Tuesday, March 20, 2018

How to Put Employees First in the Customer Experience, and Why You Should

Obtained from: MarketingProfs

At many companies, the frontline of customer experience—the contact center—isn't meeting customer expectations. Although brands are adopting new technologies to better interact with customers and understand their wants and needs, the answer to delivering the right experience may be simpler than that.
At the very core of customer experience is human interaction, so to truly see return on customer experience investments, brands should invest in their most valuable assets: agents in the contact center.
According to new research from Calabrio, customer demands are increasingly complex, the number of inquiries are swelling to new levels, and agents feel ill-equipped to solve the ever-growing list of customer requests.
There's a lot riding on agent interactions, and the lack of support has many representatives feeling stressed out, abandoned, and stuck in a pressure cooker of expectation. The effects of a burned out contact center workforce can be devastating: 82% of people have stopped doing business with companies because of poor customer experience.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Credits vs. Deductions

Obtained from: IRS

Learning the A-Zs of taxes seems overwhelming. But with a little planning, research, and attention to detail, it can be easier than you think. Credits and deductions are an important part of the process—though sometimes it's difficult to tell them apart. 

You subtract tax credits from the amount of tax you owe. There are two types of tax credits:
  • A nonrefundable tax credit means you get a refund only up to the amount you owe.
  • A refundable tax credit means you get a refund, even if it's more than what you owe.
An example is the Child Tax Credit.

You subtract tax deductions from your income before you figure the amount of tax you owe. Deductions, such as the Tuition and Fees Deduction for qualified education expenses, can help lower the amount of your taxable income

Friday, March 16, 2018

Peer-To-Peer Payment Apps Can Be Risky

From the Federal Trade Commission:

Online peer-to-peer, or P2P, payment systems let you send money to people quickly...

The use of these services is a growing trend... estimates [suggest] there will be more than $700 billion in peer-to-peer payments in the U.S. in 2018. There are several mobile peer-to-peer apps out there already and banks are also getting into the game. If you use a peer-to-peer payment system, here are some tips to keep in mind.

*In many apps, when you receive a payment, the money is added to your P2P system balance. It’ll remain there until you transfer it to your bank account or use it for another transaction within the system. If you transfer the balance to your bank account, confirm that the deposit went through. The transfer could take a few days or even longer if it’s flagged for additional review.

*Scammers try to get you to pay them in many different ways—including by sending money online—so make sure you know who you’re sending money to. If you use the service to receive money from someone you don’t know personally—maybe as payment for tickets to a concert or a game, or for an item you’re selling—transfer the money to your bank account and make sure the money is there before you send any goods. Read the terms of service if you’re not sure if these kinds of transactions are permitted on the service you use.

*Peer-to-peer payment systems require access to your financial information, so check your account settings to see if you can enable additional security measures that aren’t on by default. Consider turning on multi-factor authentication, requiring a PIN, or using fingerprint recognition like Touch ID.

*Some systems or apps might share information about your transactions on social media. Check social media permissions or settings—some may be set to share your information with everyone by default. Adjust your settings based on what you’re comfortable sharing.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

US Consumers Shrug Off (Some) of Their Spending Worries

Obtained from: eMarketer

One of the most significant changes is that, as the global financial crisis recedes in memory, consumers tend to be less focused on saving. In 2010, 70% of respondents said they were increasingly looking for ways to save money. That number has gradually dwindled down to a low of 40%. 
The McKinsey survey also probed attitudes among those who said their buying behavior changed last year. It found that there was a rough split between those who said they tended to have shifted toward purchasing private-label or less-expensive brands, and those who said they had tended to trade up to more expensive purchases.
The results indicate more buoyant spending patterns than some other recent surveys. For instance, an IRI survey from Q3 2017 found that 65% of US internet users said they anticipated purchasing more private-label products in the future.  

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Small Business Success Story - Nunzio's Pizzeria & Restaurant

Each year the New York Small Business Development Center recognizes outstanding small businesses in a variety of ways.  This Success Story from the  Staten Island SBDC appears in our 2016 Annual Report

Robert Whiteaker 
Nunzio's Pizzeria & Restaurant
Staten Island SBDC

Robert Whiteaker, owner of Nunzio’s Pizzeria & Restaurant, has been a Staten Island SBDC client since January 2013. The family owned restaurant known for its Italian cuisine began as a beachside concession in the 1940’s and moved to its current location in 1960. Nunzio’s Pizzeria has been a legacy in Robert’s family for four generations and was an inspiration for other small businesses in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy. The business was severely impacted by the storm with floods over four feet of water throughout the entire restaurant, but Robert and his family were determined to rebuild after the storm. 
Working with Robert to secure an SBA disaster loan, SBDC Advisor George Telmany spent numerous sessions to provide business strategies in an effort to rebuild and reopen the business. The SBA disaster loan was instrumental in their efforts to rebuild the restaurant after the storm. George continues to work with Robert on marketing strategies and ways to promote the neighborhood name. For the past two years, Nunzio’s Pizzeria has hosted visiting MBA Chinese students during tours of Staten Island to learn about small business in NYC. “Without the help of the SBDC, I would have lost my business after Superstorm Sandy,” says Robert, “I’m very thankful for all of their help.” 

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Restaurant servers talk about the harassment they endure.

From the New York Times

The balancing act plays out every day in restaurants across America: Servers who rely on tips decide where to draw the line when a customer goes too far.

They ignore comments about their bodies, laugh off proposals for dates and deflect behavior that makes them uncomfortable or angry — all in pursuit of the $2 or $20 tip that will help buy groceries or pay the rent.

There was the young server at a burger joint in Georgia whose customer held her tip money in his hand and said, “So you gonna give me your number?” She wrote it down but changed one of the digits.

There was the waitress in Portland, Oregon who swallowed her anger when a man patted his lap and beckoned her to sit, saying, "I’m a great tipper."

"You can’t just say, 'No, don’t talk to me that way,' or else you won’t get a tip."

Monday, March 12, 2018

11 tax deductions and other ways to cut your 2017 tax bill

Obtained from: Pix11

With all the talk about the new federal tax law that went into effect in January, it’s easy to forget about the old one.
But it’s the old tax code that governs the deductions, credits and other measures you can use to save money on your 2017 tax return due in April.
In fact, it may be your last chance to use some of them since the new law eliminated many.
[In the linked article] are 11 deductions and other tax-trimming measures you shouldn’t overlook:

Friday, March 09, 2018

Census Bureau Economic Surveys

Watch Repair 300x600]
Census Bureau Economic Surveys are a key source for official statistics companies can use:

Monthly and Quarterly are small sample surveys that provide the most TIMELY data available

Annual surveys have larger samples and provide the most up-to-date TREND data available

Every 5 years, the Economic Census measures all businesses and provides the most COMPREHENSIVE data available - Economic Census: Meet James (video)

The form for the Economic Census 2017 is coming this spring electronically

These surveys set the standard for U.S. economic statistics, and are fueled by the data provided by individual businesses

Thursday, March 08, 2018

White House wades into SCOTUS online sales tax case

From the Wall Street Journal:

The Trump administration on Monday urged the Supreme Court to expand states’ authority to collect sales tax on internet transactions, joining a chorus of state officials seeking to overrule a 1992 precedent exempting many online retailers from having to add taxes to a consumer’s final price.

In 1992, the justices “did not and could not anticipate the development of modern e-commerce,” Solicitor General Noel Francisco wrote in a friend-of the-court brief. “In light of internet retailers’ pervasive and continuous virtual presence in the states where their websites are accessible, the states have ample authority to require those retailers to collect state sales taxes owed by their customers.”

South Dakota is leading a charge to overrule 1992 case, Quill Corp. v. North Dakota, with arguments scheduled next month. Some 35 states and the District of Columbia, as well as organizations representing retailers from booksellers to shopping malls, have filed briefs supporting South Dakota’s position. Catalog mailers and online retailers have opposed the state, arguing that it is too burdensome for many businesses to comply with 50 or more separate state taxing regimes.

The 1992 case held that constitutional provisions assigning Congress authority over interstate commerce prohibited states from requiring out-of-state retailers to collect sales taxes without congressional assent. While consumers remain obligated to pay sales tax, few know of this duty and fewer still voluntarily comply, robbing state treasuries of billions of dollars, officials say.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Small Business Success Story - Infrastructure Unlimited, Inc.

Each year the New York Small Business Development Center recognizes outstanding small businesses in a variety of ways.  This Success Story from the  Rockland SBDC appears in our 2016 Annual Report

Gloria Lovece 
Infrastructure Unlimited, Inc.
Rockland SBDC

Gloria Lovece is President of Infrastructure Unlimited Inc., the construction company, she started with her two brothers. The company specializes in the installation and remediation of public infrastructure - notably bridges, railroads and power lines. Her company is a certified Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) in NY and NJ with certification pending in Ohio. 
In a male dominated industry, she has worked very hard to overcome many obstacles, including the hydrocephalus that took her father. In addition to taking her father’s life, the disease caused the decline and eventual closure of the family’s construction business and all who worked there lost their jobs - Gloria and her brothers included. Rather than work for another firm, Gloria decided to start her own construction business and convinced her brothers to join her. 
As a startup, Infrastructure Unlimited was awarded its first contract (as a non-DBE prime) sealing 28 bridge decks on interstate highways with heavy traffic and finished the project ahead of schedule. Gloria worked with the SBDC to find additional capital to fund her continued growth and to navigate the process of DBA certification. SBDC Advisor Adi Israeli worked with Gloria to develop the business plans, SBA forms and loan packaging necessary for Gloria’s firm to receive a $375,000 SBA guaranteed loan from M&T Bank. Combined with an additional $355,000 Gloria has invested in cash and equipment the company has grown yet again adding three new full-time positions and bidding on more and larger projects. As an entrepreneur, Gloria is fulfilling her childhood dream of having a company where women and minorities are welcome and able to thrive. 

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

SBDC Day is Wednesday, March 21, 2018.

From America's SBDC:

SBDC Day is a national, collective proclamation of the success and the impact America’s Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) have across the nation in economic development and the small businesses community. America’s SBDC Day will take place on Wednesday, March 21, 2018.

SBDC Day will unite the nearly 1,000 SBDC centers across the country and the hundreds of thousands of clients they serve by sharing, in real time, the success stories and notable impacts SBDCs collectively have on the small business community at large. This special day will be celebrated with social media campaigns, public relations initiatives, online and in-person events and more. To learn more about what your local SBDC is doing to celebrate, click on Find your local SBDC.

America's SBDC has developed a national SBDC Day Ambassador program, so that all of America's SBDC partners, supporters and stakeholders can collectively show their support for SBDC Day. All national SBDC Ambassadors will be recognized on the SBDC Day webpage, in SBDC Day collateral and in email communications including a national press release. The deadline for the 2018 SBDC Day Ambassador Program is Friday, March 16th, 2018.

Special SBDC Day Webinar – Digital Marketing Trends for Small Businesses in 2018, March 21, 2018 at 2 PM ET. Entrepreneurs start with a dream. Through hard work, innovation, and determination, they turn that dream into a small business. Register now!

Monday, March 05, 2018

Small Business Loans & Other Financing Options for Women

From Lendedu:

Being a female entrepreneur can come with its challenges.

On top of building a business, many women business owners juggle numerous responsibilities like family or caregiving commitments.

For these reasons, running a business as a woman can feel sometimes like you’re Ginger Rogers, who famously said that she had to do everything Fred Astaire did – except backwards and in heels.

Fortunately, some organizations have realized the added difficulties women entrepreneurs can face in finding funding and have set up grants and investment opportunities specifically for female business owners. There are also several traditional funding opportunities you can access.

This guide can help you navigate the different types of programs that want to give you money to help you grow your business.

Saturday, March 03, 2018

Maria Contreras-Sweet, former SBA head, buys Weinstein Co

From the Huffington Post

A group of investors led by Maria Contreras-Sweet, who ran the Small Business Administration under President Barack Obama, reached a deal to buy The Weinstein Company, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman confirmed.

“Our office will support a deal that ensures victims will be adequately compensated, employees will be protected moving forward, and those who were responsible for misconduct at TWC will not be unjustly rewarded,” Schneidermann said in a statement.

Contreras-Sweet and her backers, including billionaire investor Ronald Burkle, bid $500 million on the film production company, which included assuming $225 million worth of debt, according to Variety. The deal, which Schneiderman said was reached Thursday, also features an $80-million compensation fund for victims of Weinstein’s harassment and abuse...

Contreras-Sweet, a Hollywood outsider and Mexican-American immigrant, reportedly plans to keep the studio’s employees, projects and assets. But she intends to give the company a new name, according to multiple media outlets.

See also the Reuters story.

Friday, March 02, 2018

Ways to Keep Your Website Relevant in 2018

Obtained from:MarketingProfs

Welcome to 2018, the year you need to update your website's look and functionality for two business-critical reasons: legal compliance and user respect and trust.

The latter is probably long overdue and has been hindering conversions; the former, a long time coming, is looking to become an immediate concern.
The problem? Businesses that set up a website many years ago and have done few, if any, modifications since. They may have updated to integrate new forms of payment or to manage inventory in a more timely manner, but that's usually the extent of it. If that describes your business, then your site is doing a disservice to your business and your customers—and, potentially, your bottom line, because they are non-compliant at a time of looming enforcement of standards and legislation.
* * *
These are all but the tip of the iceberg of changes that are coming to Web design in the very near future. Voice-command integration, engaging micro-interactions, and progressive Web apps are also on the horizon, which elicits the bigger question: Is your website management adequate for dealing with this anticipated sea change?
This may very well be the year you'll need to address the large issue of website development.

Thursday, March 01, 2018

Will small businesses benefit from the new tax law?

From PBS:

Since President Donald Trump signed the American Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in December, large corporations have made headlines by giving bonuses to employees and raising wages. But much less attention has been paid to small businesses, even though experts believe they stand to benefit significantly from the new tax law...

Three main changes to the tax law will likely help small businesses...: lower individual tax rates, an additional 20 percent deduction for companies filing as pass-through entities, and an expansion of Section 179 filing, which allows for expensing of business-related equipment.

Of course, not all aspects of the tax law will be advantageous to small businesses. For example, the law’s elimination of many deductions — including for certain business expenses like travel costs and membership dues for professional organizations — may incentivize employees to work for larger companies that can afford to absorb those costs.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Small Business Success Story - FABSCRAP

Each year the New York Small Business Development Center recognizes outstanding small businesses in a variety of ways.  This Success Story from the  Manhattan SBDC appears in our 2016 Annual Report.

Jessica Schreiber 
Manhattan SBDC

FABSCRAP, a 501(c)3, was founded by Jessica Schreiber, a self-described “trash nerd” who previously managed the NYC Department of Sanitation’s e-waste and clothing recycling contracts, and earned a Master’s degree in Climate and Society from Columbia University. Jessica recognized that fabric and other textiles made up a significant percentage of the waste stream. She developed a business model through which FABSCRAP charges a modest service charge to cover operational costs associated with picking up the textile waste and redistributing it for reuse. Jessica sought advice from the SBDC about how to grow as well and how to monetize the environmental, financial and public relations benefits her small business offers, as well as what business and non-profit structures were available to her. SBDC Advisor Rawle Brown helped Jessica to map out her business growth as well as build out her financial projections. 
The Research Network provided targeted market research on textile recycling and NYC’s apparel manufacturing industry. Rawle enrolled Jessica in the 2016 Capital One-SBDC Pitch workshop series, and she won first place along with a $2,500 cash award in the pitch competition. She also won the $1,500 top prize in the Talk Trash City business plan competition. The SBDC guidance and the awards have enabled Jessica to expand service to over 20 clients and though she is still the only employee, her team of volunteers is growing steadily. FABSCRAP leases warehouse space in Jamaica, Queens and plans to work with more cutting rooms. Eventually she wants to expand to Los Angeles. Jessica is exploring additional sources of capital to facilitate her expansion, including donations through the FABSCRAP fundraising page. 

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Top Research Channels and Loyalty Drivers

Obtained from:   MarketingProfs

 IT buyers tend to research products/services across a wide range of online channels, prefer to be contacted by vendors via email, and favor firms with excellent customer support, according to recent research from Spiceworks.

 The top factors that drive whether IT buyers will respond to a new sales/marketing outreach effort are the relevance of the product/service and the inclusion of detailed pricing information in the message.

IT buyers say the top factors that drive their brand loyalty to vendors are great customer support, consistently fair pricing, and a history of reliable products/services.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Why Disclosure Is Essential with Influencer Marketing

Obtained from: eMarketer

It’s been called a fad, a bubble, a waste of money.

But influencer marketing will remain immensely popular in 2018, and it’s important to put the discussion of disclosure in the context of just how important the tactic has become—not just for the usual suspects (marketers of fashion, beauty and gaming products) but increasingly for marketers in other categories.

Marketers and influencers that don’t disclose put themselves at risk for Federal Trade Commission (FTC) scrutiny and consumer backlash, both of which are rising.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Steve Bulger is Named SBA's Region II Regional Administrator

Obtained from: SBA

U.S Small Business Administration Administrator Linda McMahon announced the appointment of Steve Bulger as the SBA Regional Administrator for Region II, the area that encompasses New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
According to McMahon, Bulger will be responsible for managing and overseeing the agency’s lending, economic development and procurement programs over five district and six branch offices. Combined, these offices total 64 employees and assist nearly 3 million small businesses employing over 6 million workers in
Region II.

SBA has 10 regions covering the United States and U.S. territories. These offices, which are managed by politically appointed administrators, play a part in supervising the 68 district offices and promoting the President’s and SBA Administrator’s policies, messages and priorities throughout the region.

“I am very pleased that Steve is in place to help support me and the President in serving as a voice and go-to resource for our nation’s 30 million small businesses. In his new position as the Regional–
Administrator for Region II, I will rely on him heavily as we move forward in 2018 and beyond and look forward to working closely with him on the issues and concerns that are most important to the small businesses in his region,” McMahon said.

Bulger, a New York native has extensive experience in economic development, sales and marketing, and government relations, having spent thirty years in the private sector prior to his government service. “I am honored to join SBA’s team of talented individuals who are committed to the development of small business across New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico and the USVI,” said Bulger. “I look forward to leveraging SBA ‘s tools  and programs to help create more opportunities for small businesses to succeed, create jobs, and improve access to capital in order to drive local and national economic growth.”

Most recently, he served six years as District Director for Congressman Chris Gibson, where he oversaw all Congressional district operations across 15 counties in Upstate New York. In that role, he handled government affairs with the business, non-profit, and healthcare sectors, while working with other federal, state and local elected officials.  This included economic development and infrastructure issues, along with helping lead the District’s disaster recovery efforts following Hurricanes Irene & Lee in 2011.

Prior to that, he was a Manager with the Stryker Corporation overseeing orthopedic implant and equipment sales and marketing efforts in the Upstate NY/Western New England area, and spent a total of twenty years in the medical device sector.  Bulger was also a co-founder of a digital marketing start-up firm, and worked as an investment broker in the financial services industry.

Bulger is a graduate of Lafayette College with a BA in Government & Law. He has held leadership positions in numerous non-profit and local government organizations.  He lives in Saratoga County with his wife Mary Beth, and they have three children.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Some Retailers Worry Location Tracking Is Creepy

From eMarketer:

Using location data has helped many retailers target their marketing and advertising more precisely to better reach consumers. But new data finds there are several inhibitors keeping US retailers from taking advantage of location-based analytics.

The study, from Retail Systems Research (RSR), found that roughly half (47%) of retailers surveyed said concerns about the "creepiness" factor in tracking consumers was one of the top barriers to using location-based analytics.

And there's also the issue of privacy.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

New Global Proximity Mobile Payment Figures

From eMarketer:

Consumers across the globe are warming up to proximity mobile payments. In 2018, for the first time, more than one-third (34.9%) of smartphone users ages 14 and older will use a mobile phone to pay for a purchase at a physical point of sale (POS) at least once every six months...

Overall, most proximity mobile payment user growth worldwide will be driven by the expansion of the big three global providers—Android Pay, Apple Pay and Samsung Pay—as well as Alipay and WeChat Pay. Growing retailer acceptance of mobile payments and spreading smartphone usage will also fuel growth.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Small Business Success Story - Deb's Hash and Mash

Each year the New York Small Business Development Center recognizes outstanding small businesses in a variety of ways.  This Success Story from the  Oswego Satelitte SBDC appears in our 2016 Annual Report

Debora Backus 
Deb's Hash and Mash
Oswego Satellite SBDC

Debora Backus had been looking at a closed diner for months and determined that the location was sufficient to warrant re-opening. She had business experience, but did not have any restaurant experience, so she hired an experienced chef who was interested in working with her to re-open the diner. Under Debora’s management and utilizing her marketing skills, she tied together the menu, décor, atmosphere, and logo to develop her brand. Debora was referred to SBDC Advisor John Halleron by Operation Oswego County, a local development agency. They met to discuss the business plan needed for the purchase and establishment of the diner in the town of Volney. Debora prepared a draft, which was reviewed by John. Based upon data provided by Debora, John drafted a proforma with loan structure set by potential lenders. John worked with lenders and helped Debora finalize the narrative and proforma. Funding was approved for the project relatively quickly. Debora invested $20,000 in cash and collateral equity. She obtained $89,000 from Empower FCU and Operation Oswego County contributed $25,000. The funding enabled Debora to create five jobs. “I had been working on my business plan for many months,” says Debora. “I had all of the necessary items needed, but needed help putting them together in a clear and concise format so that I could obtain funding. John took his time and knowledge to help me make my dream come to life both on paper and in real life. I could never have put the plan needed together without his help.” 

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

How Emotional Marketing in B2B Drives Customers

From MarketingProfs

In the world of marketing, there's a misperception that B2B marketing is serious and logical and that B2C marketing is fun and creative.

Though B2B marketers may need a deeper understanding of technology and they may have more limits placed on their creativity, the role emotions play in both B2B and B2C marketing is strikingly similar.

As neuroanatomist Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor puts it, "Most of us think of ourselves as thinking creatures that feel, but we are actually feeling creatures that think”.

To gain a clearer understanding of the concept, I interviewed Jonathan Kahn, co-founder and creative marketing hacker at creative agency JM Consulting, and Michal Zarankin, head of digital marketing at in-app engagement platform Insert (recently acquired by Pendo), to learn their thoughts on the role of emotions in B2B marketing.

Monday, February 19, 2018

A 14-Step Checklist to Making Your Business Legit

From Nav:

Perhaps you’ve got a hot idea for a new business and decided it’s time to turn a dream into reality. Or you’ve given up on finding your dream job and decided to create your own.

No matter what your motivation for launching your own business, the journey ahead is no doubt both exciting and scary. Where do you start?

The first thing you’ll want to do is lay a solid foundation for your venture. Here’s a step-by-step list to get you started.

While laying the groundwork for your business isn’t the most glamorous or fun part of getting started, it can significantly boost your chances of being successful.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Few Companies Are Ready for the Upcoming GDPR

 Obtained From: eMarketer

Just 6% of firms are completely prepared for the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), according to a November 2017 survey of IT professionals by data modeling company Erwin. The GDPR, which becomes enforceable in May, states that a consumer's data can only be used if they give a company explicit permission. Not being prepared for these new rules is a big risk, because companies that are found to be in violation of the GDPR face a fine of $24 million or 4% of annual sales, depending on which figure is higher.

One of the reasons more companies aren’t prepared for the GDPR is because it is expensive to become compliant with the new laws. Half of the companies in a Forrester Consulting and Evidon survey spent more than $1 million to meet GDPR requirements. And nearly a fifth of companies allocated more than $5 million for GDPR prep.

“Conducting a whole GDPR analysis on the companies you work with, and the companies that those companies work with, is a huge legal endeavor,” said Ratko Vidakovic, founder of ad tech consultancy AdProfs.

Friday, February 16, 2018

FTC Obtains Court Order Halting Business Coaching Scheme

At the Federal Trade Commission’s request, a federal court has temporarily halted an operation that took more than $14 million from consumers seeking to start their own online business. The operation misrepresented that its purported business coaching program would enable consumers to earn substantial income, such as “six figures in 90 days or less.”

According to the FTC, the defendants induced consumers to pay for a series of tiered memberships with increasing fees, falsely claiming that consumers would learn how to make substantial income with an online business. They promised consumers they would receive individualized coaching from successful marketers that would provide what they needed to build a successful business, but, in reality, these were merely salespeople selling higher membership levels in the defendants’ program.

The defendants promoted their scheme via webpages and social media platforms, including Facebook and Instagram, and offered their marketing materials for consumers to use in posting their own ads touting the scheme. The FTC’s complaint states that most of defendants’ customers never earn substantial income, including some people who were charged more than $50,000.

The defendants are Digital Altitude LLC, Digital Altitude Limited, Aspire Processing LLC, Aspire Processing Limited, Aspire Ventures Ltd, Disc Enterprises Inc., RISE Systems & Enterprise LLC (Utah), RISE Systems & Enterprise LLC (Nevada), The Upside LLC, Thermography for Life LLX, also doing business as Living Exceptionally Inc., and Michael Force, Mary Dee, Morgan Johnson, Alan Moore and Sean Brown. They are charged with violating the FTC Act.

The Commission vote authorizing the staff to file the complaint was 2-0. The U.S. District Court for the Central District of California issued a temporary restraining order against the defendants on February 1, 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.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

White House FY19 Budget Fully Funds SBA 7(a), 504 Loan Programs

From Coleman Report

The White House’s FY 2019 proposed budget released [recently] supports $30 billion in SBA 7(a) funding. That is a 10% increase over anticipated $27 billion in loans for FY 2018.

Given the Administrator’s newly granted ability to increase 7(a) by 10% if needed at the end of a fiscal year, there should be sufficient 7(a) loan supply to meet 7(a) loan demand.

The White House is weighing in on the credit elsewhere rule saying:

SBA fills a critical void in the market when economic shocks reduce traditional lending to small businesses and when the private market is unwilling to provide capital to credit-worthy borrowers. However, during prosperous economic times such as these, the Budget proposes that SBA introduce counter-cyclical policies to its business loan guarantee programs that enables it to maintain its operations while ensuring that it is not displacing direct private lending.

Through an adjustment of fees across its business loan guarantee programs, SBA would cover both its anticipated lending and operational costs, leveling the playing field among its lender community while operating at zero cost to the taxpayer.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Small Business Success Story - Quality Auto Care of Cazenovia

Each year the New York Small Business Development Center recognizes outstanding small businesses in a variety of ways.  This Success Story from the  Onondaga SBDC appears in our 2016 Annual Report

Jeremy Stedman 
Quality Auto Care of Cazenovia
Onondaga SBDC

Jeremy Stedman was studying Automotive Technology at Morrisville State College when he got an internship at Quality Auto Care of Cazenovia. Owner Lyle Regan took Jeremy under his wing and eventually the internship turned into a permanent position. Lyle realized that Jeremy had something others did not - he was driven, had motivation, and had determination. 
When Lyle decided to retire he offered to sell his successful business to Jeremy. After many of drafts of the business plan and financial projections with SBDC Advisor Melissa Zomro, Jeremy was ready to apply to a lender. He eventually found a private investor that loaned him the capital to purchase the business. He then made arrangements with the former owner to do a lease-to-own for the properties which included the business building, apartment rentals, and storage rentals on just over two acres in Cazenovia. The total investment over the course of three years will be $620,000. Jeremy started with seven employees he retained through the transition and has since added another employee with hopes to add more in the future. 
The owner and staff of Quality Auto Care of Cazenovia pride themselves on providing honest, personalized service to vehicle owners. They ensure a clean and professional facility, which enhances their appeal to the elderly, mothers with children, and professionals within the area. The community has embraced Jeremy as the new owner of this fine establishment and the business continues to grow its client base throughout Cazenovia and the surrounding areas. 

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Mobile Consumers Desert Their Cart if the Experience Is Flawed

From eMarketer:

Shopping on your mobile device isn’t always a smooth process. In fact, a new survey finds that many digital shoppers have a difficult time placing orders via mobile, resulting in an abandoned cart.

A study from Addressy polled digital buyers in the US, UK and Germany, and found that nearly four in 10 respondents had issues entering their personal details when trying to complete a purchase on their mobile phone, which caused them to desert their cart.

Entering personal details is just one of several problems digital shoppers face. Some 35% of respondents said the screen wasn't big enough to see what they were typing, and more than a quarter had issues entering their order accurately.

What's more, one-third said they lost the connection, which resulted in a loss of interest in that product.

But it isn't always a poor mobile experience that results in an abandoned cart.

Monday, February 12, 2018

This Is the Best Way to Praise Employees (Even Though Most Bosses Don't)

From LinkedIn:

According to three basic truths, praising people motivates them, praising people encourages them, and praising people inspires them to even greater heights.

Impossible to argue with those statements?

Maybe not.

Depending on the approach you take, praising an employee -- or praising anyone -- can actually have the opposite effect. The difference lies in whether we assume skill is based on innate ability or on hard work and effort.

Put another way, are people born with certain talents, or can talent be developed?

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Business Wars, Dirty Money and American Greed: The Schadenfreude of Corporate America

From ChuckTheWriter.blog:

I've started following a new podcast, and have recently binge-watched a new Netflix documentary series. Oh yeah, and I’m waiting for new episodes of an old CNBC favorite...

Business Wars is a brand new podcast from Wondery, and it comes from the same people who made the podcast American History Tellers. The podcast, in episodic format, follows the major battles between corporations for market supremacy – their successes, their failures, their wise decisions and their head-shaking gaffes...

Netflix [is] currently airing an amazing six-part documentary series, Dirty Money, about the graft and sleaziness of corporations...

There’s always cable television for shows like this … and one of my favorites is a late night CNBC docu-series called American Greed. This show features people and corporations who built their reputations on swindling and scamming and stealing...

Friday, February 09, 2018

Cuisine Capitals of the US

From Medium:

When it comes to restaurants, every US city has a unique identity. Austin, TX is renowned for its BBQ. New York City is densely packed with pizza-by-the-slice. San Francisco and LA compete on taqueria prestige.

Using Google data, visualized by Google News Lab with design studio Polygraph, we can begin to quantify how these food trends vary across the country. Based on aggregated, anonymized, and differentially private data from users who have opted in to Google Location History, we ranked cities and counties by their most popular cuisine.

We can also make comparisons: where are pizza parlors more popular than Mexican restaurants?

And by comparing all cuisines, we have a better picture of regional preferences across the US.

Thursday, February 08, 2018

Mobile Marketing: 2018 Stats, Tips for Small Businesses

From Marketing Profs:

We all know mobile is gaining momentum, and it's not going to slow down anytime soon.

So what can marketers do to make sure their websites stay up-to-date with the latest mobile trends? This infographic by film editing simplifiers Filmora has the following tips:

• Make sure videos are mobile-friendly.

• More broadly, make sure your website is mobile-friendly. (If your audiences use mobile devices—and they probably do—this should be your first priority.)

• Explore augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) options to enhance customer experiences.

• If you're running video ads, use mobile native video advertising.

• Ensure making payments on mobile is easy to do.

• Consider QR codes to streamline user experience.

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Small Business Success Story - Platter's Chocolates

Each year the New York Small Business Development Center recognizes outstanding small businesses in a variety of ways.  This Success Story from the  Niagara SBDC appears in our 2016 Annual Report.

Roger Urban 
Platter's Chocolates
Niagara SBDC

Platter’s Chocolates is a family business owned and operated by the Urban family since 1972. Owner Roger Urban purchased Platter’s from Carl Platter who started the business in 1938, and several members of Urban family currently work in the business. Several years ago Roger purchased Betty Dixon Candies, the Jamestown candy shop that Lucille Ball worked at as a teenager, and which inspired the famous episode on her show. This purchase broadened Platter’s manufacturing lines and chocolate mold inventory. 
In 2014, Platter’s acquired Ko-Ed Candies, a South Buffalo tradition since 1947, again expanding production. This lead to Platter’s outgrowing its facility. In 2015, Platter’s embarked on a major expansion project to allow for increased production and to develop a tourist destination with a portion of the manufacturing plant visible to tour groups and shoppers. This involved transforming a large section of the former Wurlitzer Factory. The new location includes a gift shop and a “Café” at which visitors can enjoy coffee, ice cream, local favorites and of course chocolates! 
Platter’s Chocolates worked with SBDC Advisor Dinene Zaleski to develop a business plan and loan applications for the bank and public agencies including, Empire State Development, Niagara Economic Development Fund, Lumber City Development Corporation and New York Power Authority Power Proceeds. Many dignitaries were on hand for the November 2016 ribbon cutting. As a result of this project, Platters is now a destination that attracts locals and tourists who will also visit other nearby stores, restaurants, and local businesses. 

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

When Buying Expensive Items, Consumers Turn to Reviews

From eMarketer:

Many consumers turn to online reviews to help inform their decision when researching a big-ticket product, according to new data from YA.

In fact, when researching an expensive item—$250 or more—online ratings and reviews were the most common source respondents consulted, more so than word-of-mouth, in-store sales associates or social networks.

But interestingly, while favorable reviews certainly affected their decision to buy one item over another, quality and price were more important. Roughly a third (32.4%) of respondents said quality is the primary factor in choosing to purchase a durable item, like a new computer or washing machine, and another 26.6% said price comes first.

Monday, February 05, 2018

The Best Tax Software of 2018

From PC Magazine:

Have you started thinking about doing your taxes? Neither have I. But PCMag's Kathy Yakal has been testing tax preparation software for weeks.

Tax law changes every year and tax prep software has to change with it. This year, Intuit TurboTax once again earns the Editors' Choice award for the best overall package. That said, TaxAct and FreeTax USA (which actually costs $6.99, despite its name) also had strong showings.

Just don't expect to collect on the Trump tax cuts. Those won't show up until you file next year.

Saturday, February 03, 2018

Lessons from Crock Pot: Four Steps to Make Your Brand Crisis-Ready

From MarketingProfs:

Pity the beleaguered Crock-Pot: First it gets its lunch eaten by the upstart InstantPot. Then it murders a beloved character on a popular TV show.

The slow cooker that had toiled unobtrusively for years on kitchen counters around the world, silently stewing your Swedish meatballs, suddenly found itself last week thrust into the social media spotlight.

Prior to last week, the brand wasn't even on Twitter—because, honestly, who wants to talk to Crock-Pot? Yet, a week later, the hastily assembled @CrockPotCares Twitter feed is still defending itself from attacks caused by the unlikeliest of sources.

What Happened?

Last Tuesday, NBC's "This Is Us" episode fingered the family slow cooker in the long-awaited explanation of the death of family patriarch Jack Pearson (played by Milo Ventimiglia)... In that moment last week, Crock-Pot found itself blindsided—thrust into the middle of a Clue game. (It was Mr. Crock-Pot in the Kitchen with Flame from a Faulty Switch!)

Did you notice that the pot wasn't even branded a Crock-Pot? Apparently, that doesn't matter in this post-truth world.

Friday, February 02, 2018

101 Fascinating Facts About Domain Names

From MarketingProfs

"Domain names play a crucial role in branding and SEO of a website," begins an infographic by review site Website Builder.

So it's important to think about your business's website domains carefully, understand how they work, and know your resources for purchasing and maintaining them.

The infographic explains all that and more about domains, from the parsing of a URL to a timeline of domain names. (The first domain to be registered was symbolics.com in 1985!)

It also answers some common questions about domains and SEO. For example, avoid using numbers and hyphens in a domain name, the graphic suggests, and keep your domain name as short as possible.

Thursday, February 01, 2018

Is Organic Social Media Marketing Still Relevant?

From eMarketer:

Once upon a time, social media marketing was very different than it is today. Marketers could open a page on Facebook, write a bunch of fun posts and watch the fan count go up. But that all changed when Facebook began drastically reducing the reach of organic (nonpaid) posts.

"While organic serves a key purpose within our broader strategy, we are very mindful that the creative must be top-notch to resonate, and that it strategically incorporates the proper hashtags to ensure relevance within the marketplace," said Tad Ehrbar, senior vice president of global consumer social media and content at Citi.

Others believe organic social is a waste of time and dollars—and they don’t mince words.

“You might as well take your budget to the bank, cash it out in greenback $20s, pile it up in the parking lot and light the money on fire,” said Ogilvy's Marshall Manson.

However, some marketers believe organic is not only still important, but perhaps more important than ever. They feel there are things organic can accomplish that paid cannot.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Small Business Success Story - Integrated Aquatic Sciences, LLC

Each year the New York Small Business Development Center recognizes outstanding small businesses in a variety of ways.  This Success Story from the  North Country SBDC appears in our 2016 Annual Report

Margaret Murphy 
Integrated Aquatic Sciences, LLC
North Country SBDC

Integrated Aquatic Sciences, LLC, was formed in 2015 to provide comprehensive aquatic consulting services to clients in both the public and private sector. Services include fish community evaluations and fisheries management, water quality monitoring, habitat restoration and management. The company provides a cost-effective scientific approach that works within the natural environment. 
Principal scientist and owner, Margaret H. Murphy, Ph.D. is a Certified Fisheries Professional through the American Fisheries Society with more than 20 years of experience in the field. Margaret consulted the SBDC for assistance in starting her business and to gain a better understanding of the WBE and WOSB certification process. She also wanted information on regulations for drone operations in New York State. SBDC Advisor Angela Smith reviewed start-up steps with Margaret and explained the eligibility criteria and process to complete NYS WBE and WOSB certifications. The advisor also registered the client on BidLinx. The Research Network provided information on current state legislation regarding the use of unmanned aerial vehicles. 
Within a matter of weeks, Margaret’s new consulting company, Integrated Aquatic Sciences, LLC, was up and running. “Angela’s cheery, calm demeanor made the startup process less daunting,” says Margaret. “I was thankful to have such a great resource readily available. The SBDC definitely made the process much easier.” Some recent projects include habitat restoration of the Ladies Mile Section of the East Branch of the Ausable River and assessment of wild brook trout production in Upper Ausable Lake.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Retailers Still Struggle with Personalization

From eMarketer:

Retailers have been racing to crack the personalization code for some time.

For most, personalization is a key to success. In fact, more than nine in 10 US retailers surveyed by RIS News said personalization capabilities are at least somewhat important to their company's business goals. And 39% of respondents said personalization was extremely important.

Many respondents employ personalization in hopes of increasing sales, improving overall loyalty, and of course, making sure customer engagement levels are high. Improving these capabilities, however, isn’t always an easy task for retailers.

It’s important for retailers to get personalization right because the price of personalization failure is costly.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Why Should Small Business Owners Think About Ethics?

From Bplans:
Why should busy small business owners worry about ethics?

Because whether you are a software startup or have a taco truck, ethics failures can hurt the bottom line, writes Shanté Roddy, CEO of Intuitive Risk Management International.

“Ethically treating employees, good relationships with the public, and correct information shared with stakeholders are all responsibilities of the top leadership and have a direct impact on the overall growth of the company,” Roddy writes.

Business owners have to sweat the small decisions, because, as Aileron puts it, “business ethics issues always start small.”

Sunday, January 28, 2018

SBA Presents Free Webinar Series to Help Small Businesses Navigate the HUBZone Program

From the Small Business Administration:

The U.S. Small Business Administration will present a six-part, free webinar series to help small businesses navigate its Historically Underutilized Business (HUB) Zone Program that will run from February to mid-March. 
The hour-long webinars will cover the following topics: 
February 7
HUBZone Contracting:  Make the Federal Government Your Customer
2-3p.m. EST
Small businesses will learn about HUBZone contracting vehicles and regulations.
Click on this link 10 minutes before the Feb. 7 webinar begins:
February 14
HUBZone Joint Ventures: How to Partner with Other Companies for HUBZone Contracts
2-3p.m. EST
Small businesses will learn how to enter into a HUBZone joint venture and the importance of having a well-defined joint venture agreement whether or not the agreement falls under the All Small Mentor-Protégé Program.
Click on this link 10 minutes before the Feb. 14 webinar begins:  http://ems7.intellor.com/login/714968
February 21
Continued HUBZone Compliance:  How to Maintain Your HUBZone Certification
2-3p.m. EST
Small businesses will learn how to remain compliant to reap the benefits of their investment.
Click on the link 10 minutes before the Feb. 21 webinar begins: http://ems7.intellor.com/login/715049
February 28  
How Does HUBZone Consider Employees and Affiliation?
2-3p.m. EST
Small businesses will learn who to count as an employee for the purpose of the HUBZone Program.  The webinar will also help small business owners understand when to combine the employees from their other businesses to evaluate the principal and employee residency compliance of the HUBZone firm.   
Click on this link 10 minutes before the Feb. 28 webinar begins: http://ems7.intellor.com/login/714967
March 7
Understanding How HUBZones are Designated
2-3p.m. EST
Small businesses will learn how areas become designated as HUBZones. 
Link to the webinar will be announced by mid-February.
March 14
HUBZone Protests and Appeals
2-3p.m. EST
Small businesses will learn the process for filing HUBZone protests and appeals, and for responding to protest notices.
Link to the webinar will be announced by mid-February.
All of the webinars will be archived on SBA’s YouTube page.

For more details about the HUBZone program, please visit www.sba.gov/hubzone