Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Stopping Small Business Scams Law Enforcement and Education Initiative

From FTC.gov

Yesterday, the Federal Trade Commission, jointly with the offices of eight state Attorneys General, the New York Division of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, two U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and the Better Business Bureau (BBB), announced the results of Operation Main Street: Stopping Small Business Scams, a law enforcement initiative targeting operations seeking to defraud small businesses, and an education outreach effort to help small businesses protect themselves from fraud.

Operation Main Street - Stopping Small Business Scams (24 Law enforcement actions nationwide; 12 Partners in law enforcement, including the FTC, brought these federal and state actions; 6+ Types of scams - including unordered merchandise, business directories, fake invoices, and imposters - collected more than $290 million from businesses in these cases) - Go to ftc.gov/smallbusiness.The agencies are announcing a total of 24 actions involving defendants who allegedly perpetrated scams against small businesses, including one new FTC case, three other FTC actions from the past six months, two criminal actions announced by U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and 18 actions by state AGs over the past year.

The BBB is announcing a new research report on small business scams (link is external) that provides substantial new insights into how fraud affects small businesses. In addition, the FTC and the BBB are pleased to announce new business education materials, designed to help small business owners and their employees avoid, identify and report scams.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Are Retailers Ready for a Cashless Store?

From eMarketer.Retail

According to a March 2018 survey of US B2C retail executives by 451 Research, commissioned by Adyen, 78% of respondents said they're considering cashless stores that only accept credit cards and other digital payment options. In contrast, 36% of operations managers, essentially those that are more involved with the customer journey day to day, were in agreement.

And their differing views don't stop there. Retail executives were more likely (81%) to say they saw an increase in customers using their mobile devices while shopping in-store—either for coupons, payments or product information—than operations managers (53%).

In theory, cashless stores may reduce friction at checkout, which is often caused by long lines

Friday, June 15, 2018

For Customer Experience, Consumers Prefer People to Bots

From eMarketer:

Technology may be changing the customer experience, but many consumers still want a human interaction, even as tech continues to improve.

That's what PwC found when it surveyed 4,000 US internet users ages 13 and older, as well as 11,000 internet users ages 18 and older in countries including Argentina, Brazil, Germany, Mexico and the UK.

More than eight in 10 US respondents said that even as technology improves, they will want to interact with a real person. And that sentiment was nearly the same across the other countries polled—although people in China, Brazil and Japan were less likely to agree.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

First 3D Printed Carbon-Fiber Bike a 'Technological Marvel'

FromThomasnet

According to Bicycling.com, the modern carbon-fiber bike is “a technological marvel” based on its superior strength over traditional metal bikes, at a fraction of the weight. So why isn’t everyone hopping on one of these top-notch bikes to pedal around town? Two reasons – the cost is insane and, say the experts at Bicycling.com, carbon-fiber can be a manufacturing nightmare.

Typical problems mostly relate to quality control, in a production environment that requires lots of labor and precision, which is why the Silicon Valley startup Arevo intends to upend the process with 3D printing.

The company has a prototype of the first 3D printed carbon-fiber bike, and Arevo hopes to propel the business into manufacturing ASAP. The intention is to partner with existing bike manufacturers and automate the production aspect using a robotic arm.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

New York Population FactFinder

From FactFinder:

NYC Department of City Planning’s Population Division is proud to announce the release of New York City Population FactFinder (NYC PFF), a major update of NYC Census FactFinder (CFF). The application has been developed at City Planning by its extraordinary Labs Team, and they are excited to finally share it with you! The latest iteration includes a host of improvements that the user base has requested, including:

Intuitive design that allows you to easily define study areas

Enhanced interactive map and expanded geographic options for creating custom study areas by combining census blocks, tracts, neighborhoods (NTAs), or Community Districts (PUMAs)

Expanded profile content, including population density; and detailed languages, countries of birth, and disability status

Indicators of reliability and statistical significance for all estimates, so you can be confident using the data

Change over time and detailed comparisons of two areas

Ability to save and share unique weblinks for your selections

These innovations push the boundaries of population analyses and City Planning is excited to see them advance your understanding of a diverse and complex city!

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

FTC Action Halts MOBE, a Massive Internet Business Coaching Scheme

From FTC.gov

The Federal Trade Commission has charged three individuals and nine businesses with bilking more than $125 million from thousands of consumers with a fraudulent business education program called MOBE (“My Online Business Education”). A federal court halted the scheme and froze the defendants’ assets at the FTC’s request.

According to the FTC, the defendants behind this international operation target U.S. consumers—including service members, veterans, and older adults—through online ads, social media, direct mailers, and live events held throughout the country. This action follows the agency’s recent action against Digital Altitude, LLC, a competing business opportunity scheme that was also halted by court order.

The FTC alleges that the defendants falsely claim that their business education program will enable people to start their own online businesses and earn substantial income. They claim to have a “proven” 21-step system for making substantial sums of money quickly and easily from internet marketing, which they promise to provide to those who join their program.

According to the complaint, consumers who pay the initial $49 entry fee for the 21-step program are bombarded with sales pitches for membership packages that cost thousands of dollars, which the defendants pressure them to buy in order to continue through the 21 steps. The defendants eventually reveal that their “proven system” for making money is for consumers to sell the same memberships to others in the hopes of earning commissions on those sales.

Most people who buy into the program and pay for the expensive memberships are unable to recoup their costs, and many experience crippling losses or mounting debts, including some who have lost more than $20,000, the FTC alleges.

The FTC also alleges that the defendants offer refund and money-back guarantees to further mislead people to believe the program is risk-free, but they often refuse to honor refund request, or they provide refunds only after buyers make persistent demands or threaten to complain to the Better Business Bureau or law enforcement agencies.

The defendants are Matthew Lloyd McPhee, also known as Matt Lloyd, an Australian living in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Russell W. Whitney, Jr.; Susan Zanghi; MOBE Ltd., also doing business as MOBE, My Online Business Education, and My Own Business Empire; MOBEProcessing.com Inc.; Transaction Management USA Inc.; MOBETraining.com Inc.; 9336-0311 Quebec Inc., also d/b/a Business Education Training; MOBE Pro Limited; MOBE Inc.; MOBE Online Ltd.; and Matt Lloyd Publishing.com Pty Ltd., also d/b/a Matt Lloyd Publishing and Home Business Builders.

The Commission vote approving the complaint was 5-0. The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Orlando Division, entered a temporary restraining order against the defendants on June 5, 2018.

NOTE: The Commission files a complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the law has been or is being violated and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. The case will be decided by the court.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Machining Demand Surges With Boom in U.S. Manufacturing

From ThomasNet

This week’s Thomas Index will be taking a look at sourcing activity for Precision Machining by users in the Thomas Network at Thomasnet.com.

Precision Machining is a process in which a machine operator starts with a piece of material called a blank, which is typically metal and uses the machine for precise, controlled removal of materials to transform that blank into a finished product.

Machining encompasses a number of different manufacturing processes such as milling, turning, drilling, and tapping. It’s high-tech stuff; computer numerical control, or “CNC” machining involves computer programming and electromechanical devices for ultra-precise positioning of machining tools, to create incredibly complex surfaces and intricate geometries.

Friday, June 08, 2018

The hostile work environment checklist: How toxic is yours?

From Monster.com:

The hostile work environment checklist: How toxic is yours? Don't let dysfunction and drama reign.

Workplace stress is hardly a phenomenon. Everyone has a bad day (or even month) at work now and then. Your client presentation didn’t go as well as planned; your boss didn’t fall head over heels for your proposal; you had to stay late to finish a project; your co-worker’s been having a series of too-loud sales calls. But there’s a big difference between aggravating incidents and a full-blown toxic work environment.

What is a toxic work environment?
A toxic work environment is one wherein dysfunction and drama reign, whether it’s the result of a narcissistic boss, vindictive co-workers, absence of order, et cetera.

Basically, a hostile work environment “leaves you feeling like dirt,” says Robert Sutton, a Stanford University professor who studies organizational behavior and author of The A**hole Survival Guide.

In addition to harming your morale, this kind of climate can also be damaging to your health, says Paul White, co-author of Rising Above a Toxic Workplace. “Stress takes a toll on your body,” White says. Health problems stemming from workplace stress include hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and decreased mental health, and can lead to fatal conditions, recent research from Stanford and Harvard Universities found.

To counteract such conditions, you first need to know what you’re looking for. Read on to see if you’re in a potentially toxic workplace, plus ways to restore calm on the job.

Thursday, June 07, 2018

The Impact of Coupons on the Purchase Journey

From eMarketer:

Though some people prefer to enter the supermarket armed with a detailed grocery list, an attractive coupon can trigger impulse purchases, and encourage consumers to buy something they may have otherwise not.

In fact, an Inmar survey of 1,000 US grocery shoppers in January 2018 found that nearly four in 10 respondents had bought more than they intended to because of a good deal. And almost as many bought from a brand they wouldn’t have otherwise purchased.

As expected, consumers continue to rely on a combination of coupon types for savings. Fully 55% of those surveyed said they use both digital and paper coupons.

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

These leadership strategies can help you build a stress-free team

From Monster.com

When it comes to stress, there’s probably no greater trigger than what happens at work.

And while some jobs are more stressful than others, The American Institute of Stress says there are common pain points that many workers share. The biggest is workload (46%), followed by people issues (28%), work/life balance (20%) and finally, lack of job security (6%).

As a manager, you can’t necessarily turn the office into a zen meditation garden, but there are things you can do to lower your team’s stress levels—and create a happier, more productive office.

“It’s important that the team not be stressed,” says Joanne Vitali, a certified career coach in the Philadelphia area. “Stress releases cortisol, which takes energy away from the prefrontal cortex, making you less able to reason and respond well. You are, in a nutshell, way less productive.”

So, should you be encouraging your employees to meditate? Maybe. But there are other things you can do that directly affect their health and happiness.

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Taking Experiential Marketing Beyond Events and the Tradeshow Floor

From MarketingProfs

In a world where consumers are more likely to shell out for concert tickets than buy their favorite band's merchandise, there's no doubting the power of experiences.

Consumers today want a brand they patronize to enrich their lives, not just fill their closets or decorate their walls. That's why brands were predicted to increase their spending for experiential marketing 11% in 2017—nearly double from just two years ago.

That said, to deliver truly transformative experiences, brands must challenge the traditional take on events and tradeshow exhibits. We're entering a new generation of experiential marketing that considers cultural context, program timing, content development, and positioning within a brand's long-term business objectives.

Using better insights to expand your experiential efforts, you can go beyond the places your brand normally advertises and activates.

Monday, June 04, 2018

Tesla's Musk Admits to Over-Automating

From Thomasnet:

Rolling off the couch in his office at Tesla Motors in Fremont California, which is where CEO Elon Musk admits to sleeping lately, the entrepreneur recently discussed some Model 3 production difficulties with CBS This Morning anchor, Gayle King.

Just to recap, the Model 3 was rolled out last July with that now infamous “production hell” claim from Musk that accompanied a promise to produce 20,000 vehicles a month. First quarter projections have that figure closer to 3,300 Model 3s per month.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the dialogue was that Musk agreed to over-doing the automation at the Fremont facility.

Friday, June 01, 2018

Economic Census End Date Approaching

Obtained From: US Census Bureau


With only a few weeks left for your business to submit their census survey to the United States Census Bureau (USCB), the deadline is fast approaching. This year the USCB will be conducting the surveys online for the first in its history, which it hopes will streamline the process and make it easier for them to consolidate and itemize the data.

Below is a brief list of just why the economic census is important and what they use the information for:


What is the Economic Census? 
Every five years, the U.S. Census Bureau conducts the Economic Census, the official measure of the Nation’s businesses and economy. Businesses, policymakers, governments and communities use Economic Census data for economic development, business decisions, and strategic planning.

The Economic Census serves as the statistical benchmark for current economic activity such as the Gross Domestic Product and the Producer Price Index. It provides information on business locations, the workforce, and trillions of dollars of sales by product and service type. Comprehensive information is generated for almost one thousand different industries and thousands of geographic areas.

The next Economic Census will gather 2017 year-end figures from approximately four million business locations. The data collection for the 2017 Economic Census will occur in 2018. Businesses included in the 2017 Economic Census, which includes U.S. territories, are required by law under Title 13, Section 224, to respond.

Starting with this Census, respondents will use an online, secure portal to respond, making filing easier while at the same time improving data quality and reducing costs. The business community’s participation is essential to obtain reliable, comprehensive results that accurately represent our rapidly changing economy.


Why does the government take the Economic Census?
United States Code Title 13, Section 131, mandates the Secretary to take, compile, and publish censuses of manufacturers, of mineral industries, and of other businesses every fifth year.

Good public policy depends on accurate information. The Economic Census provides official measures of output for industries and geographic areas, and serves as the cornerstone of the nation's economic statistics, providing key source data for the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and other indicators of economic performance.

The Economic Census is also used to update the Census Bureau’s master list of businesses. Without the Economic Census, the Census Bureau would miss vital information about changes in the ownership and organizational structure of American businesses and industries.


Must businesses report electronically?
Yes! Businesses will report directly through an online survey. Businesses with more than one location have the option to download spreadsheets, upload the spreadsheet files, and submit data to the Census Bureau.


Why do we need an Economic Census when surveys provide more timely figures?
The Economic Census provides comprehensive details about the United States economy, from the National to the local level. Surveys, like Monthly Retail Sales, provide timely information, but only for particular industries or sectors. Since surveys are based on samples that include only a small fraction of all businesses, they cannot supply the geographic and industry details that are unique to the census.

Economic Census statistics about industries, their inputs and outputs, and how they relate to each other, are available nowhere else. Census totals also serve as benchmarks to keep our surveys accurate. 

The Economic Census is also used to update the Census Bureau’s master list of businesses. Without the Economic Census, the Census Bureau would miss vital information about changes in the ownership and organizational structure of American businesses and industries.


How can the Economic Census help businesses and local communities?
The Economic Census helps every American. Businesses use Census data to make decisions about where to locate, how much to produce, and to compare their performance to other businesses in their industry or community. Local communities use Economic Census results to attract new businesses, assess the economic health of their localities, understand the characteristics of their business base, and compare their community to other geographical areas.

Individuals can use census results to identify emerging job markets and growing industries. Click on the following link (Census Business Builder: Small Business Edition) to see how Census economic data can profile businesses and their customers for various localities.



The link attached to this article contains a much more extensive list that will answer any and all questions you may have regarding the survey. Clock's ticking!

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Mobile Ad Spending to Surpass TV in 2018

From eMarketer:

This year, driven by display ads, mobile will account for 69.9% of all digital advertising. With a 33.9% share of total US ad spend, mobile will pass TV as the leading advertising medium in the world’s largest ad market—and we expect that share will grow to a whopping 47.9% by 2022.

"Advertisers are pouring dollars into mobile due to growing mobile commerce activity. Conversions from mobile display ad placements have already surpassed those of desktop," said Corey McNair, forecasting analyst.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

2016 ZIP Code statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau

The U.S. Census Bureau’s County Business Patterns (CBP) program has released its 2016 ZIP Code statistics. This is an addition to CBP's recent release of U.S., state, metropolitan area, county, and congressional district statistics. The ZIP Code data cover more than 7.7 million U.S business establishments.

Employment and payroll data are available for all U.S. ZIP Codes with a business establishment. Data for the number of establishments by employment size are available for nearly 1,200 industries.

CBP's ZIP Code statistics are obtained from Census Bureau reports and administrative records from other federal agencies. CBP defines employment as all full- and part-time employees who were on the payroll during the pay period that includes March 12.

Statistics are presented in comma separated value (CSV) files for download and manipulation on the CBP website. CBP data can be accessed using multiple tools available via the Census Bureau website, including American FactFinder and Census Business Builder.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Crafting Your Brand?

From Bplans:


Everyone’s talking about branding for a good reason:

Your brand is the identity of your company. It’s what sets you apart from your competitors.

Everything about it should evoke certain thoughts or feelings in your customers, compelling them to want to do business with you. Because your brand is your primary means of communicating what your company stands for, it extends far beyond just your logo or website.

Branding is even more important now that people have increasingly more access to products and services from anywhere in the world. A standout brand is the best way to attract their attention, but first, you need to know exactly who your customers are and what appeals to them. You should view the process as an opportunity to get more deeply in touch with your customers’ perspectives and expectations in order to craft a brand identity that truly speaks to them.

Research is the key to successful branding.

Business Branding Guide

Monday, May 28, 2018

Veterans Finance Guide

From Bank Rate:

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides the most comprehensive economic and health-related assistance for vets and their families. However, there are some limitations. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, a total of 3.8 million veterans had a service-connected disability rating as of 2014.

Service-connected disabilities are wide-ranging, but consist of a disease or injury obtained during active military service. While not every individual faces the same problems after service, the top three economic challenges tend to be unemployment, poverty, and homelessness. Veterans with service-connected disabilities, who are in need of specific home modifications and medical treatment are among the most at risk of experiencing some kind of debt that can lead to bad credit.

Government assistance for veterans
There are various resources for veterans with debt. One example is called the VA Medical Care Hardship Program. In addition to receiving help with some copayments related to medical treatment, veterans can also benefit from existing debt waivers. While programs like these largely make approvals based on service rather than credit history, there are still some strict eligibility requirements attached – i.e. you need to submit a letter for review, outlining your financial hardship. And this mostly applies only if your gross household income has decreased.

Grant eligibility
For service members and veterans who are living with a family member, there are three VA housing grants that allow for home modifications to the family member’s home:

Specialty Adapted Housing Grant
Special Housing Adaptation Grant
Temporary Residence Assistance Grant

However, like the larger health benefits programs, the scope of eligibility can be narrow.

Friday, May 25, 2018

5 Essential Pages For Your Small Business Website

From Small Business Administration,Anita Campbell, Guest Blogger

There are certain pages every website can’t be without. A small business’s site needs to give visitors what they are most likely to be looking for.

If you’re getting a website together for your small business or reinventing an existing site, take a look at the five essential pages every small business website needs. We include three other recommended pages as well.


Homepage
Your homepage is the virtual lobby of your business, the first thing people notice when they visit the site. It’s therefore vital that your homepage presents your business in a professional and engaging light. Make a great first impression!

As research from the Neilsen Norman Group highlights, you have less than 10 seconds to convey your value proposition. Get to the point about what your business is about. Keep words concise, punchy and compelling to hook visitors and get them to explore deeper into your site.


About Us
People (including business people) do business with other people. Customers like to know a bit about a business, its experiences, ethos and goals. An About Us page informs visitors of such information. Avoid making it too lengthy or dull - show your company’s human side and let potential customers see who’s behind the business. Pictures of the team in action help.


Products / Services
Depending on what type of business you have, you’ll want a Products page, a Services page, or perhaps both. List what you sell in an organized way, so that it’s clear to people. If you have a lot of different products or services, you might summarize them in logical categories, and link to more detailed pages about each product or service.

Images really help for products. Be detailed enough so that what you sell is clear to visitors. Also, by being clear in your language, you better optimize your pages for search engines and this means it will be easier to you find your site.

Contact
Why bother with a website if your visitors don’t know how to get in contact with you?

As well as providing essential contact information, including your email address, phone number and address, your contact page should encourage visitors to connect with your business on the social media channels you use as well.

If your business gets foot traffic, include directions and possibly a map. Many website platforms today make it easy to embed an interactive Google map so visitors don’t get lost. Be sure to include your hours of operation.


Testimonials
For small businesses, a testimonials page is your chance to let your business shine. It’s a good idea to put the name of the person with their perspective company alongside the testimonial to give the endorsement greater credibility and authenticity - rather than anonymous testimonials.

Video testimonials are really good, but simple text works too. Some businesses today also use apps that embed reviews from external sites, and those reviews may appear on a testimonials page or somewhere else in the site.

If you haven’t got any testimonials yet, now’s the time to start contacting satisfied clients and customers. Ask them right after you’ve provided your product or service when they’re satisfied and it’s fresh in their minds.


Once you are sure you’ve done a great job with the above five essential pages, here are three other recommended pages/sections to build out over time:

FAQs
Having a Frequently Asked Questions page on your website gives you the opportunity to answer common questions for customers so valuable time doesn’t have to be spent answering them over and over. FAQs can also allay customer objections. As Bourn Creative advises, always present the questions on your FAQ page in a positive light and answer the questions honestly.


Appointment Scheduling
Businesses that depend on consumer appointments (salons, pest control, car repair) may want to consider a page with a calendar to find an open slot and schedule the appointment online. More and more appointment scheduling apps are available to embed into websites. It’s a great convenience for customers, and companies can see an increase in customer registrations from these apps.


Blog
Finally, consider a blog on your website. Keeping it up-to-date with fresh and engaging content will ensure your business is portrayed as digitally-minded and can help you be seen as a leader in your field. A regularly updated blog can also work wonders for the search engine optimization (SEO) of your site, helping it to rank higher on the search engines.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Contest Marketing: A Powerful Form of Content Marketing

From MarketingProfs:

Enter for a chance to win..."

I see that call to action—or something similar—all over.

You do, too. Social media is certainly no exception. Contests, competitions, and sweepstakes are raging hot across the major networks as a go-to strategy for so many content marketers.

Why?

The answer is that we humans are wired to get involved in contests. We want to play, compete, and, of course, win.


As a copywriter and marketing strategist, I've been probing what makes people tick for decades. I know a fair share about what engages people, but I'm no psychologist.

So I did some research because I wanted to know why "contest marketing" is so compelling.

I picked up these insights from Sander van der Linder PhD on Psychology Today:

For most people, there is something inexplicably compelling about the nature of competition.
"Competitiveness" is a biological trait that co-evolved with the basic need for survival.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Delegation: What Your Team Wishes You Knew

From Outpost Blog:

For someone who prefers knowing that I alone control the outcome of a project, trusting others to hold up their end wasn’t an easy thing to do. It felt so blind; maybe my teammates would do a good job, but maybe not. Maybe they wouldn’t do the work at all, and I’d be left to pick up the pieces.

Sometimes I’d throw up my hands and just take on all the work; hey, at least then it’d get done, right? Other times, I’d delegate like crazy and cross my fingers. Still, the entire process always felt a bit hellish and not conducive to putting out great work.

It’s an experience that probably rings true to many new entrepreneurs and small business owners.

In the beginning, it was likely just you—you were the only one running your business, making key decisions, and doing the work.

You did the whole “group project” on your own; while it may have meant a lot of late nights and gnashing of teeth, you could be confident that everything was being done to your standards, and there was never any doubt about whether or not something had been completed.

However, difficulty arises when it’s time to scale. As your business grows, you’ll inevitably need to take on more team members.

Suddenly, projects that you would have taken on all by yourself are now your responsibility to split up and assign to multiple people. Not only are you faced with the prospect of giving over control of your “baby,” but you also have limited oversight on who is doing what. You have the power and responsibility to delegate effectively—but doing so can be a challenge.