Fresh Off the Presses! Awkward Conversations: Guide for Small Business Owners [Free eBook]

Our good friends over at FreshBooks are offering this amazing (and free) eBook to help small business owners (like all of you) best manage, navigate and dominate uncomfortable conversions. Read on for a quick introduction and to download the eBook for yourself. 

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Remember that time when you had to talk about budgets with your first client or when you crafted an uncomfortable email to someone who hadn’t paid up? As a small business owner wearing all the hats, it might feel like you’re constantly bracing yourself for the next awkward conversation (or email or text exchange) with a client or prospect. Of course, you want to put your best face forward, be liked and act professional. But there are times when you need to assert yourself. And while tools like FreshBooks make it easy to automate some of those conversations with rinse-and-repeat templates, you still have to figure out WHAT to say. Sounds exhausting. But it doesn’t have to be. We’ve created 38 templates to help you address all your most awkward conversations. From money talk (eek!) and communicating scope creep to cold pitching and asking for referrals, we’ve got your back on all levels of uncomfortable situations.

A Crash Course in Branding Your Massage Practice

We recently wrote a three-part blog post for our friends over at ABMP about standards and best practices for branding your massage therapy business. Part one is included below, but head over to the ABMP blog to read the entire series.

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Most solo entrepreneurs and small business owners decide to go out on their own for two reasons: they have a passion for what they do and want more control over the customer’s overall experience. Sound familiar? While amazing motivators for getting us off the couch and into action, the road to converting these intentions into reality is often much more complex. You know that you have an amazing product and an amazing experience to offer your potential customers, but you don’t know how to really stand out in the market. The answer lies in rock-solid branding. No matter if you’re a business-of-one or if you’re all-in managing a massage practice, branding can (and will) make or break your business. In an industry so centralized around face-to-face communication and personal interaction, the brand that you create should be equally as personal, purposeful, and positive to keep customers coming through the door. To help you along the path for branding your massage practice or small business, we break down the basics of what a brand is and how to craft the perfect one for your business. Read more

How To: Use Zapier to Export Artichoke Data into Your Favorite Apps

We frequently get asked if Artichoke integrates with a number of popular business management and automation apps, including FreshBooks, Google Calendar, and Mailchimp. And, the answer is YES! With our partnership with Zapier, you can integrate Artichoke to 750+ other apps in just a few clicks.  Here’s a quick guide to get you started and answer common questions about how to set up any integration.
  1. Be sure that you have an active Artichoke account. If you don’t have one, you can sign up for a 14-day trial right here. Then, make sure that you have Zapier integration enabled. You can learn how to do that here.
  2. Sign up for a Zapier account. The free version should satisfy the needs of most small teams.
  3. To send data from Artichoke into another app:
    • Click the “Make a Zap” button in the top-right when you’ve logged into Zapier
    • Select “Artichoke” as the Trigger app
    • Select which pieces of data that you want to send out of Artichoke. Here are your options:
  4. Select any of the 750+ apps that Artichoke integrates with.
  5. Follow the steps to complete the integration.
Looking for more specific direction for a particular app? Leave suggestions in the comments!    

FreshBooks Guest Post: How to Keep Cash Flowing in Your Small Business

The cash flow of a small business is not unlike the act of breathing. Fresh oxygen (cash earnings) in; carbon dioxide (cash expenses) out. For most of us, our respiratory system takes care of itself. Our financials, on the other hand, need special care. Good news: you don’t have to be a CPA to successfully manage cash flow for your small business. With a watchful eye and the right accounting system, you have complete control over what comes in and what goes out. Here’s a quick primer on the concept of cash flow and how to keep yours in balance. Read more

5 Free or Low-Cost Digital Marketing Tools You Can Actually Use!

  Looking for some low-cost digital marketing tools to help beef up your appointment-based business pipeline? Check out our CMO’s top-five favorites in this guest post that we recently wrote for our friends at ABMP. ** The internet is a grand, wide place with many nooks and crannies. And, unless you’re entrenched in it on a daily basis like I am, it’s very easy to find yourself lost, overwhelmed and ready to give up when on the hunt for helpful new tools. Is this product really high-quality? Is it easy to use? How will it actually benefit me? Here are just some of our all-time favorite marketing tools online today, designed to make a big splash for small businesses without breaking the budget.   Mailchimp What it’s great for: Email marketing, including newsletters, promotions, or any other mass email you want to send to your client database. Price: Free for up to 2,000 email contacts, then pricing starts at just $20/month. Why I love it: With pre-built email templates, a really easy-to-use interface, and a super fun brand to top it all off, it’s no wonder Mailchimp is the favorite email provider among small businesses. Plus, most businesses can send up to 12,000 emails per month for free.                 Fiverr What it’s great for: Finding a freelancer for just $5, whether you need a hand designing a new logo or flyer, creating a short video for your website, or need to hire a virtual assistant. Price: Varies, but most jobs start at around $5 each. Why I love it: Fiverr is the perfect resource for those with big dreams and not such a big budget. Founded under the concept that getting help shouldn’t cost a lot of cash, Fiverr gets you access to qualified freelancers (with profiles you can browse) that can accomplish a variety of tasks for just $5. Massage therapy practices can find graphic designers, website programmers, writers, social media specialists, and even virtual assistants for just $5.   Google Drive with Google Docs What it’s great for: Cloud storage for all your documents—and an easy replacement for the costly Microsoft Office. Plus, Google Forms are an excellent resource for intake forms. Price: Free for up to 15GB of storage. Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, and Forms are also free. Why I love it: If you’re constantly losing files on your computer and looking for a centralized, secure, web-based place for all your documents, spreadsheets, etc., look no further. Backed by rock-solid security, all you need is a Gmail address to get started. Plus, web-based documents make it easy to share and collaborate among freelancers, customers, and teams. I love Google Forms for intake forms, which you can even customize to match the colors of your brand. Amazon Deal of the Day What it’s great for: Sprucing up your studio with new decorations, bonus gifts for clients, and all the other stuff you didn’t know you needed. Price: Varies. Why I love it: Maybe not such a secret, but most folks use Amazon for the regular needs of their personal lives without realizing it’s also an awesome tool for business. Amazon’s Deal of the Day is a great way to get deep discounts on things you already need for your business, and maybe a few things you didn’t realize you needed. Get discounts on antibacterial wipes, aromatherapy oils, small gifts to please your best customers, sheets, towels, and a whole lot more.     Artichoke What it’s great for: Online booking, automated appointment reminders, financial tools, and more. Price: Free for 14 days, then $30/month Why I love it: Call it shameless self-promotion, but the Artichoke all-in-one business platform was designed just for appointment-based businesses. Featuring a wealth of robust tools at a very affordable price point, Artichoke is easy to use and takes the headache out of managing your small business so you can spend more time doing what you love and less of what you don’t. Grab your free trial here.  

FreshBooks Guest Post: Conquer Your Fear of Accounting Forever

Most small business owners don’t consider themselves number crunchers. Entrepreneurs are a different breed. They have a passion for what they do with the skills and talent to match. They want to focus on what they love and who they serve. Numbers are a necessary evil of running a business. Sound familiar? You’re in good company. A 2014 Intuit study found that more than 40 percent of small business owners identify as financially illiterate… and yet 81 percent of them do their business’s finances themselves. This could be why half of all businesses fail within 5 years. This doesn’t have to be you. Managing money, taxes and accounting isn’t as hard as it looks when you’ve got the right tools and good habits to back them up. In fact, mastering your own accounting will give you insights into your business you wouldn’t find any other way. Here are 6 helpful habits you can use to gain complete control over your finances. Read more

Everything You Need to Know About #SmallBusinessWeek

Happy National Small Business Week to our growing community of small business owners and entrepreneurs! Formally kicked off this past Sunday (April 29th), National Small Business Week is devoted to encouraging and educating people just like you. The U.S. Small Business Administration (“SBA”) is hosting a ton of free events throughout the week, including a three-day virtual conference from May 1 (today) thru May 3.  Check out the details of the virtual conference here. The SBA is also hosting a Twitter chat this Friday, May 4th for tips for starting and growing a business. From all of us here at Artichoke, the work that you do every day is amazing. Have an idea for how Artichoke can help you grow, manage and simplify your small business like never before? Drop us a line at support@getartichoke.com. We’d love to hear from you.    

Tips for Making Taxes Less Taxing in 2018

It’s Tax Time! More specifically, today marks the IRS deadline for filing your federal taxes. If you’re anything like we used to be, the end of March and first weeks of April are marked with stress, and scrambling to hunt down all of your receipts and paperwork. With our 2017 taxes in the mail or electronically filed, why not commit to making taxes a priority all year to ensure that you’re not repeating your mistakes into 2019! Here are a few tips to keep you organized throughout the year so that you can breeze through tax time next year: Read more

FreshBooks Guest Post: How to Give Your Business a Health Check

As a healthcare professional, you’ve got the magic touch to help people feel and be their best. But do you give your business the same time and attention you offer to your clients? Many businesses falter – not because their owners aren’t great at what they do, but because they don’t make time for the tasks that come with running a small business. Our advice? Ensure your business becomes and stays prosperous by checking on and maintaining its health every step of the way. Here are 4 ways to help your small business stay in tip-top shape. Read more

Niche Marketing Basics: Find Your Niche

Here’s a sobering truth most business owners don’t want to accept: Not everyone is your target customer. One of the biggest mistakes many startups make is claiming their product will appeal to the masses, but this is true 0% of the time. Read on for a few tips to help you find your niche, and ditch the ideals that are costing you money.

Offer a unique but marketable product or service that will appeal to a specific group of people.

Whether you’re offering a product or a service, if you want to master your market, you must be very specific in what you offer. Even the largest companies in the world (think Walmart) have a target customer in mind. For example, Lu La Roe, a direct sale apparel company, targets women with body issues who have an eye for fashion and want to be part of a crowd. Lu La Roe offers a limited selection of patterns in each style, which drives competition and encourages women to boast about their exclusive “Roe” wear, further driving sales.

Avoid oversaturated markets.

Competition is fierce so make sure you are targeting people that others have pushed to the sidelines. Many markets trend for a short amount of time, attract an abundance of service providers, and then expand exponentially, leaving these new businesses clamoring for their share of customers. While this might sound like a perfect opportunity, targeting your business to appeal to a very specific group of people that have unmet needs will help you build your reputation and establish a loyal customer base.

Define your serviceable demographic and remain focused.

Bigger isn’t always better. In order to find success in a niche market, you must know exactly who you’re selling to. For instance, if you sell custom mother/daughter jewelry, it is not enough to define your target customers simply as parents. However, when you start marketing to suburban housewives with pre-teen daughters and an income of $75,000 or more per year, you will likely find that your product moves much faster.

Write a marketing plan.

 

Hopefully by this point, you already have a business plan, but you also need to write a marketing plan. Keep the four Ps of marketing – Product, Price, Place, and Promotion – in mind as you draft this. They will guide your strategies and should align with your business plan. A marketing plan should take the following into consideration: goals, research, competitive analysis, buyer personas, strategy, tactics, and channels. It’s going to take some time and effort to craft a sound plan, but once you have a clear vision, the execution will come much easier.

Relentlessly stalk the competition. 

If you’re going to be successful, you have to know who you are up against. No matter how unique your business is, there will likely be others vying for the same customers’ dollars. Utilize social media and other online outlets to see what your competition is doing right and wrong. You can emulate and adapt their sales techniques to best serve your shared clientele.

Scrutinize your decisions.

Even after you’ve decided on a target market, you’ll need to do some self-reflection to determine if your company is really a good fit. Ask yourself things such as:

●     Are there enough people in my target audience?

●     Is my product useful?

●     Do I really know what drives my customer’s decision-making process?

●     Can my potential customers afford what I’m offering?

●     Are my customers accessible? Will my message resonate with them?

If you cannot answer these questions in a way that encourages you to push forward, you may need to reevaluate your decisions and change things up before investing in a product launch.

In summary, it takes work to define your target market. However, if your product or service is appealing, affordable, and focused, you can be successful. Keep in mind that most small business owners succumb to the pressures within the first year, so don’t get discouraged if you don’t turn an immediate profit. Don’t give up on your dreams and remember that you are a consumer, too, and probably not all that unique in your desires. If you see a need for your product, chances are, there are others with unmet needs ready to open up their hearts – and wallets – to you.

Guest blogger:  Jason Lewis jlewis@strongwell.org