, regulations to comply with, paid time off to track, and so much more. And if you make even a single mistake, you could wind up paying off those fines and fees. (1 in 3 business owners experience this, in fact!)

Thankfully, there are plenty of payroll services for small business trying to solve just this problem. From intuitive apps to firms of accountants, you’ve got a huge selection of payroll solutions to pick from.

Here’s our list of the top 52 payroll services for small business. Which is right for you?

Payroll Services for Small Business: What Should You Look For?

Before we get into our long list of payroll services for small business, let’s quick review…

What separates an okay payroll service from a great payroll service?

While every business is different, and you need to pick the right solution for your particular needs, there are a few factors to keep an eye out for when browsing around.

Pricing

Pretty straightforward—what’s the price?

Some payroll services for small business come with transparent pricing models right on their homepage. You’ll often have a base fee, which is a flat monthly rate, plus a per-employee fee, which is naturally the extra cost of each additional employee.

For example, you might purchase a payroll service for $39 a month, plus $6 per employee per month. And different services may have multiple plans or tiers, too—so look out for that, especially if you’re right on the line.

Other payroll services for small business will offer free quotes, though, since their systems depend on a few more factors. These require a bit more work from you to figure out whether you can afford them… And whether they’re better than the competition.

Tax Guarantee

The whole point of purchasing payroll services for small business is so you don’t have to pay those payroll tax fees, for some entrepreneurs.

Accordingly, there are certain payroll services that come with a guarantee. They promise you won’t face any fines—and if you do, the services will handle them.  

Don’t see a lack of a guarantee as a deal-breaker, though: it usually depends on how automated or manual the actual service is. If payroll uploading and submitting is all on you, then your taxes probably aren’t guaranteed!

Customer Service

Can you reach this service by phone? Over email? With a live chat box? Are their hours convenient for your business? Have you tried their customer service line a few times to test out whether they’re helpful?

Even with the best payroll services for small business, payroll is complicated. It’s always important to make sure that you have the right customer service options in case something goes wrong.

Industry Specifics

If you’re in an industry with specific payroll demands, you’ll want to double-check that your favorite service can handle those extra steps.

For example, restaurants need special payroll filings for tips. Does the payroll service you selected handle that? If not, you should reconsider your choice.

Necessary Features

What do you actually need from a payroll service?

If you’ve just got one or two employees, you may want to only pay for the basics: paying your employees, paying your payroll taxes, and filing your tax forms.

If you’re handling more, then some extra human resources-focused add-ons could be worth your cash. Just know that the more you get, the more you give—so what do you need, and how much do you want to pay for it.

Easy to Use

Whether it’s a high-tech mobile application, a desktop application, or a web-based portal, your payroll service should be easy to figure out. You don’t want to spend as much time learning how to use your payroll service as you would’ve spent doing payroll yourself, after all!

So read reviews online, check out screenshots, and try a free trial if you can to make sure the payroll services for small business that you’re considering make sense to you.

The Best Payroll Services for Small Business: The Basics

While payroll services for small business often come with other additional features, like HR management tools or regulation compliance, these can be pricier options with steeper learning curves.

What if you just want something simple?

You have a problem—payroll—and you want a solution: payroll services. If you’re not looking to widen your search, then check out this list of payroll services for small business that focus on giving you the basics (without sacrificing any quality).  

1. PrimePay

PrimePay offers two different 30-day free trials: an online payroll system for the computer-savvy or a completely hands-off payroll system run by a dedicated Client Success Representative. Beyond helping with federal, state, and local taxes, they’ll also file your W-2s and make sure you’re 100% compliant.

2. Wagepoint

Only want no-stress payroll services for small business? Try out Wagepoint’s 30-day free trial, with its focus on an easy setup and simple tools that won’t take away your time or energy. It’s got the basics down—like direct deposits, payroll taxes, year-end reporting, filing for W-2s and 1099s, and online paystubs.

3. Paylocity

Paylocity is all about efficiency: they focus on a seamless application with diverse online integrations from general ledgers to retirement plans, wellness plans, and point-of-sale systems. They also offer compliance checking with the Affordable Care Act, pre-processing review of payroll, and new hire templates.

4. Big Fish Payroll Services

From direct deposit to tax services, Big Fish Payroll Services can handle all of your small business’s needs. In addition to timetracking, human resources programs, and payroll reports, Big Fish Payroll Services also allows your employees to view, edit, manage, and verify their own personal information.

5. IOIPay

For just the basics, IOIPay handles the payroll processing and taxes for businesses of any size. Although they also offer packages for hiring, HR, and employee self-service, their comprehensive payroll plan is straightforward and easy to manage. If you’re looking for no-frills payroll services for small business, IOIPay might fit the bill.

6. CBIZ Flex-Pay Payroll Services

Which do you prefer for payroll: calling, faxing, emailing, or online submissions? No matter what your answer is, CBIZ’s Flex-Pay Payroll Services can help. Their dedication to customer service is a particular value of CBIZ, so whether you need a one-size-fits-all payroll solution or a lot of guidance to help you along, consider this service.

7. Client Solutions Group

Client Solutions Group’s payroll processing system is an online solution to all your payroll problems, from the basics (previewing and processing payroll) to the advanced (earning and deductions codes, local check printing, and industry-specific customizations). Also, CSG encrypts their data and backs it up with dedicated disaster recovery plans.

8. OnPay

OnPay is a straightforward payroll planning, reviewing, and submitting tool (plus tax filings and payments). With unlimited payroll processing, an intuitive and mobile program, and a transparent monthly pricing scale, you can’t go wrong with OnPay for your basic payroll needs.

9. Optimum Employer Solutions

“When it comes to payroll, you want it done fast, and you want it done right.” That’s the Optimum promise, and it includes tax filing and direct deposits, PTO tracking, form preparation and mailing, and a dedicated site for employee review.

10. PaySmart

With PaySmart, you can process payroll on a recurring schedule—from weekly to annually, depending on your needs. Whether you’re looking for direct deposit, tax filings, employee benefits, or workers’ compensation, this is one of those no-nonsense payroll services for small business.

11. Premier Payroll Services

Premier Payroll Services will help with direct deposit, printing and delivering payroll checks, quarterly tax returns, W-2 filing, new-hire reporting, and more. Their software is made by Pay Choice, one of the fastest growing private companies in the United States.

12. Integrated Payroll Services

If you’re looking for a small business that helps small businesses, then Integrates Payroll Services is for you. As an independent, family-owned company, IPS can offer customized payroll reports and relationship-oriented service. Get the basics with a touch of familiarity here.

13. Diamond Payroll

If you need it, Diamond Payroll does it (for payroll services for small business, at least). They’ll help with payroll checks, state and federal taxes, year-end tax forms, and other HR operations as well. And in fact, Diamond Payroll guarantees that small business owners won’t have to pay any payroll tax penalties ever again if they use the service—so if you’ve got a bad habit of paying late, check them out.

14. Checkmate Payroll

If you’re the type of entrepreneur who likes to manage on the go, Checkmate Payroll is a secure, trusted provider of payroll and HR services that caters to you. Whether you’re consolidating reports, setting up alerts, or calculating payroll, Checkmate Payroll makes it easy to deal with your small business’s employees. (Plus, they’ll help you with your year-end tax forms and reciprocity tax withholdings.)

15. DM Payroll Services

DM Payroll Services has been helping businesses out since 1962, and they don’t plan on stopping anytime soon. They’ll assist with payroll management, taxes, reports, and compliance, but they also go the extra mile to help clients overcome their specific payroll- or human resources-related issues by offering custom packages and top-notch customer service. If you like the idea of accounting professionals having your back for your small business payroll, look into this payroll services for small business option for sure.

16. PayUSA

PayUSA’s payroll services can help you out whether you have 1 employee, or whether you have 1,000. It’s a flexible, adjustable partner that will help you process payroll, file payroll taxes, manage new hires, deal with workers’ compensation, and more.

17. MyPayrollHR

Want a simple, online service that syncs with your accounting software? MyPayrollHR could be your solution, especially if you’re currently outgrowing your old, small-scale payroll system. You can set up your payroll system with custom schedules, deductions, and payment types, too. Plus, there’s a guarantee that you won’t pay any late payroll fees!

18. Heartland Payroll

Want to make sure you’re payroll information is absolutely secure? Heartland Payroll offers industry-leading security protocols to keep your data safe, and caters to all types and sizes of businesses. Plus, they actually have an official Anti-Breach Warranty, so you can be sure you’re in protected hands. Whether you’re looking to make mobile payments or simply manage company payroll, Heartland Payroll is an option to pursue.

The Best Payroll Services for Small Business: All-in-One Package

Payroll is just one part of managing your employees—and maybe you want solutions for those other parts, too.

If you’re into the idea of an all-in-one HR package, combining payroll services for small business with benefits, timetracking, compliance, and more, then this list can help you find the right one.   

19. Intuit

When it comes to payroll services for small business, it doesn’t get more tried-and-true than Intuit. With 3 different small business payroll plans—ranging from the payroll basics to white glove automated payroll and tax management—and a host of combination packages with their famed accounting software, QuickBooks Online, you can’t go wrong with Intuit.

Depending on the plan you choose, you can pay a flat rate of anywhere from $20 to $80 per month, plus $2 per employee per month—but try the free 30 day trial out first to make sure it’s what you need.

20. Gusto

A popular all-in-one payroll/HR/benefits system, Gusto (previously known as ZenPayroll) is a smooth and intuitive package that automates many of the boring, repetitive, and error-prone tasks that HR and payroll management often come with. From basic payroll to 401(k) and workers’ compensation, Gusto gives you everything in one—plus, it could integrate with the software you use for accounting, timetracking, and other human resources.  

You can try a free demo of Gusto for one month, but afterwards it’s a flat rate of $39, plus $6 per employee per month. Pretty good for a comprehensive payroll service for small business!

21. TriNet

If you’re on the hunt for payroll services for small business, you’ve probably come across TriNet before. It combines extensive payroll processing with benefits, compliance, and more, so you’ve got an all-in-one package that fulfills all of your employee needs—securely in the cloud. They offer different recommended solutions based on your industry, as well as your size. If you want help with everything HR-related, TriNet is a great reliable choice for your business.

22. Namely

Calling themselves “HR for humans,” Namely promises high-tech, forward-thinking HR solutions to classic problems. In addition to payroll, tax, compliance, and the usual set of tools, Namely also features a social news feed, organization charting, an employee database, workflow maps, calendars, and more—including a handy mobile app. If you need a bit of everything with a modern touch, check out Namely!

23. Sage

With the highest customer retention rate in the industry, Sage offers a number of packages specially tailored to businesses of different sizes. Whether you’re fewer than 10 employees and want Sage Essentials, or need Sage Payroll Full Service for the total white-glove service, they have affordable options for every situation.

24. Fuse Workforce Management

Fuse Workforce Management rolls all your payroll, timetracking, and HR management features you need into one simple product. This helps your employees access all their relevant statistics in a single place, and it makes things easy for you, too. Fuse Workforce Management is cloud-based and offers customizable payroll reports, as well as streamlining complicated and confusing processes, like determining shift-based pay and regional tax laws.

25. Jumpstart: HR

Jumpstart: HR has one focus: making sure small businesses get all the human resources help they need to stay on their game. From payroll management to compliance, background checks, HR strategies, and everything in between, you can rely on Jumpstart: HR to take the pressure off your small business. Pricing depends on your business’s size—and especially young businesses can get human resources consulting, too.

26. Precision Payroll of America

Precision Payroll of America makes payroll processing and taxes easy—while also giving you some help in the HR department, too. Use their online tool to quickly search for employee withholding forms, insurance, and more state-by-state, as well as to check on your Affordable Care Act compliance.

27. ProHR+

Pro HR+ focuses on 6 areas for small businesses :HR administration, regulations and compliance, benefits, risk management, liability protection, and payroll management. If you’re just looking for a new payroll system, they may not be for you… But if you want to get a whole bunch of tricky tasks off your plate, then they’re worth considering!

28. Pro iPay

Pro iPay, from ProData, is a web-based payroll service for small business that helps you process payroll, integrate HR data, and cleans up your to-do list. They work with small businesses and large corporations alike, so no matter your size, Pro iPay could be the right solution for you.

29. TelePayroll

One of the 5,000 fastest growing privately-owned companies in the U.S., TelePayroll combines a tech-forward solutions with an experienced customer success team to meet all of your business’s payroll needs—no matter whether you’re 5, 50, or 500 employees strong. And with a 97% client retention rate, you can be sure they’re doing something right.

30. Advantage Payroll Services

Advantage Payroll Services is geared more towards medium-sized businesses, so if you’re aiming to grow soon, this payroll service might be ideal. While they offer a whole set of products—from tax filing and workers’ compensation to new hire reporting—you’ll want to pay special attention to Instant Payroll. This Advantage Payroll Services feature lets you deal with payroll completely online, on your browser, instantly and securely.

31. Alliance Payroll Services

Alliance Payroll Services focuses on a seamless, paperless payroll experience with AllPay. AllPay consolidates all of your employee management data and tasks into one integrated database, so you won’t have to enter in redundant information or deal with messy paperwork. It also can connect with other third-party apps through its API (or Application Protocol Interface), Whether you’re looking for timekeeping, new hire onboarding, human resource programs, benefits, or payroll processing, this is one of the best options for payroll services for small business around.

32. Kelly Payroll

Kelly & Associates Financial Services offers KELLY Payroll, an online service that combines payroll and benefits to employers and employees alike. This single point of entry makes accessing your payroll and benefit information extremely simple and convenient. So if you’re on the search for straightforward payroll services for small business without paying for extra HR solutions, try KELLY out.

33. Coastal Human Resource Group

The online payroll system offered by Coastal Human Resource Group makes payroll simple: they’ll handle direct deposit, but if you prefer checks, they’ll actually print and deliver them on time for your employee payment schedule. They also offer a wide range of HR-related programs, from employee benefits to compliance assistance and workers’ compensation insurance.

34. PayLumina

PayNorthwest customers can access PayLumina, which fits right in with the ranks of web-based payroll services for small business. It houses all of your payroll and HR information in a single database—and lets you set up different levels of permissions for employees to view sensitive information (or not).

35. AmCheck

AmCheck is another 100% cloud-based payroll solution for filing and reporting, with 24/7 live support and a whole suite of additional products to help you manage your employees. You can set up custom reports, sync AmCheck with your accounting software, and keep track of time and attendance.

Plus, AmCheck is rated between Amazon and Apple in terms of brand loyalty—which means its customers are generally very satisfied with their choice!

36. APS

Looking for a payroll service you can take on the go? APS, or Automatic Payroll Systems, could be the solution for you. Most payroll services for small business tend to be computer-oriented, but APS offers a cloud-based suite of payroll and HR services that you can access on your mobile device, too.

37. Newtek

Newtek promises 20% savings when compared to ADP and PayChex, two other payroll services for small business. If you’re looking for a good deal, then definitely start here.

Apart from their pricing guarantee, Newtek offers small businesses the standard selection of payroll and HR tools, including nice-to-haves like 401(k) plans, online pay stubs, workers’ compensation, and more. They go above and beyond with payroll account review, though: their tax specialists review each one and deal with taxes at every level.

38. Harpers Payroll Services

If you’re in need of a proven payroll and HR solution, then Harpers Payroll Services could be worth a look. They operate in all 50 states, offer direct deposit for any ACH-participating financial institution in the US, automatically issue company checks, assist with compliance and new hire reporting, and more. There’s no frills or flash: it’s a payroll service for small business that just works.

39. Insperity

If you manage between 10 and 5,000 employees, Insperity could be the payroll service for you. Whether you’re just interested in payroll and a few HR-related tools, or you want the whole suite of management technology, Insperity offers it. These extra features include organization planning, retirement benefits, expense management, and more.

40. JetPay

A publically-traded company, JetPay offers payroll processing tools, as well as options for credit card processing and prepaid cards. Plus, their payroll package comes with a few human resource-oriented features, like job posting, applicant tracking, and review storage.

41. MMC HR

MMC is a true all-in-one payroll/HR package, tailoring its products to fit your specific business. Need help with payroll and taxes? Compliance? Vacation and timetracking policies? Benefits? Employee training? Risk management? Get a free quote to see what you’d need to shell out for one of the more comprehensive payroll services for small business (and any business)!

42. Oasis Outsourcing

One fee, many tools: that’s what Oasis Outsourcing offers for your business’s human resources. Beyond the typical payroll features, Oasis Outsourcing also brings in specialized experts at workers’ compensation, training, performance reviews, hiring, and more to consult with you and make the best HR plan possible.

43. ADP

ADP, or Automatic Data Processing, offers payroll software to all businesses, whether you’ve got just a handful of employees or are a multinational corporation.

In terms of payroll services for small business, you can sign up right now and get two months for free. With ADP’s small business package, you receive payroll and tax filing software, time and attendance tracking, benefits planning, insurance services, and more. While you might find the price tag a little large, especially compared to some competitors on here, ADP is a powerful tool for any entrepreneur looking for a bit more organization in their lives.

44. Alpha Payroll Services

With Alpha Payroll, you can review your employees’ payroll information, benefits enrollment, and more any time you want—since it’s a cloud-based small business payroll service. Plus, they also offer instant quotes for payment and transaction processing, as well as HR resources and other associated services.

The Best Payroll Services for Small Business: Just for Small Business

As a small business owner, it feels good to use tools made by people who really understand your particular struggles. Running a small business isn’t like anything else—so why should you use the same payroll services for small business?

If you want a solution that’s custom-fit for small business, check this list out.

45. Paychex

Although Paychex includes payroll services for any business, their small business product—Paychex Flex—is definitely worth writing home about. If you have 1 to 49 employees, it’s a great solution for payroll and taxes, business insurance, 401(k)s, and HR management. Paychex is a cloud-based, mobile-friendly service that comes with a high-quality support team, available 24/7,  to help you out with any complex questions or issues.   

46. Square Payroll

If you’re looking for a fast, easy, intuitive, and tech-friendly solution to payroll processing for a business with hourly employees, it’s hard to beat Square Payroll. Your hourly employees can clock in and out from the Square app, wherever they are, and taxes are taken care of for you. All in, Square Payroll will run you $25 per month, plus $5 per employee—not too shabby.

At the moment, it’s only available in California, New York, Florida, Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, Illinois, Texas, Tennessee, South Dakota, New Hampshire, and Alaska.

47. Wave

“Payroll designed for small business” is Wave’s motto, and it shows. With a base monthly fee of $15 and a sliding scale of monthly costs for employees—either at $2 or $4, depending on how many employees you’re covering—you get a whole host of features.

You can expect year-end filing, tax liability tracking, paystubs and W-2s available on an employee portal, and backups and encryption, all on top of the usual selection of direct deposit and check printing. Plus, this payroll service for small business integrates with the rest of Wave as well, so you can keep your payroll in the same place as your accounting.

48. SurePayroll

Owned by PayChex, SurePayroll is available for desktop or mobile, letting you adjust your small business’s payroll processing 24/7. It’s specifically oriented on small business by offering flexible payroll schedules, easy online reporting, a payroll tax guarantee, and options for contract hires. (It also has special options for nannies and households, so if those apply to you, check it out!)

49. BenefitMall

Whether you want to use direct deposit or print your own checks to pay your employees, BenefitMall has you covered. This payroll service covers businesses of all size, but they offer PayFocus—a payroll-and-HR combination package—to small businesses in particular.  They’re a well-established payroll services company with a long track record, so if you’re looking to try something proven out, BenefitMall could be your choice.

50. Paycor

Whether you’re managing payroll on your desktop computer or mobile phone, Paycor lets you make direct deposits, edit employee information, make quick calculations, and receive notifications. They also have special packages for businesses between 1 and 20 employees, 21 and 75, and 76 and above and offer a very informative HR blog!

51. Patriot Software

This especially small business-oriented payroll service has a completely online experience, transparent monthly pricing, pre-printed checks for customers, free setup and support, and a free 30-day trial. Patriot Software’s focus is on simplicity and usability—no need to waste time learning a complicated program just to manage a few employees (although they service businesses with up to 100).

52. OperationsInc

Payroll services for small business should work different (and cost different!) from payroll services for mid-size and large businesses, right?

That’s what OperationsInc believes, which is why they offer different payment structures depending on the size of your business. Whether you need a long-term payroll solution for your day-to-day operations or you’ve bumped into a payroll or tax emergency, OperationsInc essentially wants you to view them as your outsourced HR department.

The Bottom Line on Payroll Services for Small Business

Here’s the good news:

Many of these payroll services for small business offer free trials or free quotes, making it easy to compare their features and see which holds the best value for your specific needs.

So try out the packages that sound like the right fit, see what systems you and your employees are most comfortable with, and check the pricing to understand what you can afford!

Using one of these payroll services will free up your time and energy, so you can focus on what’s more important: growing your business.

The post The 52 Best Payroll Services for Your Small Business appeared first on Fundera Ledger.

AMP

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via Fundera Ledger https://www.fundera.com/blog

November 8, 2016 at 04:31AM

What Qualities Should You Look for in a Marketing Automation Manager?

http://blog.marketo.com/2016/11/what-qualities-should-you-look-for-in-a-marketing-automation-manager.html

What Qualities Should You Look for in a Marketing Automation Manager?

Author: Anastasia Pavlova

Whether you’re a small to medium-sized business or a larger enterprise organization, marketing automation is your company’s best bet for staying competitive in this digital age.

  • 53% of the B2B organizations and 43% of B2C and combination B2B/B2C organizations have adopted marketing automation systems.–ResearchCorp’s Demand Generation Adoption Survey
  • 91% of successful users agree that marketing automation is “very important” to the success of their overall marketing.–Marketo and Ascend2’s Marketing Automation Strategy Survey

But being successful and getting ahead of your competition isn’t just about using marketing automation anymore; it’s about optimizing your platform and resources to grasp its full potential. That means you need the right team to manage your marketing automation platform.

At the core of an effective team is a strong leader who understands your buyers’ needs across the entire lifecycle–from awareness to purchase, onboarding to retention, and growth to advocacy–and thinks about the entire customer experience across touchpoints. This leader will be responsible for your demand generation strategy for different segments and its orchestration across channels. He/she will work with key stakeholders, such as product marketing and sales, and may manage a team of vast talents–marketers, content creators, and designers. It’s a tall order, and you want the very best.

If you’ve never had a point person for marketing automation before, you might be wondering what qualities a marketing automation manager would need, and how to hire the very best. In this blog, I’ll cover all the information you need for a successful marketing automation manager hire:

Find a Modern Day Da Vinci

Marketing organizations in this digital age need a new blend of talent. The ideal marketers for cross-channel, customer-centric marketing combine the creativity of an artist with analytical and data modeling skills. As “thinkers” and “doers,” they can propel the organization to success on both fronts and earn credibility for the marketing team.

They need to be “feelers” who understand behaviors, expectations, and interactions and have a pulse on the buyer at any given point of the customer lifecycle. They also need to be great collaborators and have a solid understanding of the principles and strategies of data-driven marketing and modern demand generation, plus hands-on experience with a marketing automation or email marketing platform. They need to be able to demonstrate the ability to plan and oversee the execution of successful campaigns across multiple channels and measure the results that they drove on each one.

Below are some reasonable minimum requirements of a Da Vinci-esque marketing automation manager, based on our own experience. Of course, depending on the goals, size, and structure of your organization, you may have different people responsible for different aspects. However, the smaller your company, the more “hats” your marketing automation manager will have to wear in the beginning. As you start realizing the productivity benefits of your platform, you can scale your business and grow your team.

The ideal marketing automation manager should have these qualities:

  • At least 3 to 5 years of marketing experience. Technology by itself will not solve business challenges. Your marketing automation manager will need to understand how to use a marketing automation platform to drive the execution of your entire marketing strategy–from demand generation to multi-channel engagement, to customer cross-sell and advocacy. You need someone who has been in the industry and has weathered some changes already.
  • Strategic thinker and hands-on executor. While it’s easier to teach someone how to use a new technology, developing strategic skills takes time. As both a “thinker” and “doer,” your marketing automation manager will be able to propel the marketing department to success on both fronts.
  • Solid writing skills and experience creating marketing content. Content fuels your marketing programs across various channels in order to engage buyers, so your marketing automation manager needs to know how to plan for, develop content, and execute programs with content across multiple channels and measure its effectiveness in driving the results that matter. Your marketing automation manager may spend a lot of time writing and reviewing promotional copy and catchy headlines for different channels, so writing must come naturally to her. And because she will be heavily involved in content development, the more types she’s familiar with, the better—blogs, emails, web page content, and other key assets for your organization.
  • Experience managing campaign execution across multiple channels. If your marketing automation manager already has experience with email marketing–that’s a great start. He will also need to plan and execute personalized experiences for buyers across your company website, third party websites, social media channels, mobile, and more. You need someone who is great at the big picture, but also knows how to get into the weeds of execution, involving other channel owners as needed.
  • Driven by metrics: Building measurable programs and understanding what to measure and when are critical skills for a marketing automation manager. Industry benchmarks have too many variables to consider such as company size, industry, funding, size of teams, to name a few, so it’s better to benchmark against your company’s historical performance and the ideal candidate will know how to establish your baseline. And while your measurement timeline may differ depending on your buyer cycle, he should know how to measure across early-, mid-, and late-stages:Measurement TimeframeYour marketing automation manager should also know how to keep the audience in mind when it comes to metrics. Although your marketing team cares about clicks and conversions, your executives and sales leaders want to hear about the bottom line–opportunities, pipeline, and return on investment (ROI).
  • Have a hacker’s mindset. Being comfortable with new technologies and having a passion for learning and the ability to figure out how different systems integrate and work together to drive the results you want are essential skills for modern marketing automation managers. They will need to understand the ins and outs of your system rules, filters, segmentation, scoring model, revenue stages and flows, CRM platform capabilities (if you have one), and more. It’s useful to have familiarity with HTML, CSS, email deliverability and CAN-SPAM/CASL compliance requirements as well.

People Skills That Set a Marketing Automation Manager Apart

A marketing automation manager must be able to collaborate cross-functionally as well as produce. Not only will she be leading a team, but this managerial position will touch other functions in the company, such as sales, customer success, services, and support. That means the ideal candidate must also have the skills to work well within the team, both on the marketing side and with the other invested departments.

  • Team player: This is so critical that it must be number one on your list. This multi-tasking position will be working with a number of internal teams—from sales to operations, to IT and legal—each with its own viewpoint, beliefs, and goals. Each team needs to believe that their goals and needs are being taken into account, and the new manager has to accomplish that with diplomacy and good will, always looking for a win-win solution.
  • Project manager: Your marketing automation manager must have the ability to drive projects to the finish line based on set goals, towards agreed on deadlines, and within budget. She must quickly assemble a team of functional experts; ramp up their understanding of the goals, situation, problem, players, and options; and develop a project plan, assign tasks, and drive execution while managing the expectations of key stakeholders through regular status meetings and updates.
  • Takes the initiative and has a proactive mindset: A marketing automation leader says “we will” instead of “we should” and always takes the initiative, raising his hand and making things happen. He should also be prepared for all potential outcomes, good and bad, and preps his team accordingly.

How to Find a Modern Day Da Vinci

Start by looking internally within your company for candidates who may be a good fit. Because they’re already familiar with your organization’s culture, processes, and business model, they’ll be easier to get up to speed.

Take a look across your company’s departments, including:

  • Marketing, and marketing or sales operations
  • Product or segment marketing
  • Sales
  • Business operations/analyst relations
  • Services or other customer-facing functions

Then, look at sourcing externally through these channels:

  • Tap into your social networks via LinkedIn
  • Conferences/meet-ups
  • Consultants/freelancers
  • Marketing automation customer communities, such as Marketo Community
  • Competing companies
  • Other high-growth companies
  • Industry analysts

Whether you’re looking for an internal or external candidate, here are some key phrases that will make their credentials stand out:

  • Marketing automation
  • Demand generation/lead generation
  • Email marketing
  • Digital marketing
  • Field marketing
  • Results-driven/metrics/analytics
  • Marketing content
  • Collaboration/cross-functional team management

Who to Include in the Interview Process

Since your marketing automation manager will be working with many different groups and people in marketing and other departments, it’s important to include key stakeholders in the interview process.

Consider involving the following people:

  • Hiring manager
  • Your immediate demand generation team (at least 1-2 peers)
  • Head of demand generation and possibly a CMO (if different from hiring manager)
  • Sales stakeholders (if you have a sales team) and customer success manager (if the role involves programs that touch customers)
  • Product or segment marketing manager
  • Marketing operations lead
  • Other marketing functions depending on the role scope

Depending on the size of your company and your hiring process, it may take from a few weeks to a few months to get someone hired. We recommend no more than three rounds of interviews (e.g. one phone screen with HR and the hiring manager and two on-site inerviews with key stakeholders).

Questions to Ask During the Interview Process

Once you’ve identified a slate of candidates, you need to make the most of your interview time. Here are a few interview questions you’ll want to ask, based on the skills and experience you’re looking for, and what to watch for in the answers.

  1. Tell me about the most successful marketing automation campaign you have run (and why you consider it successful). Try asking the first part of this question alone to start. You’re looking for an articulate, concise, and logical answer that follows the PAR model (problem-solution-result). You can then ask follow-up questions to understand candidate’s role in the project and all the steps in the process. You’re also waiting to see (1) if he shares credit with his team, and (2) if he focuses on the metrics that matter. If metrics don’t come up, try asking the second part—why the candidate considers it successful—and see if he provides soft answers or solid, data-driven metrics.
  2. Tell me about the least successful campaign you have run (and what you have learned from it). With this question, you’re looking for how the candidate thinks she might have changed it. Does she blame others? What were the lessons she learned?
  3. How would your manager (and your co-workers) describe you? Here, you’re looking for the candidate’s accurate assessment of his strengths and weaknesses. You would also want to validate his responses with answers from their former manager and co-workers during the reference check process to see if they match.
  4. How do you learn best? The way the candidate learns is less important than the fact that she wants to and recognizes the need to. Continuous learning is a key factor to success in marketing automation.
  5. Describe the most challenging team dynamic situation you’ve faced and how you approached it. Look for how the manager helped smooth issues over. Was he integral to the situation? What collaborative skills did he display?
  6. To understand the candidate’s current demand generation efforts, volume of programs, and understanding of the revenue model, ask them about the following:
    1. Demand generated, such as number of marketing qualified leads (MQLs).
    2. Conversion rates: For a B2B organization, this might include conversions from MQLs to opportunities to closed-won deals.
    3. Velocity: How many days does it take for a potential customer to turn into a customer?
  7. How do you decide what programs to invest in? This will identify how he gauges success and whether he’s using metrics to inform his budget allocation decisions.
  8. What are your best channels for your target audience? Which generate the most ROI? This question reveals 1) if she understands who her target audience is 2) if she measure across both programs and channels.
  9. Useful exercises to have your candidate complete as part of the interview process:
    • Build a short .ppt deck (no more than five slides) to deliver to your sales and marketing leaders describing the early-mid-late stage marketing programs that you drove and results you achieved. Look for proficiency with developing an effective presentation and delivery in front of the key stakeholders. This can be done on the spot or as a homework exercise with on-site delivery of the presentation.
    • Write a sample email with a call-to-action based on the description of a content asset. Here you’re assessing her writing skills and ability to produce compelling promotional copy that would entice someone to take the desired action.

The Ideal Marketing Automation Manager is Waiting

As you begin your search for the best marketing automation manager, you’re bound to learn a lot along the way. One candidate may impress you with his technical know-how, and another may demonstrate the collaboration and people skills you need. Ultimately, it will be your judgment call based on the pool of candidates you have, their cultural fit with your current team and organization, genuine excitement about joining your company;,their personality and willingness to learn skills they lack, and how their strengths will dovetail with those of your existing team.

What else do you look for in a marketing automation manager? Share your insights in the comments below!

Marketo Summit 2017


What Qualities Should You Look for in a Marketing Automation Manager? was posted at Marketo Marketing Blog – Best Practices and Thought Leadership. | http://blog.marketo.com

The post What Qualities Should You Look for in a Marketing Automation Manager? appeared first on Marketo Marketing Blog – Best Practices and Thought Leadership.

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November 8, 2016 at 12:42AM

Here’s Why Small Business Saturday Could Be the Best Day Ever

https://www.fundera.com/blog/2016/11/07/small-business-saturday

As a savvy consumer, you probably have Black Friday and Cyber Monday marked on your calendar as the best days to score deals at almost any retail store in the United States. But did you know about an equal—if not better—shopping event that falls on that same weekend?

It’s Small Business Saturday—an event that any smart shopper or small business owner should take advantage of on Saturday, November 26th.

Why should you participate in Small Business Saturday? Keep reading to find out.

Small Business and the U.S. Economy

As a small business owner, you know how important your business is. It isn’t just your day-to-day job and income source—it’s something that you’ve grown from the ground up, all on your own.

But do you know how important your small business is to the U.S. economy?

Small businesses are the backbone of the economy. All you have to do is look at the numbers to know how important you and your 28 million other small business owners are.

Small businesses make up:

  • 99.7% of U.S. employer firms
  • 98% of all firms exporting goods
  • 55% of all jobs and 66% of all new jobs since the 1970s
  • 54% of all sales in the U.S.
  • 30-50% of all commercial space
  • 43% of all high-tech employment
  • 33% of the U.S.’s exports value

You get the picture. In short, the U.S. economy would be nowhere close to where it is today without small business.

So, your small business isn’t just important to you. It’s important to the economy as a whole, and it needs to be recognized and supported.

That’s where Small Business Saturday comes in.

What is Small Business Saturday?

American Express launched Small Business Saturday to recognize the importance of small businesses and show support for the small business owners who play such a vital role in the economy.

As a small business owner, it’s hard to get people to come into your store to shop for the holidays. Small Business Saturday was in part an effort to get consumers to shop in their own community—not on online megastores.

So, every Saturday between the chaos of Black Friday and the online frenzy of Cyber Monday, local consumers come out on Small Business Saturday to shop small in their community. Small Business Saturday is a day for any and all small businesses—retail stores, restaurants, cafes, fitness studios, salons, you name it.

And as a small business owner, Small Business Saturday is the best time to spruce up your store, stock up in inventory, and open your doors to the community.

Why Small Business Saturday is the Best Day of the Year

If you’re a small business owner, you should absolutely embrace this shopping holiday and start gearing up for Small Business Saturday.

Why?

Well, here are two very good reasons to participate in Small Business Saturday.

1. Everyone Supports Small Business Saturday

Since its beginnings in 2010, consumers have become more and more aware of the importance of Small Business Saturday—not to mention all the deals they can get if they participate in it.  

Just how many people know about Small Business Saturday? Well, here’s what the data shows:

  • In 2010, Small Business Saturday gained 1.2 million people’s support on Facebook in only the first year. Nearly 30,000 people tweeted about #smallbusinesssaturday and #smallbizsaturday. And 41 elected officers recognized the day as a national shopping holiday. It’s official.
  • In 2011, Small Business Saturday’s Facebook page brought in 2.6 million likes and participants tweeted over 195,000 times about Small Business Saturday. In the event’s second year, 65% of regular shoppers were aware and ready to participate in Small Business Saturday. And an estimated 103 million shoppers went out and shopped small on Small Business Saturday.
  • In 2012, 155 big corporations like Fedex, AOL, and Twitter banded together to promote shopping during Small Business Saturday. More than 3.2 million Facebook users supported Small Business Saturday, and 213,000 people tweeted about #smallbizsat. Of all the consumers that were aware of Small Business Saturday, almost 50% of them turned out and actually shopped during the 2012 event.
  • In 2013, consumer awareness of Small Business Saturday jumped to 71%, from the 67% in 2012. Almost 370 advocacy organizations signed up to support the initiative and encourage people to go out and support small business.
  • In 2014, more than two-thirds of the entire U.S. population was aware of Small Business Saturday. Support for Small Business Saturday grew with 446 companies signing up to become official supporters of the day, and 3.3 million Facebook users validating its importance.
  • In 2015, Neighborhood Champions increased by nearly 50%, with 4,100 registered supporters rallying support for small business. And by 2015, 83% of U.S. consumers said that they were inspired to shop small on Small Business Saturday, and went out to do so.

Long story short, the entire U.S. knows about Small Business Saturday, understands why it’s so valuable to their local economy, and goes out to participate.

So if everyone else is on board, why shouldn’t you be? There’s no time like the present to go download some Small Business Saturday marketing materials and bring those eager shoppers right into your store.

2. Everyone Loves to Shop Small on Small Business Saturday

It’s obvious that more and more people come out to support Small Business Saturday each year.

But how much can it really affect your sales?

Well, Small Business Saturday can bring in a lot for your business. When local consumers spend one whole day shopping small, its has a big impact on your wallet.

If you look at Small Business Saturday throughout the years, the numbers say it all:

  • In 2013, nearly 1,500 small business, consumers, and local organizations joined in support of Small Business Saturday, and shoppers spent an estimated $14 billion.
  • In 2014, more than 88 million shoppers spent $14.3 billion on Small Business Saturday.
  • In 2015, more than 95 million shoppers spent $16.2 billion on Small Business Saturday.

When you look at how much Americans spend and support Small Business Saturday, the numbers keep growing. And when it comes down to how much shoppers spend during the event, there’s really no reason why a small business owner shouldn’t participate in Small Business Saturday.

Not only does Small Business Saturday introduce new customers to your small business. It also increases your sales—by a lot.

Why You Need to Participate in Small Business Saturday 2016

Want to get in on this upward trend? Then 2016 is the best year to open your doors for Small Business Saturday.

If you participate in 2016’s Small Business Saturday, here’s some good news that’s in store for your business:

  • Research predicts that $17.8 billion will be spent on Small Business Saturday—a 10% increase from 2015.
  • Almost two-thirds of U.S. consumers plan to spend at least $100 at small retailers or restaurants on Small Business Saturday in 2016.
  • And 77% of consumers aware of Small Business Saturday are planning to go to one or more small businesses as a major part of their holiday shopping.

Put simply, your local customers are ready to come spend at your business. You just need to embrace Small Business Saturday and welcome them in.

And with a new chance for consumers to earn 2x Membership Rewards points when they use American Express credit cards at small businesses on Small Business Saturday, shoppers have even more reason to come out and shop at your small business this year.

Getting In on the Small Business Saturday Action

So, if you’re sold on Small Business Saturday, it’s easy to get your business ready for the big day.

Here are some steps you can take to prepare for Small Business Saturday:

  • Take advantage of free Small Business Saturday resources. American Express offers a number of different free, personalized advertising tools and marketing materials for participating small businesses. Show your customers that you’ll be open for business on Small Business Saturday by downloading the Shop Small logo to display on your website or use as signage on your shop’s front door.
  • Create a Special Offer. Small Business Saturday is a special, one-day-only event to get a ton of foot traffic in your store. To get even more sales on Small Business Saturday, offer a one-day discount or free sample. Show your customers that you appreciate their business and their support of Small Business Saturday. And if you go above and beyond on this Saturday, they’ll come back as regulars throughout the year.
  • Get your website in order. Small Business Saturday has reached online shoppers, too. So if your online storefront is ready for a lots of traffic—with updated inventory and Small Business Saturday promotions prominently displayed—you’ll be a step ahead when the holiday comes around.
  • Beef up your storefront. If you’re anticipating a lot of customers in your brick-and-mortar store for Small Business Saturday, make sure that all the logistics are in order. Keep track of your inventory leading up to the event, making sure that you’re stocked up for the day. Also, hire some additional hands for the event if you think you’ll need them. According to a study from last year’s event, shoppers care about customer experience while taking advantage of Small Business Saturday. If you only have one employee working the cash register and your customers can’t get what they need, you might not be providing the Small Business Saturday experience they’re looking for.
  • Start your social media efforts now. With Small Business Saturday supporters all over Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, it’s time to start advertising your participation in the event on social media. When the day rolls around, #SmallBizSat and #ShopSmall hashtags will be all over the place. Make your promotions, special offers, or extra hours known by engaging in Small Business Saturday’s social media hype.

The biggest small business shopping event of the year is just around the corner. And when Small Business Saturday rolls around, you’ll be happy you prepared your small business for the big day.

After all, major retail stores waste no time preparing and promoting holiday shopping, so you shouldn’t either.

Fundera Supports Small Business Saturday

Excited for Small Business Saturday? We are too.

 

fundera_small_business_badge

From opening your doors to financing your business, Fundera is with your small business every step of the way. That’s why we’ll be there to support small businesses on Small Business Saturday.

See you on November 26th!

The post Here’s Why Small Business Saturday Could Be the Best Day Ever appeared first on Fundera Ledger.

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November 7, 2016 at 04:56AM

5 Things to Include in Your Brand’s Content Guidelines

http://blog.marketo.com/2016/11/5-things-to-include-in-your-brands-content-guidelines.html

5 Things to Include in Your Brand’s Content Guidelines

Author: Mike Brown

Let me tell you about the one time I got fired. Trust me, there’s a valuable lesson in here for marketers.

I was 16 years old and had just landed a groundskeeper job at a summer camp. One day, I was given the very simple task of removing all the weeds along the entrance road. Easy enough, right? I spent the next three hours pulling what I thought were weeds.

“Those plants cost hundreds of dollars!” he yelled after I was finished. “You’re done here.”

They looked like weeds to me. Anyway, the point of the story is that you shouldn’t make any assumptions. No matter how straightforward a task might seem to you—whether it’s pulling weeds or writing a whitepaper—there’s a good chance it’ll be done incorrectly without some basic guidelines.

It’s easier than ever to create content. The real challenge for marketers now is getting content to scale while remaining consistent in terms of tone, voice, and objective, regardless of the contributor.

If this is something you strive for, here are five things you should include in your content guidelines for internal and external contributors:

1. Establish Content Goals

If a writer produces a beautifully written thought leadership piece, but your goal was to generate leads for a webinar, can you blame them for missing the mark if you never communicated your goals?

It’s easy for someone to assume what those goals might be. A CMI report found that the most important goals for B2B marketers is lead generation (85%) and sales (84%), and sales (83%) and customer retention/loyalty (81%) for consumer content marketers—though yours may be different. This is especially true on an individual assignment level.

Unless you document and share the goals of your content marketing strategy (i.e. how you’ll be measuring success), your contributors will never know why they’re writing, which is arguably the most important piece of information they can have.

2. Develop Audience Personas

Some marketers like to praise the journalistic approach to content, but I don’t always see this as a good thing. Why? Because some journalists often write surface-level content for uniformed audiences. They explain basic concepts and facts (e.g. how to tell the difference between weeds vs. exotic plants) as if their readers know nothing about the topic at hand.

Your target audience may be different, especially if you’re targeting different roles and industry. Your audience likely has more knowledge about a specific topic or industry than others, so your content cannot just skim the surface. The problem here is that unless writers understand the audience they are writing for, surface-level “fluff” is what they are likely to produce. For this reason, you’ll want to create audience personas by documenting traits like:

  • Job titles
  • Demographic Information: Age, Gender, Income, etc.
  • Industries
  • Pain points
  • Stage of the buyer’s journey
  • Potential traffic sources

Now ideally, your contributors are experts in their fields and can easily create this type of “peer-to-peer” content. But if not, then you need to give them an in-depth overview on the audience so they can start to ramp up themselves. The more a writer knows about the audience, the more effective they’ll be in creating content that engages, informs and/or entertains them.

3. Create an Editorial Calendar

Knowing how all your content will fit together is vital to creating a unified multi-channel marketing strategy. Unfortunately, too many managers believe that they’re the only ones who need to know how everything will fit together.

Letting your contributors know your monthly topics and themes and the content plans you have for the future will not only help them on each piece they’re working on, but it will also help them contribute to that strategy. That’s right, by keeping your writers in the dark, you’re missing out on a major opportunity to meet your goals.

With deeper insights into your goals, audiences, and overall content strategy, your internal and external contributors can be a valuable source of content ideas. Rather than simply sending out assignments to them, you can allow them to pitch you ideas that could fit into your content calendar.

4. Document Technical Specifications

Let’s get granular! If you want your content to adhere to a specific style and format, then you need to develop technical specifications as part of your brand guidelines.

Include things like:

  • Desired tone: Is your content fun and playful, or professional and authoritative?
  • Length: How long should a blog be? What about a whitepaper?
  • Links: Do you prefer outside sources to be included? Are there any sources or competitors to avoid linking to?
  • Media: Should your writer include a picture or other multi-media, or is that handled by you or the design team?
  • Keywords: What keywords should be included? Also include main focus keywords for each individual piece.

You want writers to exercise their creativity, but at the end of the day, their content should still conform to certain standards.

5. Highlight Top Performing Content

Do your content creators know how high the bar has been set? If not, they should.

Put together a collection of the content pieces that have worked well for you in the past so writers know exactly what you’re looking for. You could even mark these documents up with comments that highlight specifically what made the posts work–an engaging intro, clear headers, actionable takeaways, and whatever else is important to you.

By doing this, you’ll be sharing content examples that bring together the other four points we’ve discussed. Writers will have a real-world example that they can reference, and aim to one-up it.

The demands of content creation have become too burdensome for one person to handle themselves. Eventually, you’re going to need to involve others in the mix. Understanding what guidelines to share (and why) will be a critical factor in how well your content efforts scale.

What else do you include in your brand’s content guidelines? Be sure to share in the comments section below!

Marketo Summit 2017


5 Things to Include in Your Brand’s Content Guidelines was posted at Marketo Marketing Blog – Best Practices and Thought Leadership. | http://blog.marketo.com

The post 5 Things to Include in Your Brand’s Content Guidelines appeared first on Marketo Marketing Blog – Best Practices and Thought Leadership.

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November 7, 2016 at 12:45AM

How to Form a ‘Mastermind’ by Sharing Ideas

https://www.entrepreneur.com/video/284899

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In this video, Entrepreneur Network partners Chris Haddon and Jason Balin discuss the power of forming a mastermind and how it can benefit you and your business.

A “mastermind” forms when people get together to share ideas, best practices, strategies and more in an effort to simply help one another. The term was originally coined from Napoleon Hill’s famous business book Think and Grow Rich. Hill discovered that the most successful people have one thing in common: They get together to share their knowledge.

Today, attending a mastermind is vital to success. You can join a mastermind within your industry or get an outsider’s perspective. You can pay to attend one, or if you have a large enough following, you can plan and execute your own.

To learn more about the power of a mastermind, click play.

Watch more videos from Hard Money Bankers on their YouTube channel here.

Related: Are You Playing Offense or Defense in Your Business?

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Click here to become a part of this growing video network.

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November 9, 2016 at 07:04AM

"How Small Businesses Dominate Their Market with 4 Proven Marketing Systems"

Inside You'll Discover... Proven Marketing Systems that Will Ensure 25% Growth or More for Your Business in the Next 12 Months, including:

  • How to monetize your most valuable asset, so you dominate your competition and attract more customers
  • How to ensure more people know about you today than yesterday, so you build a constant pipeline of customers eager to buy from you
  • How to maximize the lifetime value of your customer base, so you increase profits by reselling customers over and over again
  • How to generate effortless ongoing new business, so you leverage your best customers to act as a low-cost salesforce to create new leads and sales

Sign Up For Instant Access & Receive Your FREE Report Right Now

You'll be able to immediately start applying these proven strategies to your business. You'll also be automatically subscribed to our Get AMPed! newsletter where you will continue to receive other great strategies, tactics and advice to take your business to the next level.

We respect your privacy. Your info is 100% secure We will never share your information with any third parties.

"How Small Businesses Dominate Their Market with 4 Proven Marketing Systems"

Inside You'll Discover... Proven Marketing Systems that Will Ensure 25% Growth or More for Your Business in the Next 12 Months, including:

  • How to monetize your most valuable asset, so you dominate your competition and attract more customers
  • How to ensure more people know about you today than yesterday, so you build a constant pipeline of customers eager to buy from you
  • How to maximize the lifetime value of your customer base, so you increase profits by reselling customers over and over again
  • How to generate effortless ongoing new business, so you leverage your best customers to act as a low-cost salesforce to create new leads and sales

Sign Up For Instant Access & Receive Your FREE Report Right Now

You'll be able to immediately start applying these proven strategies to your business. You'll also be automatically subscribed to our Get AMPed! newsletter where you will continue to receive other great strategies, tactics and advice to take your business to the next level.

We respect your privacy. Your info is 100% secure We will never share your information with any third parties.