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The confidence among small business owners is at record highs, and the results from the quarterly CNBC/SurveyMonkey Small Business Survey has revealed as much.

Q3 2018 CNBC SurveyMonkey Small Business Confidence Index

More than half or 58% of small business owners in the survey said their overall business conditions are good, which is up by five percentage points from the second quarter’s 53%. And compared to the third quarter of 2017, it is has gone up by 39%.

According to the report, the survey gives CNBC the ability to discover up-and-coming trends across the nation among specific small business segments by geographic region. The poll measures the strength of the American economy by gauging how business owners on Main Street feel about jobs, taxes and current topics which affect their day to day operations.

In a press release, Jon Cohen, chief research officer for SurveyMonkey, pointed out one of those subjects — taxes. Cohen said, “More than one in five (22 percent) small business owners single out taxes and government spending as the issue that matters most to the success of their businesses — more than any other issue including health...

With everyone and everything going digital, it is more important than ever that small businesses have an effective digital marketing strategy in place to ensure they remain competitive in an increasingly digital world. Fortunately, there is a whole host of tools to help small businesses refine and capitalize on their digital marketing strategies.

Best Digital Marketing Tools

If you’re determined to get the most of your digital marketing efforts, check out the following best ten digital marketing tools for small business owners.

Keyword Planner

Every Search Engine Optimization campaign needs the right keywords to be effective and to rank well on the search engine. Make sure your SEO campaign is armed with the best keywords with Google’s Keyword Planner.

Copyscape Plagiarism Checker

Original and engaging content is what drives digital marketing campaigns and to be successful online every small business needs to produce, publish and share quality and original content.

As Andy Crestodina, website strategist and co-founder of web design company Orbit Media, says:

“Content comes in all shapes and sizes. Helpful how-tos, webinars, whitepapers, roundups and rants. But there is one type of content that crushes almost anything else you can publish. Original research.”

To ensure your content is original and is not simply plagiarized from other...

Merchant services relate to credit card processing for businesses. Managing your own can be risky and expensive, so many companies choose to outsource their merchant services. The main benefits of outsourcing are:

  • General cost advantages.
  • Increased efficiency.
  • Ability to focus on core areas.
  • Monetary savings in infrastructure and technology.
  • Access to skilled resources.
  • Faster and better services.

These advantages are also applicable to e-commerce and payment processing. Here are three activities businesses should consider outsourcing to merchant services.

3 Most Important Benefits of Merchant Services Credit Card Processing

Credit cards are widely used in commerce. They not only attract new business, but buyers spend up to 18 percent more when paying by card.

Some consumers, however, are concerned about keeping their credit card information safe. The 2017 Identity Fraud Study by Javelin Strategy & Research revealed that identity fraud incidence increased by 16 percent in 2016, a record high since the study’s inception in 2003. The study revealed that fraudsters successfully embezzled $16 billion in 2016.

In 2010 several cyberattacks were directed at PayPal and Mastercard. In 2015, 150,000 Spanish cardholders had their funds frozen, due to an alleged fraud case involving PayPal service provider Younique Money. Cases like these highlight the need for both credit card and

IT consulting can be a lucrative field. In fact, revenues in this industry in the U.S. are projected to reach $471 billion by 2022. It’s also a career field that is open to customization and flexibility. So if starting a business in this field is something that appeals to you, here are some of the essential steps you can take.

Steps to Start an IT Consulting Business Hone Your Skills

IT is a field that requires some technical training, whether you have a degree or some type of certificate. It may also help to gain some experience by working for another company before starting your business. Dave Ketterer of C.D.’s IT Consulting LLC started his career in IT by working for his local chamber of commerce. He gained a steady income while he mastered his craft and met with other business owners who could also use his expertise. He was able to start his own business while still working there part time and then eventually transitioning to full time entrepreneurship.

He said in a phone interview with Small Business Trends, “If you have the opportunity to, I think working for another company while you hone your skills and get connections is a...

You want two separate numbers for business and personal communication, but do you get a separate phone or a second line? Sprint MultiLine wants you to opt for the latter because it solves a number of issues and it is much cheaper.

Sprint MultiLine

In recognition of winning the Frost & Sullivan 2018 New Product Innovation Award, Sprint is reminding consumers of the benefits of having a second line on one mobile device. And as more companies allow their employees to bring their own device (BYOD), having two different lines clearly separates personal and business communications.

This feature is especially useful for small businesses needing to save money with BYOD policies while at the same time maintain a professional presence. The Sprint Multiline service offers a set of tools for keeping track of the business line while giving the employee privacy all in one device.

Brent Iadarola, vice president of mobile and wireless communications for Frost and Sullivan, pointed out some of the features of MultiLine and why it awarded the prize to Sprint.

In an official release, Iadarola said, “The Sprint MultiLine solution uniquely balances the reporting, security, and accounting needs of businesses while retaining employee freedom of choice and personal privacy. Sprint MultiLine...

If you’ve ever heard me speak at a conference or read my marketing articles, you know I’m all about the unicorns.

I’m usually talking about unicorns in terms of paid search strategy – my theory is that with just a minimal amount of additional effort, you can blow your competition away in just about any field.

Everyone’s always striving to keep up, to be average – but you don’t want to be average. You want to be a unicorn.

In every field, there are success outliers – those who absolutely slay the competition, not by a percentage point or two, but exponentially. Airbnb, for example, has achieved unicorn status in the travel booking space.  And think about taxi companies – how much do you think even the biggest yellow cab company in your city was worth five or 10 years ago? Uber, the inarguable unicorn in the personal transportation space, is worth billions.

How do they do it?

This infographic developed by explores the colors used by these incredibly successful brands, and how the psychology behind those choices drives consumer emotion.

Behind Brand Colors

A lot of people know why restaurants use red in their branding, for example – the color red evokes strong emotions, and also stimulates...

Lenovo says the ThinkPad P1 is its thinnest and lightest mobile workstation it has made to date. And at only 0.7 inches or 18.4mm thick, Lenovo has managed to include some impressive specs in such a small form factor.

In addition to the P1, Lenovo is also announcing a bigger P72. It is slightly thicker and weighs considerably more, but if you are looking for more power and you want to get rid of your desktop entirely, it might be an option.

Whether it is the P1 or P72, these are units designed for power users who don’t want to compromise when it comes to performance. For small businesses running engineering, data analytics, and design firms the P1 and P72 are the type of mobile workstation which makes working in the field possible.

In the press release Rob Herman, General Manager of Workstations, Lenovo, explained what the company was looking to achieve with the new line.

Herman said, “When we set out to create the ThinkPad P1, we knew our challenge was to build a mobile workstation that would carry the legacy of professional power and reliability of our ThinkPad portfolio, but also meet our customer’s need for a thin, light and sleek design.”

He added, “Whether you are... is an employee survey platform with an improvement process designed for small and medium sized businesses.

Employee Survey Platform

The platform shows companies what they can do to improve their organization by showing them what is working and where their blind spots are. The company says the feedback system helps in areas of growth and productivity without distracting employees from their work.

Developers say they established because small and medium sized businesses were being left behind by an industry which was catering to large enterprises and self-service platforms. Founders Robert Browton and Sam Dawson used their combined 40 years of experience in employee feedback to provide a solution small businesses can use to get actionable results.

In a recent release, the company explained the challenges small businesses face and the benefits they can gain from an effective feedback solution.

“Small business has enough challenges — managing people, product, sales operations, cash flow, growth, and profit,” the company expplains. “These types of companies have enough to do without running an employee survey that raises more questions than it answers. We take the pain out of the survey process and deliver results that businesses can actually use to improve productivity and growth.”

A Custom-built DRIVE...

TribeFluence has an influencer marketing solution which connects brands with macro and micro- influencers.

The company has signed a new deal with Click & Clear Communications, making it the first authorized TribeFluence Marketing platform provider in the US. The deal comes as the influencer market is slated to grow from an estimated $2 billion in 2017 to $10 billion by 2020, according to Adweek.

As it applies to small businesses, one of the great features of TribeFluence is it gives micro-influencers access to the monetization of their social media presence. This translates to affordable access to influencer marketing for small businesses.

What is Influencer Marketing?

Influencer marketing leverages social media personalities who specialize in a particular niche. This can be everything from technology reviews to health and fitness, makeup tutorials, fashion and much more.

By tapping into the influence these personalities have over their audience, brands try to reach potential customers through the influencer to market their products or services. This has resulted in delivering 11X higher ROI than traditional forms of digital marketing.

TribeFluence Influencer App

The TribeFluence...

The days of every business needing a full office phone system are over. Many of today’s entrepreneurs prefer to run things right from their mobile device. But sometimes, it still helps to have a dedicated phone line for communicating with customers. So OpenPhone hopes to bridge the gap between those two worlds.

The app allows businesses to call and receive calls to a business number right on their personal cell. Read more about the company and its offering in this week’s Small Business Spotlight.

What the Business Does

Offers a mobile calling application for businesses.

Co-founder Daryna Kulya told Small Business Trends, “OpenPhone is a mobile application that gives business owners and entrepreneurs a business phone number instantly. OpenPhone helps them separate their personal and business communications, share the responsibility for their phone line with their team, and easily control how their phone line works on-the-go.”

Business Niche

Creating an easy user experience with modern design and dedicated customer service.

Kulya says, “We care deeply about user experience and about creating an app that’s simple, modern and a joy to use.”

How the Business Got Started

Due to a very clear need.

Kulya says, “Both my co-founder and I grew up in families

Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) wants some U.S. banks to hand over customer financial information. They’ve asked big banks to supply balances from checking accounts and credit card transaction details when they join Messenger.

On the surface, supplying this information would allow banks to offer customer service through the platform, but the push comes at a time when Facebook is struggling with concerns over how they handle user data.

Concerns Over Facebook Messenger and Banks Optics

Small Business Trends contacted Dan Goldstein, president and owner of Page 1 Solutions to find out what small businesses need to know about the Facebook partnership with big banks.

Goldstein says one of the first concerns has to do with optics.

“By requesting access to private financial records of bank customers so soon after the Cambridge Analytica PR debacle, Facebook demonstrates that it is tone deaf to consumer concerns about the sharing of their private data,” he says.

“Even if there were no risks that the data might be disclosed or hacked (which is far from certain), it is clear that Facebook has not recognized the seriousness of this issue.”


Goldstein’s second worry is a familiar one for small business owners in that it centers around cybersecurity....

You know your company needs to innovate in a certain area — maybe it’s hiring, product design, customer service, event management or all the above — but you aren’t totally sure how to execute.

Scheduling a brainstorming session can be great way to ignite a flow of creative energy from your staff members.

While exciting and filled with possibilities, brainstorming sessions can also turn into straight-up nightmares if run improperly. Feelings can get hurt, tempers can flare and, in some cases, the meetings can end without any actionable ideas.

Tips for a Successful Brainstorming Session

Here, we go through a few of the ways to make sure your next session is a super productive brainstorming session.

Designate a Leader/Moderator

The right leader isn’t always the CEO or business owner. Sometimes an outside consultant is the most appropriate for the job. Regardless, every brainstorming session needs a leader. Someone to manage the whiteboard of ideas, someone to call on people, someone to handle crosstalk (a no-no) and someone to set a positive, creative tone for the meeting. Without a leader, things can quickly go off the rails.

Create Ground Rules at the Outset

It helps when people know what to expect, so explain how the structure of the brainstorming...

Getting the trust of your customers is one way to ensure the longevity of your business. This is true whether your company is a B2B or B2C enterprise. The 2018 B2B Trusted Brands Report (PDF) from Sagefrog points out why trust is so important in B2B, and why you will probably recognize all if not most of the brands on its list.

Most Trusted B2B Brands

In the report Sagefrog says, developing a rapport with clients characterizing their brands as trustworthy plays a major role in the market. This it says is because when a customer trusts your particular brand, more often than not it translates to brand loyalty.

For small businesses in the B2B segment gaining this trust requires a concerted effort which Sagefrog says are based on three major factors. And in the report, the top-ranked brands exhibited these traits. They are Brand Awareness, Customer Interaction & Satisfaction and being in a Trusted Industry.

The company said, “For B2B brands to be recognized as the most trusted, excelling and driving innovation in each of these three categories is critical. Exceeding customer expectations in just one category while performing with mediocrity in the other two is detrimental for brands...

Small business owners often find themselves pulled in several different directions at once to keep their companies working. They might even be expected to cover the responsibilities of boss and active employee at the same time.  Steve Martin, CMO of DaySmart, spoke with Small Business Trends on 10 ways to simplify your life when you’re running a small company.

He says all the responsibilities paint a broad stroke.

“Small business owners must become experts in everything from local employment law, leases, POS systems, inventory management, digital marketing, etc., all of which is on top of lead generation, customer service and business basics,” he said.  “Managing the time that it takes to accomplish all of these critical aspects of a business can be a challenge, let alone doing them successfully.”

How to Simplify Your Business  Get Good Business Management Software

Turning to tech in general and this kind of software specifically is a good first move.

“The software is centered around helping small businesses grow by automating some of the more time-consuming tasks of their daily routines, so they can instead focus on creative and customer-facing work,” Martin says. He points to appointment-based businesses using an automated system to send out reminders thereby saving phone and...

At first glance, the new Samsung Galaxy Watch looks like a traditional timepiece, but it is far from that. The company has announced three versions of the new line of watches with Silver, Midnight Black and Rose Gold faces.

Designed to be part of the Galaxy ecosystem, the new watches have extended battery life, LTE connectivity, wellness tracking applications and integration with other computing and smart devices. Samsung says it wants these watches to be part of its Galaxy ecosystem so they can fit together with its smartphones, tablets and more.

For small business owners, the watch offers a device which fits seamlessly within Samsung’s line of products and services. Being able to quickly see a message without taking out your smartphone, make payments, and control your smart devices will not change the world, but it will make things easier both in your workplace and at home.

The goal is to make your connected experience more efficient and enjoyable. In an official press release, President and CEO of the IT and Mobile Communications Division for Samsung Electronics, DJ Koh said as much.

Koh said, “The new Galaxy Watch was designed for all lifestyles to help meet consumer needs, such as more efficient battery life...

Imagine this: you’ve just built a state-of-the-art system for your business to store all of its records and customer data. It’s working seamlessly and allowing your team to run efficiently, while seemingly keeping all of your information secure.

Then — it disappears. Hackers contact you and demand that you pay a ransom you can’t afford to get your data back. You don’t have that amount of money, and don’t have any guarantee that they’ll actually follow through with their promise even if you do pay. But your business cannot function without that data. What do you do?

This is the situation that A1Care CEO Percy Syddall found himself in several years back. And it’s become all too common for other businesses as well.

As a home health care company in California, A1Care’s situation was especially sensitive due to the fact that patient records and health information had been compromised. While every ransomware attack presents unique challenges to businesses, this one illustrates many of the concerns that accompany such a situation.

Since then, Syddall and his team have taken great care to enhance their cybersecurity efforts and hopefully prevent a similar situation from ever impacting A1Care in the same...

Are you worried your local retail business can’t compete with online e-commerce businesses? While e-commerce isn’t going anywhere, brick-and-mortar retail is far from dead. Smart retailers will accept that each type of selling has its pros and cons, and each can benefit them in different ways.

A new study from Netsertive has some interesting insights into where retail is going and how businesses can stay competitive. For example, almost half of consumers always turn to a local store when they need a product within 2 or 3 days, according to the 2018 Consumer Shopping Trends Survey.

How to Compete With Online Sellers

Here are 3 very simple ways your retail business can compete with online sellers.

1–Cover all your bases. Although 43% of consumers always visit local stores when they need products in a hurry, 29.1% turn to Amazon, and 27.8% use both Amazon and local retailers. And while 60% of respondents say they have shopped at a smaller local store in the past six months, 30% say they only shop online. Selling products online as well as in your physical store can offer you a way to enjoy the best of both worlds.

To do this, you can add e-commerce shopping cart functionality...

Social media marketing is hard. It takes a ton of time and effort!

Each day, marketers try to stay on top of their marketing game while majorly multitasking.

So how can you regain control of your schedule?

Social Media Productivity Tips

I asked 9 social media unicorn superstars to share their #1 social media productivity tip and here are their beyond-amazing answers.

Mari Smith

Batch and repurpose. For example, for us women leaders in particular, when you’re all camera ready and have your studio lights, camera, etc. all set up, first do your Facebook Live broadcast. Consider simulcasting to YouTube, Periscope, Twitch, if appropriate. And then also shoot a batch of micro video marketing content for use in your Facebook and Instagram Stories, and Stories ads. And slightly longer videos for IGTV. Download and repurpose your Facebook Live broadcast along with all the micro and short videos by easily and professionally editing using a tool such as You could create a week or more worth of video content in a couple of hours.

Marsha Collier

Set aside specific hours in the day for your social outreach. Perhaps twice during the day for responding and curating for your community!” By having a set routine, you are less distracted and more...

In its bid to ensure the people on Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) are who they say they are, the social media giant has added yet another verification tool. From now on, people who manage a Page with a large US audience will have to complete an authorization process if they want to continue posting in their account.

With this authorization process in place, Facebook is looking to protect compromised accounts as well as limiting the reach of fake accounts. By asking the managers of the Page in question to secure their account with two-factor authentication and confirm their primary country location, the issues Facebook has been facing can be restricted.

Facebook hasn’t revealed what exactly “large” means in term of numbers, but it shouldn’t affect the vast majority of small businesses. However, the company did implement a new level of transparency for ads and Pages in June of this year. And this affects any organization running ads on Facebook.

Under those changes, users can view active ads a Page is running across Facebook, Instagram, Messenger and its partner network. This includes name changes, dates when the Page was created and more even if the ads aren’t being shown...

A new infographic by LinkedIn in collaboration with the Content Marketing Institute looks at how marketing and sales teams can come together and be more effective.

Titled “The Content Power Play,” the infographic uses the data from the survey and report, “Content Marketing: Unlocking Sales & Marketing Performance” to point out the problems along with solutions for the misalignment that exists between these teams in organizations.

Challenges Aligning Marketing and Sales Content

A revealing data point from the survey says 80% of content created by marketing goes unused by sales. With content marketing now a big driver in digital engagement, there is a lot of wasted opportunities because the teams are not on the same page.

Marketing and sales teams should have a symbiotic relationship because they depend on each other. But for some reason, they are not as well aligned as they should be. And the problem is not limited to large organizations.

Small businesses with sales and marketing teams face similar challenges when it comes to breaking free from the siloed systems companies have in place while working together.

Sean Callahan, Senior Manager of Content Marketing at LinkedIn, who wrote the ppost...