Email Marketing Software For Business

Our 2017 research and analysis of email marketing software leads us to again recommend Benchmark as the best email marketing software for small businesses. We chose Benchmark from dozens of email marketing software options. To understand how we choose our best picks, you can find our methodology and a complete list of email marketing software vendors on our best picks page.

 

Why Benchmark?

Benchmark combines ease of use with a wide variety of design options to deliver the best value for the price, which compared to many of its competitors is extremely affordable. (More about Benchmark’s pricing structure in the “Cost” section below.) Here’s a breakdown of why it’s our best pick.

Ease of use

Out of all of the software we tested, Benchmark had the best combination of producing professional-looking emails, while also being easy to use, even if you have no prior experience with design or email marketing.

Rather than software that’s stored on your computer, Benchmark is software as a service (SaaS) that you access online. There’s nothing to download or install and it can be used from any computer with an Internet connection.

We were most impressed with the multiple ways in which you can create email campaigns. There’s a drag-and-drop editor for those with no design experience, a code editor for advanced users who have expertise in writing their own HTML code, and a plain text editor for creating text-only emails that don’t include any photos or images.

We found that the drag-and-drop editor doesn’t take long figure out. It lays out all of the steps in a very natural way that makes it simple to understand. Before getting into the actual design stage, you choose a subject line, decide if the email should be shared on Facebook and Twitter, and choose which contacts to send it to.

 

Small Business Government Contract

The United States government spends over $4 trillion per year with large and small businesses. While the government places extra emphasis on awarding its contracts to small businesses in general (about a quarter of all contracts), there are also set-aside contracts for small businesses owned by women, minorities and veterans, including military personnel with disabilities. Paul Karch, president of SelltoGovernment.com, which helps small businesses earn government contracts, said that the application process is a lengthy one, so now is the time for small businesses to start laying a foundation. If you’re launching a small business or want to start landing government contracts as an existing small business owner, read on to learn how you can take advantage of these special opportunities.

The first step is to identify what you want to sell, using the codes of the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS). Those codes are listed on the North American Industry Classification Systems Association’s website. The codes classify the economic sector, industry and country of a business. Be aware that you may need to have several NAICS codes, depending on your product offering or service capabilities, so look carefully. Make sure that your business has that NAICS code, because it’s one of the first things that the government will look at to determine your eligibility as a government contractor; contracts aren’t awarded without one.

The Small Business Administration also recommends that businesses interested in securing a federal contract obtain a free Dun & Bradstreet D-U-N-S Number — which is a unique, nine-digit identification number for each physical location of a business — as well as an Open Ratings Past Performance Evaluation. These evaluations are an independent audit of customer references and calculate a rating based upon a statistical analysis of performance data and survey responses. In addition to a NAICS code and D-U-N-S Number, small businesses applying for a government contract will need to obtain the following to help identify their business, industry and product categories: a Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN) for filing taxes; Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) code; Product and Service Codes (PSC); and Federal Supply Class Codes (FSC).

Business Trends and Predictions

What do business owners, professionals and experts expect 2017 to hold for small business? After a tumultous election season, entrepreneurs can finally expect a little bit of certainty and stability. Keeping an eye on key trends and new developments, of course, is always imperative for any business that wants to position itself advantageously. Business News Daily got in touch to find out what are some of the biggest things for you to keep an eye on as your business prepares for the dawn of a new year. Here are 40 key ideas, trends and predictions to keep in mind in order to make the most of 2017 for both your business and the people it serves.

“In 2017, increased confidence among small business owners regarding the economy and their overall performance could lead to trends in business investment. Both the economy and stock market have shown signs of strength during the final weeks of 2016, and this helps increase business owner optimism.” – Carla Freberg, Director of Sales, Vendor Services Group, Balboa Capital Niche companies will find success “Business success wil come from further focusing on smaller, very specific audiences. Going extremely deep with customized messages and specialized platforms to a highly receptive and loyal audience will replace wide approach “shot gun” marketing. [We’ll see] more soft or no ask/call to action marketing focused on community building, experiences and lifestyle over product specific messaging.” – Kyle Golding, chief strategic idealist at The Golding Group Finance and investment Crowdfunding will play a key role in financing small business “Crowdfunding will continue to be an invaluable resource for entrepreneurs.

Crowdfunding platforms allow entrepreneure to easily validate and fund a new product or service all while growing their customer base.”  – Michael Banks, founder of FortunateInvestor.com Investment assets will shift to reflect an uncertain market “We’ll see more money go into cryptocurrencies, probably Bitcoin as it’s still the leader, and potentially precious metals. Stocks, bonds and real estate are all in bubbles of one sort or another. One of the consequences of central bank intervention with money printing is that all the mainstream asset classes are tightly correlated. So with the economy worldwide looking precarious right now, we’ll see people managing risk by shifting capital from over-valued asset classes into an under-valued class. When all the major asset classes are in bubbles, there is no ‘cheaper’ asset class to shift capital into, so it has to go elsewhere. I can see gold and cryptocurrencies absorbing that money and rising appropriately.” – Brandon Ackroyd, head of customer insight at Tiger Mobiles

Tips If You Start for New Businesses

Whether it’s entertainment media, apparel, groceries, cosmetics or even dog toys, it seems there’s a subscription service for just about everything nowadays. According to Rob Sutherland, chief revenue officer of Fusebill, a company that offers solutions to automate and manage small and midsize subscription businesses, consumer behavior, particularly among younger people, is changing: The traditional desire to own and accumulate goods — from music to cars to physical documents — is fading. “There is a fundamental shift occurring in the world towards a subscription-based economy. With the growth of mobile, cloud and IoT, we are seeing the beginnings of a move towards ‘everything as a service,'” Sutherland said.

Isabelle Roussin, chief solution expert at SAP Hybris, a provider of e-commerce software and omnichannel solutions, said subscription services have become popular because they give consumers more options, flexibility and personalized experiences. “For example, Netflix, Spotify, BirchBox and Stitch Fix … allow consumers to browse a subsect of products selected just for them and soon they will expect this type of experience from all industries,” Roussin said. “While manufacturing, high-tech and media markets have already started using subscription service models, they will need to build on it to create a personalized customer journey.”

Because of the service-oriented approach of subscription models, companies often see more efficient business planning, improved customer relationships, and enhanced product innovation and creativity, Roussin said. The in-depth data generated from this model also helps businesses set better financial expectations by more accurately predicting revenue, she said. [See Related Story: 4 Recurring Revenue Models to Grow Your E-Commerce Business] “For almost all products and content, subscription-based business models are becoming the standardized go-to market, as recurring revenues make the predictability of the business far less daunting,” Sutherland said.

Card Printing Services for Small Businesses

Are you trying to choose an online business card printing service for your business? We’re here to help you find the one that’s right for you. While some printing services are appropriate for larger businesses, we found four that we think are best for small business or freelancers‘ needs.

 

Online business card printing

The best business card printing services for small businesses produce high-quality cards without requiring you to use special software or to have design skills. You should be able to create your new card design easily online, see high-resolution previews online, and receive your new cards in a timely manner. The best services also provide a wide variety of card stock choices, images, fonts, colors and card shapes.

Benefits of online business card printing services:

  • No design skills required
  • Low price options available
  • Wide variety of paper and templates
  • Quick print and delivery times

When you create your business cards, think about how you plan to use them. If you are using them for offering discounts or one-time opportunities, you can save money by choosing a low-priced option. If you plan on using them to give to contacts whom you wish to sell high-priced items to, you’ll want a card that is attractive and worth keeping that may cost a bit more. If you plan on using them to share your contact information with a lot of people at a convention or other large sales opportunity, you’ll benefit from a card that scans well with a business card scanner or even a near-field communication (NFC) card that can be scanned with a mobile phone.

 

How we evaluated online business card printing

Top Ten Reviews (TTR), a sister site of Business News Daily, has been testing online printing services for many years. We discussed business card printing with the reviewers who recently evaluated business card printing and online printing services. We were also able to access their sample prints from more than 10 printing companies to help decide which online card printers we thought would be best for small businesses.

 

Business After Natural Disaster

Natural disasters can cause significant and costly damages to homes, roads and, of course, local businesses. While you should always be prepared for such events, by maintaining adequate insurance coverage and secure file backups, you sometimes get little warning before disaster strikes. And if something happens, you’ll want to get your business back up and running as quickly as possible.

Unfortunately, the road to recovery isn’t always easy. A previous Business News Daily article about recovery from 2012’s Superstorm Sandy reported that just 25 percent of small businesses had backups of critical programs and data before the storm, and even fewer (20 percent) said they had protected their buildings from the storm or prepared emergency survival kits. Thomas Phelps, vice president of corporate strategy and chief information officer at Laserfiche, an enterprise content-management company, offered some tips to business owners recovering from natural disasters.

Your business continuity plan should prepare you for major disaster scenarios, such as the loss or unavailability of IT systems, key people or a facility third party. Make sure key personnel will have access to the plan on secured mobile devices immediately after a disaster.

Don’t have a business continuity plan? This Business News Daily guide outlines how to create one.

 

Check your backed-up data

You should have already backed up and safely stored your most critical data: your business license, major contracts and legal documents, tax returns and financial statements, and other critical business and customer documents. Following a disaster, make sure your vital records are still securely accessible from the devices you’re using.

 

Communicate with your employees and external parties

Leverage your website, social media channels and text messaging to reach your employees, customers, partners and vendors. Reassure your customers that you’re still in business, while making sure that no communications will inadvertently create legal liability or adversely affect service-level agreements.

 

Everything You Need to Know About Taxes as Employee

As a freelancer or a self-employed individual, your take-home pay may be significantly more than if you were working for a corporation. Not only are taxes not taken out, but also you don’t have a company directly deducting health care, 401k or other financial costs from your paycheck. This can lead to a temptation to spend it all, but self-employed professionals shouldn’t be fooled into thinking they actually have the full amount of their check. Taxes are required regardless of how you are employed. “Business owners, whether they are self-employed freelancers or corporation owners, are responsible for complying with tax law with respect to their business,” said Shoshana Deutschkron, VP of communications at freelance job platform Upwork. “Financial literacy is a critical skill, [and] that literacy includes an understanding of taxation.”

“You need to hold onto some of your money,” added Lisa Greene-Lewis, CPA and TurboTax tax expert. “You should pretend you don’t have that much money because your income varies so often. You have to think about paying your taxes.” Not only are government forms daunting, but learning the ropes of taxation can be truly complicated to understand. Those embarking on a self-employed career should take into consideration the implications of how and why filing taxes correctly can impact your business If you’re filing as “self-employed” with the IRS, here are the basics of filing, paying and saving for taxes.

Freelancers must take their taxes into account when setting their pricing, consider tax burden in planning their finances for the year (e.g., saving money vs. re-investing it in the business), and track their business expenses to deduct them at the end of the year, Deutschkron said.

According to the IRS, self-employed individuals are classified as:

  • Carrying on a trade or business as a sole proprietor or an independent contractor.
  • Being the member of a partnership that carries on a trade or business.
  • Being otherwise in business for yourself (including a part-time business)

When you’re self-employed, you must pay a self-employment tax (SE tax) as well as an income tax. The SE tax is a Social Security and Medicare tax that is primarily for individuals who work for themselves. This is separate from income tax.

Before you can determine your tax obligations, you must figure out your net profit or net loss from your business. You can calculate this by subtracting business expenses from your business income. If your expenses are less than your income, the difference is net profit and becomes part of your income. However, if your expenses are more than your income, the difference is a net loss.

Acquisition Business Steps

Congratulations! You’ve just closed a deal to purchase an existing business. But what do you do next? If you’re investing in a franchise, your freedom to make operational changes is pretty limited, but if you’re taking over an independent company, you likely have a lot of new ideas you want to implement. Regardless, you can’t just burn down the existing business model and rebuild it from scratch without losing the trust and respect of the staff — which you’ll need if you want to succeed. To make the management transition easier on you and any employees who may be staying on board after the acquisition, here are the next steps you should take after you buy a business.

 

1. Do an audit of the existing processes and practices.

While you were planning the acquisition, you probably became quite familiar with how your new company works. However, there will still be a learning curve, and you’ll spend your first few weeks getting to know the ins and outs of the business.

“Regardless of the entrepreneur’s background and the amount of due diligence conducted prior to an acquisition, the entrepreneur will never truly understand the business until he or she starts to operate it,” said Michael B. Shaw, chair of Much Shelist law firm’s business and finance group. “Every company is unique, and an entrepreneur needs to truly understand that business before deciding what changes to make.”

From a practical standpoint, one important consideration is the business’s security practices. Steve Manzuik, director of security research at Duo Security’s Duo Labs, advised business owners to do a thorough audit upon acquiring a company to identify and address any key gaps, especially if you’re buying a startup.

“A lot of startups are so focused on building their business that they postpone implementing a basic security program,” Manzuik said. “In addition, traditional security mechanisms can be complicated to operate and expensive to procure, leaving many startups and small businesses unable to afford them at the early stages. Any entrepreneur who is acquiring a business … needs to investigate what existing security controls are in place.”

Here are a few of the key security measures Manzuik said to look at:

  • What systems and/or cloud services are being used by the business (customer-facing and internal)?
  • How is access to these systems controlled (unique user accounts, password requirements, two-factor authentication, etc.)?
  • How are the systems managed? Are there documented standard processes for patching and configuring them?

If it’s within your budget, consider bringing in a third party to audit security processes, review systems and look for weaknesses in your new company’s systems, Manzuik said.

 

2. Communicate with the existing staff members.

Acquisitions don’t often bode well for the existing staff of the acquired company. It’s unlikely that the new owners will have the funds to keep everyone on board, especially if they plan to bring in more staff of their own. Mark Davis, CEO of Puro Clean, said one of the biggest challenges a new owner will face after an acquisition is fear throughout all levels of the organization.

“There is fear of the unknown, fear of change, fear of benefits being modified, fear of the direction of the company, etc.,” he told Business News Daily.
The solution? Be transparent with employees. Talk to them as soon as possible, and make sure they know that you’re interested in getting to know them and their company, Davis said.

“After every new acquisition I have made over the past 20 years, I have communicated directly with all employees and team members within 24 hours of the announcement,” he said. “I have found it helpful to communicate the announcement verbally … and in writing, along with an FAQ that is posted throughout the organization [and] emailed to every employee. It is impossible to overcommunicate the initial message and the FAQ.”

Focus on Best At Tips

During the last 10 years at our online jewelry company, Angara, we have seen a lot of ups and downs. When we look back and think about what was working well during our ups and what wasn’t working well during our downs, it all comes down to focus. We are at our best when we focus on one thing and strive to be better at that thing than anyone else.    Early on in our history, we were trying to be all things to all people— selling loose diamonds, diamond jewelry, lab created jewelry and gemstone jewelry. We took on way too much, and as a result, we weren’t really the best at anything. That became a recipe for mediocrity and almost caused us to fail. Being so close to that failure forced us to focus on the one thing that we were really good at. That focus turned everything around.

Today, we believe that we are the world’s best at selling customized gemstone jewelry. We have created a great customer experience, maintain very high quality, manufacture each piece as a custom piece and have a lightning fast supply chain. We now have more than 120 team members across three offices that are dedicated to this single goal. As a result, we are growing 10 times faster than our competition. This philosophy of single minded focus now exists at Angara on both a company level and at an individual level. We strive to hire people who have a passion for excellence in any one area, even if it’s not related to the role they would be taking on. When developing the next generation of leaders within the company, we try to develop skill sets and set goals that are very specific and very lofty.  My management philosophy has been heavily influenced by Warren Buffett. From the beginning, Warren knew he wanted to become the world’s greatest investor. He dedicated his life to that pursuit and left virtually everything else alone. Interestingly, when Warren Buffett and Bill Gates were each asked to identify the single greatest factor in their success, they both said “Focus.”

Choose a Customer Service Tips

Communications is one of the most important aspects of any business, but between daily operations and sealing new deals, it can be hard to find the time for you and your staff to mind the phones. Balancing productivity and customer service can be a tough job, but luckily there’s a solution. When businesses can’t handle customer service and technical support, or need assistance in generating new leads, many turn to call center services. These companies do more than just answer calls; call centers will assist customers, conduct surveys, and obtain feedback to find out how you can better position your company in the future.

The most robust call center services will help you expand your customer base while retaining your current customers through marketing, data gathering, and multi-lingual support. They also can add a layer of professionalism to your company. Call center services can vary widely. While some businesses might only need a basic answering service, others might want the most sophisticated outreach options. This guide will help you understand the variety of call center services available and determine which one is right for your business in 2017.

If you’ve got a business that fields a lot of calls, or if you want to improve your outreach without burdening your staff and interrupting your day-to-day operations, you need a call center service. Call center services offer entrepreneurs a way to engage with their customers and provide professional support without requiring an in-house staff, making them valuable tools to retain current customers and also, in many cases, expand your customer base as well. In order to find the call center services you can trust with your business in 2017, we reviewed 30 companies that offer inbound and outbound calling services. Here is a roundup of our best picks and an explanation of how we chose them.