Blog Posts by Adrienne Burke

  • A Cheap Way to Try Out a Customer Loyalty Platform

    The Huzzah Loyalty platform in use at a cafe

    Perhaps you’ve noticed: Customer retention has been a frequent theme of this blog lately. We’ve reported on how customer loyalty programs are slowly gaining traction, about the big data science to keeping your customers, and on how companies have scaled up by focusing on existing customers.

    If your business is a retail shop, restaurant, spa, car wash, or similar consumer-facing merchant, then you already know that you could stand to benefit from getting more of your current customers to come back for more. But in a recent survey, 70 percent of small business owners told Huzzah Media that they simply don’t have the time or resources to improve their online presence, let alone initiate a customer loyalty program or set up a mobile app to keep those customers connected.

    So Huzzah came up with an offer that seems too good to be true. For just $1, the mobile app developer will set you up with a turnkey customer loyalty program. The company is offering to send any small business a

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  • A Week to Prepare Your Tax Return? Typical

    (charts: NSBA 2014 Small Business Taxation Survey)

    And I thought the three full days I spent preparing my self-employed tax return last week was painful. Turns out most Yahoo! Small Business readers probably have it even worse.

    A survey released today by the National Small Business Association indicates that a majority (60 percent) of small businesses spend more than 40 hours per year grappling with the complex and inconsistent federal tax code, and 40 percent spend more than 80 hours.

    In addition, the organization's 2014 Small Business Taxation Survey revealed that 86 percent of owners must pay an external tax practitioner or accountant to handle their taxes; nearly a third spend more than $10,000 annually on federal tax preparation; and nearly half spend more than $5,000 in the form of accountant fees, internal costs, and legal fees.

    As NSBA First Vice Chair Tim Reynolds testified yesterday to the House Committee on Small Business, "This is before they even pay their actual taxes!"

    The NSBA survey release was timed to coincide with

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  • Why You Must Always Test An App Before Launch

    Business owners are hearing a lot about why they should build mobile apps: they’re great tools for marketing, good for building brand loyalty, useful for customer retention, practical for gathering customer data.

    Sure, but an app can really backfire for your company if it doesn’t work, gets bad reviews, or creates problems such as security breaches.

    Kevin Surace is CEO of Appvance, a company that provides app testing and validation. He says it’s a huge mistake to launch your new app without testing it first. And he says your app developer is not the person to do that. Yahoo! Small Business spoke with him about why and how you need to test your mobile or web apps before launch.

    Your company tests mobile and web apps for performance and security risks and can determine the root cause of bottlenecks when there are millions of users. This doesn’t sound like a service for the typical small business owner.

    Today, there are small companies that put out apps—startups that don’t have 5 people

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  • Bad teenagers make good entrepreneurs, study says

    Wondering how to spot a future entrepreneur? Look for the smart teenager who keeps getting into trouble with the law. A new study of successful self-employed people finds that “a mixture of learning aptitude and‘break-the-rules’ behavior is tightly linked with entrepreneurship.” 

    Ross Levine of the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley, and Yona Rubinstein of the London School of Economics looked at self-employed individuals who had incorporated (as opposed to the unincorporated self-employed). Their working paper, “Smart and Illicit: Who becomes an entrepreneur and does it pay?” published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, concludes that:

    class="MsoNormal">“The incorporated self-employed have a distinct combination of cognitive, noncognitive, and family traits. …The combination of ‘smarts’ and ‘aggressive/illicit/risk-taking’ tendencies as a youth accounts for both entry into entrepreneurship and the comparative earnings of entrepreneurs.”

    Risk

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  • SBA Seeks to Recognize Innovative Small Businesses

    The U.S. Small Business Administration this week issued a call for nominations for its two annual contests: the Tibbetts Awards and the Small Business Innovation Research Hall of Fame Awards. The deadline for nominations is May 2 at 11:59 pm, and awards will be presented in June during the annual SBIR National Conference at the National Harbor.

    The Tibbetts Awards, named for Roland Tibbetts, known as the father of the federal government's Small Business Innovation Research program, go to small businesses and individuals who exemplify the best of the program, and promote its mission and goals, as well as those of the related Small Business Technology Transfer program.

    But your business does not need to be a recipient of SBIR assistance to win: One type of Tibbetts prize will go to any businesses that have participated in the SBIR or STTR Phase I and II award programs. A second type will go to individuals who have not received assistance but supported the programs. A maximum of 60 awards

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  • Filmmakers Capture Small Business Stories on a National Roadtrip

    Small business owner Sean O'Toole is among the first to be featured in a new short film campaign

    The first two three-minute movies posted to the Small Business Road Trip web site—about a hat shop in Manhattan and a dog grooming boutique in the city’s South Street Seaport—are touching enough to inspire you to start your own business (or perhaps just join the road trip).

    New York independent filmmaker Trisha Dalton and cinematographer John Sears started a 10-week cross-country tour yesterday as part of the “I Am Small Business Proud” campaign sponsored by Spark Business from CapitalOne. Starting with New York, where they hit a dozen businesses before moving on to New Jersey, the duo will travel 7,300 miles and stop in more than 35 cities including Philadelphia, Richmond, Atlanta, New Orleans, Nashville, Austin, Denver, Seattle, and Los Angeles “gathering exclusive content and insights into the lives of small business owners.”

    Viewers of their captivating mini-films have already learned how JJ Hat Center owner Sean O’Toole watched his parents bring their business back after the 9/11

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  • Customer Loyalty Programs Slowly Gain Traction

    source: Manta and BIA/Kelsey

    Small business owners now spend the majority of their marketing budgets, time, and efforts on retaining and developing relationships with existing customers. They spend less than half of their money or time on new customer acquisition.

    The findings of a study released today by Manta and BIA/Kelsey, which surveyed nearly 1,000 small business owners, are in stark contrast to previous studies the organizations conducted. Just two years ago, a BIA/Kelsey study found that small business owners’ primary focus was on new customer acquisition; in fact, they spent 7 times more on acquiring customers than on retaining existing ones.

    The same 2012 study found that only 6 percent of small businesses were spending more than half of their budgets on keeping customers. And yet more than 61 percent of respondents to the 2014 survey claim they generate more than half of their annual revenue from repeat customers rather than new customers.

    The co-authors of the new report, “Achieving Big Customer

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  • Technology Choices Stress Out Small Business Owners

    Robots might replace workers in Mom and Pop shops, if Mom and Pop could figure out how to use them.

    While a vast majority—72 percent—of small business owners say new technologies will offer a bigger return on their investment than new employees will in 2014, 63 percent say they feel overwhelmed by business technology choices.

    The data comes from a survey released yesterday by business machines maker Brother International and the small business mentorship group SCORE. The partners contracted Wakefield Research in January to poll 500 owners of U.S. companies with less than 100 employees.

    The survey results reveal that small business owners largely agree that technology will increase efficiency and keep business running smoothly, but they are having a tough time keeping up with the latest innovations. Half of owners are concerned that investing in technology too quickly risks sufficient return on investment, but the other half worry about losing a competitive edge by not adopting new

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  • Even Small Brands Can Use Game Apps to Engage Customers

    Cupcakes vs. Veggies is a mobile game app developed by TreSensa

    If you visit the Progressive website from your mobile device, tablet, or computer, you can waste hours playing free video games instead of shopping for insurance. One, called RocketCat, lets you fly a feline with a jet-pack through an animated underwriters' office, blowing Progressive “P” logos out of the air.

    The car insurance company is just one of many major brands that are increasingly using gaming apps as marketing tools. Unlikely as it seems, they’re succeeding in getting customers to spend 5, 10, even 20 minutes at a time playing their branded video games—and presumably developing warm, fuzzy feelings for their logos.

    The online trade publication Mobile Marketer reported last month: “Brands and marketers have been rolling out fun mobile games to engage consumers and increase brand awareness.” The article described a new Sports Jeopardy game app from Sony Pictures Television, a game from the NFL and the American Heart Association that encourages users to get active, and one from

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  • Could Your Business Be More Profitable with Women at the Helm?

    Companies that have women in decision-making positions and on their boards have been shown to have better financial performance, according to Christine Lagarde, the first female chief of the International Monetary Fund. In an interview with NPR's Renee Montagne this morning Lagarde, who is known to have said that the financial downturn might have turned out differently if Lehman Brothers had been Lehman Sisters, said:

    “I do believe that women have different ways of taking risks, of ruminating a bit more before they jump to conclusions. And I think that as a result, particularly on the trading floor, in the financial markets in general, the approach would be different. I'm not suggesting that all key functions and roles should be held by women. But if you look at the studies, and there were quite a few that were done by … various financial observers of the markets, it's apparently very clear now that those companies that have several female directors on their boards and females in

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