Tag Archive | "small-business"

Obillex Secures £3M, Led by Dawn Capital, To Disrupt Small Biz Financing

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There are two big problems waiting to be solved in small business finance. Small businesses find it hard to access working capital at good rates. And lots of investors have capital lying around doing nothing, looking for somewhere to be deployed. Obillex is a new startup that, quite simply, matches the two up. Thus, ‘early payments finance’ startup Obillex has secured £3m funding,… Read More

Article courtesy of TechCrunch

Confirmed: Yahoo Loses Amit Kumar, Its Small Business VP And GM

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What does the Facebook Marketing Partners change mean for the marketing ecosystem?

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Much like its advertising offerings, Facebook recently put an objective-based spin on its marketing platform, formerly known as Facebook Preferred Marketing Developers. Now these companies, which offer advertising and marketing services to brands and businesses, are known as Facebook Marketing Partners and are divided based on what objective they specialize in, such as ad technology, media buying, small business solutions and content marketing.

So what does this shift mean for the companies, as well as their clients? We spoke with Lance Neuhauser, CEO of Facebook Marketing Partner 4C, about Facebook’s decision.

Inside Facebook: What was your first reaction to the change?

Lance Neuhauser: We heard a while ago that the program would be changing. They just announced what some of those changes would look like. We’re really excited, both for Facebook and the entire ecosystem. For Facebook, we really do believe that they have done a good job in creating an ecosystem of partners who can deliver value-added services on top of whatever Facebook already does, by advancing technology, by providing better content, by providing marketing expertise, etc.

The issue with the program was indeed that it became very hard, on one hand, to differentiate, and on a second hand, there were very rapid changes taking place. The API itself on Facebook could get stronger. The way it was set up wasn’t necessarily encouraging as much innovation as it possibly could have. To use Facebook’s analogy, they created their own ecosystem where there were all little kids playing soccer and all chasing the ball around. Not everyone was spreading out and finding new opportunities.

We’re excited that they’re doing this, as we at 4C have had the chance to be differentiated and find green fields, if you will, for quite a bit of time. We are also cautiously optimistic because whenever they say they’re going to do something is different from actually seeing it, but we believe that Facebook will live up to the expectations.

IF: What do you feel is the biggest change that will happen with this new program?

LN: I think it’s going to do a few things. I think the ecosystem is going to get bigger. You’re going to find a lot more room for pure agencies and pure content players to get in what’s now known as the Facebook Marketing Partnership program. That’s a good thing. The other massive set of changes, is that Facebook is going to dedicate many more resources to understanding the differentiation points that come from each of these partners. They may do a better job of matching solutions to requirements from their partners to their clients.

There’s been a little bit of lack of transparency as to who does what at an excellent level. With Facebook starting to get behind these sub-badges and really taking the time to learn who excels in each of these different areas, I think what you’re going to end up seeing is the cream rising to the top. Only those who are going to be excellent at real solutions are going to find themselves having great success with clients.

The other part that came out, not to be overlooked, is Facebook is going to continue to dedicate resources into their own platform. If they’re going to survive in the partner ecosystem, you have to add value. No longer is it OK to just serve ads. No longer is it OK to just send out content that doesn’t resonate with consumers. They’re really trying to put their money where their mouth is, which is this is a user-first platform and I think this construct for the Marketing Partner program is a step in the right direction.

IF: What will change for the clients of these Facebook Marketing Partners? What will they need to know?

LN: I think what’s most important is the clients can dig in and align with what their objectives are. There’s a tremendous amount of overlap. Some marketers use (Facebook) for awareness. Some use it to get traction around specific pieces of content. Some need heavy, heavy optimization just because of the sheer volume of their campaigns. We got into this game so far down the path, before everyone really knew what to make of it. They’re just like, holy cow, look at the traction Facebook has made with the audience, and they’ve got so many users.

Facebook said this, they didn’t really promote what this marketing ecosystem is or was or how to take advantage of it. Now we get to go out with the sort of messaging like, “What are your goals? What are your objectives? What’s most important to you?”

IF: It seems like Facebook, especially with how they’ve changed the ad platform, is moving to a totally objective-based format. Is this a continuation of that trend?

LN: The lines continue to blur between content and advertising, yet the ways in which we take advantage of this outstanding audience continues to fragment. We have to be able to have specialists in solutions who still drive to this overall audience, but do so in a way that provides excellence. You’re calling out something important. You don’t want to see the partner program look drastically different than the way Facebook is going to market (advertising). They’re aligning all the way from the top.

Readers: What do you think of the Facebook Marketing Partners platform?

Article courtesy of Inside Facebook

Facebook SMB head Dan Levy addresses organic reach, personalized help and video

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Dan Levy, Facebook’s Director of Small Business, knows that you want more direct help and response from Facebook. The small business department has been reaching out to frustrated page owners, guiding them through advertising features such as Custom Audiences, and helping out small business owners attending events.

Levy spoke to a capacity crowd Tuesday at Intuit’s QuickBooks Connect in San Jose, Calif., a conference aimed at helping small business owners reach their goals. Levy talked about how intelligent targeting, the conversion pixel and a mobile approach can help busy small business owners find success through the site. But what if you actually want to talk with someone from Facebook about your business? That’s one of the things Facebook has been investing in, Levy recently told Inside Facebook in an interview.

Inside Facebook: Can we talk about the way that video is being utilized by small businesses on Facebook?

Dan Levy: We’ve seen small businesses using video on Facebook for a long time. There’s been a lot of organic activity already. What we’re really excited about and what we’re seeing use from is our new video views objective. If you’re a small business owner, you can click for views, which is great because it helps us get it to more people who are going to see your video. So we’ve got examples from all over the world — Grant’s Whisky from Scotland takes stuff that they were running on small TV budgets, running it on Facebook and they were really excited about the results.

We’re seeing other examples across the United States — toy companies and many others — of people who are starting to use video as a way to help tell a more engaging story than just a story. Especially with auto-play on the consumer side.

IF: So you’re seeing companies import more video away from TV and YouTube and into Facebook?

DL: We’re seeing all types. We’re seeing stuff that was produced in TV coming to Facebook. We’re seeing stuff that was on YouTube coming to Facebook. We’re also seeing stuff that frankly just gets shot on smartphones, where someone just says, “You know, I’m just going to make this instead of a picture post.” We think it’s great and we think there’s going to be a lot more.

IF: Something I’ve heard from page admins is that while Facebook is getting much better at explaining concepts and making advertising simpler, they want someone there to offer support. How is Facebook working toward getting more individualized support for small business owners on the site?

DL: One of the things we learned on our summer Facebook Fit tour is that people do want face-to-face help. We made the product simple and there are 30 million pages that are using it without much help. But for those that do want a little more help, we’ve been investing in that in a few ways. One is through very specific programs. We ran a small program for those who wanted to use Custom Audiences, which is one of our targeting solutions. If they got stuck, we’d pop up a little message asking if they want someone to talk it through on the phone. Not broad support, but on a very specific issue. We got very positive response and more people started using the product. We think this is going to be the future of where we go, which is really targeted help and support.

We’ve also continued to invest in a program (Start to Success) that helps people onboard. So if they’re new to Facebook, we’ll do a series of calls with them over the course of a month to help them learn how to use Facebook. We’ll always build a solution to make it easy to use as possible, but we’re also investing in trying to provide a human face for support with Facebook.

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IF: So if I’m a small business owner who has tried advertising and is still struggling, what are some ways I could reach out to Facebook and get personal help?

DL: We’ve got a lot of channels. The Facebook.com/Business page has all of the available methods to contact us, including the one-on-one coaching program I mentioned earlier. There’s also community forums where people can ask each other questions and we’re seeing a lot of activity on those community forums. We’re also seeing a developing ecosystem of businesses that are developing services to consult with small businesses, as well. Some of them are obviously good and going to be helpful.

The main thing to take away is that we’ll always make the solutions as easy to use as possible, but we’re also investing more and providing support to make people successful, because we want to help grow the business. If we have to help them a little bit to get started, we’re happy to do that.

IF: What are some emerging changes and trends that you’ve seen with SMB marketing?

DL: Some of the stuff we talked about, with video, is really important. The creative canvas that people use on Facebook is going to continue to evolve — from text, to picture, to video — and that’s going to continue to grow and be more accessible to people as the technology for video gets simpler. We always talk about making sure that small business owners get the most effective return on their time and their money.

You’re going to see themes from us about simplicity and being able to manage your ads from mobile. We just released the mobile ads manager and we’re going to continue to make things simpler, especially on mobile. And through targeting, we’ve released more ways to make it simple, with things like Lookalike Audiences and other extensions — all of which are about helping you more efficiently spend your marketing dollars. Those are the things we’ve been investing in for the past year or two and those are the things we’re going to keep investing in because they work.

IF: I know Atlas was recently launched, but do you see it being relevant to small business owners in the future as the technology becomes more widely available?

DL: Atlas is in really early days. We obviously are excited about the possibility of Atlas. I think, for small businesses, it’s really meant more for the people who have the big budgets and lots of campaigns across lots of different devices. The thing I think might be relevant for small business is attribution across both mobile and desktop. We know a lot of folks are advertising on mobile, especially if you’re in e-commerce, and converting on desktop. We’ve been releasing insights so you can know, even if they converted on a desktop, it probably wasn’t from the last click. It was probably from something that was influenced earlier in the mobile view.

IF: Many page admins and small business owners are either discouraged by their efforts so far or are hesitant to put money into Facebook advertising because of the drop in organic reach they’ve experienced. What advice would you have for these marketers? It seems like there’s a bit of disconnect between what Facebook can do and what these page owners have tried.

DL: I understand their frustration on organic reach. It’s something that I’ve talked about with lots of business owners. When I talk to the business owners and we chat more about it, what we end up talking about is, what’s the business objective that you’re actually trying to reach? Are you trying to get more people to see a post or are you trying to get more people into your store or are you trying to sell something online? We’re trying to help them realize that we want to not be their social media partner, but we want to be their real marketing partner to help grow their business.

Sometimes, that’s going to be through posting on your page. Sometimes, that might be through marketing or advertising. If you want a more predictable way to reach the customers that matter to you, advertising is a good way to do that. You can spend hours trying to come up with the perfect post, or you might be able to spend $10 or $100, then get on to something else in your business like working with your customers. If they’re looking for predictable reach, then advertising is the way to do it.

Readers: What other methods of support would you like from Facebook?

Article courtesy of Inside Facebook

Sequoia-Backed Behalf Buys Stuff For Small Businesses Looking To Grow

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On-The-Go Freelancers Get A Business Management Tool With PocketSuite

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Is Facebook personalizing ad options based on activity?

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Remember when there were only a few hundred workplace targets on Facebook?

You could only target people who worked at big companies. If you were a B2B marketer, you might not be able to hit any of the niche companies in your vertical. But potentially, you could stilltarget folks who worked at Walmart in Bentonville, Arkansas (their headquarters) or executives who work at Enterprise Rent-A-Car and like a certain interest group or job title.

Back in early 2014, suddenly, the number of workplace targets exploded. We could hit the tiniest of companies, creating a bonanza for PR companies, start-ups, and small businesses that had the chops to run $1 a day micro-targeted campaigns. The results were stunning– resolve your customer complaints, land that whale client, get newspaper coverage, play a fun trick on your friends, make your boss think you’re a celebrity, and so forth.

You could even target Dennis Yu!

And then in July 2014, most of these small audiences just disappeared from workplace targeting. Sure, if you wanted to reach customers of Infusionsoft, a small business marketing tool, you could still hit Infusionsoft as an interest target. But if you wanted to reach their executives, targeting fans of the page who live within 25 miles of Chandler, Arizona, just wasn’t as powerful as selecting Infusionsoft as a workplace target.

In the last week, this has quietly changed.

Check out this ad that I made today.

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If you can’t read the fine text, I apologize. There are 35 workplace targets in this ad.

Most are for companies that have only a couple employees.

These are companies that I’ve visited or interacted with in the last couple years. So we know for sure that Facebook is personalizing your ad options based on your activity.

Perhaps they had too much negative feedback from people being explicitly micro-targeted?

We could speculate that they opened back up some targeting to people who have engaged with you or the page before. You used to be able to start tying “social media” into the workplace targets box to trigger the auto-complete. And then you’d be able to select from dozens of workplace targets– hitting the organizers of various organizations and conferences.

One my my favorites was typing in “Times” or “Daily” to get a list of newspapers.

What this means for you is that if you’re not engaging in social, your ad options will be limited.

You have all the more reason to build strong social connections so that Facebook will let you amplify these via ads.

Article courtesy of Inside Facebook

The Facebook marketing free ride is over

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If you want to grow your business through Facebook marketing, you will very likely have to pay for advertising.

That is the new truth.

In years past, many pages on Facebook could do all right in terms of driving sales and traffic to websites without using advertising. But now, as more pages become serious Facebook marketers, you’re battling for diminishing space in your audience’s News Feeds. Demand for impressions, views and clicks is higher than ever, while the supply of News Feed space hasn’t grown to keep up.

So while Facebook is financially free if you want to chat with friends and look at cat memes, if you are using Facebook as a tool to grow your business, advertising needs to be part of the plan.

When Facebook went public two years ago, the game changed for marketing. Facebook had to prove to shareholders that the site was a viable advertising vessel. The company worked hard to create ad models that are easier to use than before, trying to get more advertisers onto the platform. As Facebook was being publicly mocked for its stock price, the company avoided failure by turning to mobile as an ad beacon.

Since Facebook has gone public, the site has also gained considerably more small businesses with Facebook pages. Last year, Facebook’s Director of Small Business Dan Levy told Inside Facebook that there were 16 million small businesses with a page on Facebook. Now that total is 30 million and growing. Every single business on Facebook wants to reach fans, but those people aren’t spending enough time on Facebook to account for the increased friend connections and pages to like.

Facebook, despite what you may think, is not decreasing reach just to mess with small businesses and non-profits. Facebook as a company has to continue to look appealing to shareholders, and therefore continue to become a serious advertising platform. If you’re marketing on Facebook like it’s 2011 and expecting to build an empire on rented land for free, you’re going to be angry about the drop in organic reach. If you’re marketing on Facebook like it’s 2014, you’ve gotten smarter about targeted advertising and are reaping the success of being ahead of your competitors.

However, trouble could be on the horizon. Just like how organic reach dropped considerably for pages, paid reach will likely suffer in the future as Facebook attracts more and more advertisers.

So then what? Diversify your plan and incorporate marketing of other social channels — utilizing, but not being completely reliant on Facebook.

Unlike display advertising, the nuts-and-bolts of Facebook advertising change rapidly and continually. It does take effort, time and money to build and grow your Facebook presence now. But people who are smart about utilizing Facebook know that it should be used in concert with other social channels — Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Google Plus, or whatever makes the most sense for your business. Brands that build a targeted cross-channel strategy are the ones that succeed. Using Facebook as a crutch for lead generation or brand notoriety is like building your house directly over a fault line. The landscape has changed and will continue to change — you can either adapt or complain.

There’s still a lot that Facebook can do for your page for free, but if you’re looking for in-store sales or conversions, the new reality is that some form of intelligently planned and targeted advertising needs to be in your plans.

Readers: Agree or disagree?

Image courtesy of Juan Novakosky / Shutterstock.com.

Article courtesy of Inside Facebook

Facebook to small businesses: Content is still king

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The most influential post that Dan Levy, Facebook’s Director of Small Business, ever saw was an ad for a house in Palo Alto. He said clicking on that ad led him to actually purchase the house pictured.

Levy spoke with roughly 350 small business owners, employees and entrepreneurs Tuesday morning at the final Facebook Fit event at the company’s headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif. This was the finale of the five-city tour, where Facebook spoke with 4,000 business owners across the country about how to find success via the social network.

As reach becomes harder to come by, small business owners on hand to speak said that the most important thing was creating engaging content and utilizing advertising to get that content in front of those who would be most likely to convert or sign up.

Levy discussed how many small businesses are seeing great return on investment from smart, targeted Facebook ads. He pointed out that Morgan Miller Plumbing, near Kansas City, Mo., has seen a 39x return on ad spend. Kay’s Designer Consignment in Florida has experienced a 30 percent lift in sales from Facebook advertising in the past 9 months.

Levy talked with attendees about how, with tools such as an enhanced mobile Ads Manager feature, Facebook wants to make it as easy to market through the site as it is to be a regular, everyday user:

We really want Facebook to be as easy to use (for business) as using Facebook as a person. You can just snap a picture and be on your way, getting back to your business.

Facebook also invited a few prominent small business owners to talk with those in attendance. Andrew Chau (Boba Guys), Julie Shenkman (Sam’s Chowder House), Amy Norman (Little Passports) and Nadia Aly (Scuba Diver Life) shared their experiences both marketing and advertising on Facebook, and how they were able to grow their business through the site.

All of them faced a common problem among marketers: how do you maintain a business presence on Facebook as reach dwindles? Norman said that she’s seen a decrease in organic reach on Little Passports’ Facebook page (which has spent $1 million on advertising through the site), but she’s not bothered by it:

I have seen a decrease in the organic reach and I’m completely OK with it. The reason for that is Facebook is changing its algorithms to make sure that people see the material that they want to see. If people aren’t clicking on my organic posts or sharing them, it’s because it’s not a great piece of content for them. As a Facebook user, I see things come through my feed that I really don’t want to see. If peoples’ feed is flooded with content that they don’t want to see, they’re not going to pay attention to the good content. For me, as a business owner, I’m OK with it. When I pay to advertise to get in front of everybody, it’s ROI-positive.

One of the main takeaways from the event was to keep content timely, engaging and relevant to your audience. What works for one business may fail for the next. Facebook representatives at the event suggested using A/B testing and trying out different post types to figure out what your audience wants to see most — then put some advertising dollars behind that.

Readers: If you manage a small business, what is your content management strategy?

Article courtesy of Inside Facebook

Timely Turns Your Calendar Into A Time Tracker

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