Author Archive

6 Marketing Tactics Brick-and-Mortar Businesses Should be Using

Friday, June 14th, 2024

We’ve all heard how online sales continue to increase, but the vast majority of shoppers still want access to a brick-and-mortar location.

In fact, more than 55% of shoppers prefer to visit a brick-and-mortar location first, reports RetailDive. And, according to a June 20 study, more than 65% of buyers prefer shopping inside physical stores, whether to try clothing on, sample cosmetics, or try out an electronic device.

Given this interest in visiting a physical location before making a purchase, the key to increasing sales in your business is to get customers in the door.

Here are 6 things you can do to drive traffic and sales:

In-store events

Give shoppers a reason to come into your business by scheduling a special event. 

Although clearance sales can work, a more profitable approach is to design a unique gathering. If you’re a clothing retailer, how about a trunk show from one of the lines you carry or a free mini color analysis with a $100 purchase? If you run a furniture or home décor store, how about a free seasonal design class? If your business is food-related, how about a cooking class or tablescape lesson?

Ask your shoppers for ideas of what they struggle with, or where they could use help. Then, partner with someone who has that expertise.

Local collaborations

Approaching other local businesses about partnering on a promotion can yield big results for everyone.

One effective tool that retailers have used is a bingo or punch card that requires consumers to visit multiple businesses in order to get their loyalty card punched. Once their card is full, after having visited all of the participating shops, they either win a prize or are entered in a raffle for a larger giveaway. The chance at a desirable gift is often reason enough for shoppers to stop in.

You can set the timeframe for the promotion, such as a week or a weekend, and divide up the responsibilities for managing it amongst all of the businesses. Or create your own local event and include all of your marketing partners.

Design a loyalty program

Another way to get customers to come back repeatedly is to incentivize them.

Give them a reason to buy from your business over your competitors. A customer loyalty program can be one way to encourage repeat purchases. Depending on your technology platform, you can track purchases using a phone number or name, or you can keep it old school with a paper punch card that you fill in at every visit. Lu’s Back Door consignment shop tracks purchases using retail software while nail salons frequently use business card-sized loyalty cards.

Customers receiving something in return for their loyal patronage, like a free product or in-store credit, can help boost purchase frequency.

Invest in curb appeal

There’s a reason big retailers in New York City spend months planning and prepping their big windows with eye-catching holiday scenes each December – because it gives shoppers a reason to come visit.

You can do the same year-round. Put aside some money to spiff up your storefront, whether that involves seasonal plantings and flower pots, entertaining signage, or window displays. The more frequently you change the look and feel of your space, the more reasons buyers will have to come back.

The more inviting your store is from the outside, the more people will want to come inside.

Connect on Instagram first

Photo and video are the tools of choice on Instagram, which is perfect for catching the attention of local consumers.

Use Instagram to showcase photos of new merchandise, video tutorials of new ways of using products, and offer reels of helpful tips that can lead your shoppers to buy more from you. Make sure you also include links to products and services on your website so that customers outside of your area can buy from you as well.

Build a community of fans and customers

Not everyone loves Facebook, but it sure is useful for building free groups.

Setting up a Facebook group for fans, prospects, and customers is another way you can stay in touch with them – they become a captive audience of sorts. Within the group, you can then offer special discounts, share information about upcoming promotions, and give them a first look at new merchandise. You can also upload photos of what’s going on inside the business to entice them to come back in.

Facebook groups are a way to connect with your customers and turn them into advocates for your business.

Yes, everyone loves the convenience of ordering products online – but not all products and not all the time. Local brick-and-mortar businesses are still where most people want to shop and spend their money.

Provide local and out-of-town shoppers a peek into your business and an incentive to visit.

Free Publicity Tools Every Woman Business Owner Should be Leveraging in 2024

Sunday, May 5th, 2024

Publicity is one of the most powerful marketing tools, which results when a media outlet quotes you, mentions your business, or profiles your company. 

It’s powerful because that article or TV segment that includes you gives you added credibility. The fact that you were quoted or mentioned suggests that you and your business are successful, and most people want to do business with successful companies. Additionally, you earn an implied third-party endorsement from the outlet that covered you — meaning, readers or viewers will trust you more after seeing an established media company mentioning you.

Publicity is also powerful because it’s free.

The downside is that it’s hard to control. 

You can pursue publicity by issuing press releases about your business and offering to submit articles to trade journals or local papers, which is a good idea. However, since you don’t pay for this kind of coverage the same way you pay for advertising, you may or may not be successful. It’s up to the website, magazine, newspaper, or TV show to decide whether to mention you.

So, how can you find out what websites, magazines, newspapers, and TV shows are interested in covering before the story runs?

Some websites help reporters and writers find sources for the stories they’re working on.

Finding Publicity Opportunities

While disseminating information about your business to the media through a press release or press kit can sometimes lead to press coverage, an even more effective approach is to find out what those media outlets are planning to cover and then pitching yourself as a source.

For example, if you discover Time magazine is working on a story about unusual phobias and you have one, you can email the reporter to let them know that you’d be happy to be a source of information for that article. Or if Fast Company is researching a story on the many variations of FIRE (Financial Independence Retire Early) and the entrepreneurs who are on track to retire early and you qualify, you may want to offer yourself as a source.

The key is finding out what stories are in the works before they appear online or in print.

That’s where publicity tools come in handy. These four are among the most active platforms as of Spring 2024:

ProfNet

One of the first online platforms launched (in 1992) to connect reporters and writers with potential sources was ProfNet. Now owned by Cision, ProfNet cost a couple thousand dollars a year to subscribe to at last count. The focus is decidedly corporate and subscribers are typically well-funded public relations firms serving those corporations.

Now, because only larger organizations generally had access to ProfNet early, several competitors sprang up through the years that are free or low cost.

Qwoted

Qwoted, which debuted in 2012, is also designed to connect members of the media with potential sources — you — for low or no cost; there are free and paid versions.

Reporters and writers can share the topics they’re writing about and ask for the specific expertise or experience they’re looking for. Emails listing those source requests go out daily. Topics range from scientific to personal finance, health and medicine, entrepreneurship, shopping, and more. To respond, you simply click on the reporter’s email listed in the request.

Help a B2B Writer

Along the way, more specialized publicity tools emerged, too, including Help a B2B Writer, which is a platform specifically for individuals and companies that sell to other businesses. Meaning, the requests for sources will require B2B expertise.

Help a B2B Writer is free and sends out email requests for sources typically in the morning, Monday through Friday. To respond, click on the link in the email and share your relevant tip, comment, or experience, depending on what the writer asked for.

HARO/HERO

More than 15 years ago, Peter Shankman launched HARO, for Help A Reporter Out. It was a free service that connected reporters with sources at no cost, unlike ProfNet which charges a fee. It became so successful so quickly that HARO was bought by Cision (ProfNet’s parent company).

Fast forward nearly 20 years and HARO was rebranded as Connectively and now charges up to $149/month for access. However, as part of its rebranding, HARO no longer sends out email compilations of the publicity opportunities — you have to log in to find them. Former users found this process much more cumbersome.

Almost immediately, Shankman began getting inquiries about launching a replacement service. Although initially having no plans to do so, he was quickly persuaded; the result is  HERO: Help Every Reporter Out.

This free service compiles requests from journalists and writers and emails them out daily to subscribers. It’s new but extremely fast-growing.

How Best to Respond

It’s one thing to know what reporters are writing about and another thing to know how to respond successfully and garner coverage.

Help a B2B Writer has a useful set of suggestions designed to increase the odds that your response will net some publicity.

One of the most important tips is to respond quickly. Since reporters are often on deadline, as soon as they get the source or the information they need, they may stop reading emails that come in later. If you wait a day to respond, it’s unlikely your comment will be considered.

Another tip is to be sure your response is relevant. Do you have the experience the writer is looking for? Do you run the type of business they want to hear from? Don’t try to wrangle your company in if it’s not a good fit. For example, if the writer is looking for the manager of a Starbucks location to interview and you only drink the company’s coffee, you’re not a fit. Don’t respond.

Finally, don’t use AI to draft your response. Reporters can usually tell if ChatGPT has prepared the answer or if a live person has responded. The vast majority will delete responses that are AI-generated.

Although this type of publicity pursuit is decidedly reactive, in that you’re waiting to hear about a story for which you can be a source, it is a way to get media coverage and backlinks that can help grow your business. Spending a few minutes a day reviewing the requests that come in is typically well worth your time.

How to More Quickly Attract Money to Your Business

Friday, April 19th, 2024

“Money loves speed.” 

Have you heard that adage? The saying is fairly popular in the online business community, but it applies to any type of business.

Think about your experiences with money. Is it more likely to show up when you sit back, do nothing, and wait for it to land in your lap, or when you go out and track it down?

You attract money when you do something — when you take action, and especially when you move quickly. 

So what can you do to pick up the pace at which money flows into your business? Several things, actually.

Invoice immediately

As soon as you complete a project, ship an order, or deliver a product, ask to be paid. 

Typically that means sending an invoice, which is fine, but issue that invoice as soon as your customer owes you the money and not a moment later. Because every hour or day you wait to ask to be paid, the longer it will take for your check to be issued and for you to receive your check.

Connect with prospects regularly

Taking action in business can mean many things, but business begins when a customer or client agrees to pay you for your products or services. Before money can change hands, you need to convince someone that what you’re selling is worth what you’re charging. And the best way to do that is to regularly market your company — to get in front of people who are likely to want to buy. 

Depending on your business, that might involve a direct mail campaign, outreach on LinkedIn, cold calling, attending trade shows, participating in conferences, joining networking groups, buying advertising, or pursuing publicity, to name a few strategies. But do something each and every day to take action toward winning another customer. Because each marketing tactic gets you one step closer to your next sale. It gets you closer to more money.

Follow up with potential customers promptly

When you identify someone who may be interested in doing business with you, get in touch right away. If you’re given a prospect’s name by a friend, call or email them immediately. Don’t wait. Or if someone emails you to ask for more information, send it right away, before doing anything else. 

The quicker you provide the information they need, the closer you get to making your next sale and depositing that money in your account. So don’t delay.

Start client work ASAP

As soon as a customer has paid a deposit or signed a contract officially hiring you to do some work for them, start working. Whether you have a day, a week, or a year to complete the work, get started now. Because the sooner you get that work done, the sooner you can bill for it and get more money in your account. 

When you have the opportunity to earn more money, don’t delay in starting work. The faster you get that work done, the sooner your schedule will be free to take on more work. I’m not suggesting that you lower your quality standards in order to complete the tasks sooner, only that you shouldn’t put off doing the work.

Pay your bills immediately

Invoicing fast will get you paid faster, but money likes to be in circulation. So as soon as you receive a bill, pay it. Get that money back into circulation. 

By paying promptly, you will endear yourself to your suppliers, who will certainly appreciate that you wrote that check or transferred funds quickly. That can yield dividends in other ways that will benefit you.

Be generous

Holding on too tightly to your money is a turnoff, to people and to money. So when you see a chance to make a difference with a small outlay of cash, consider doing it. 

Don’t throw cash around aimlessly, but spread it around if you can, such as by buying lemonade from a children’s roadside stand or leaving a good tip for your restaurant server. Good deeds get noticed and can end up attracting opportunities you never could have anticipated.

Now, there’s a big difference between acting promptly and appearing desperate. Some entrepreneurs are under the impression that speed suggests that business is bad. Not so. 

Getting in touch with a referral immediately or sending out an invoice right away are smart business practices. They are a part of doing business. Major corporations certainly bill immediately, because the sooner that money they are owed is in their bank account, the sooner they’re earning interest. Are they desperate? Not likely. And the same is true for you.

Acting with a sense of urgency attracts money into your business sooner than if you opt to work at a leisurely pace.

Low-Cost Strategies for Growing Your Small Business

Wednesday, March 27th, 2024

Many small business owners are working to grow their companies, or to expand, or to “scale.” Making their business bigger is the natural next step for many entrepreneurs and founders once the venture is up and running.

But unless your business is generating wads of cash, scaling it can prove challenging. As we so often hear, “It takes money to make money.” With more customers comes a need for more products or services, more space to store raw materials or house employees, and systems to keep things running smoothly.

The first step, however, is building a solid and expanding customer base.

Fortunately, there are marketing strategies and tactics you can employ that will help raise awareness of your company and attract customers without having to invest in expensive advertising campaigns or offering deep discounts.

Here are a few ideas:

Excel at customer service

This probably seems obvious, but the best way to attract new business is to absolutely amaze your current customers. Don’t just satisfy them, or even delight them — brainstorm something you could do that would thrill them.

Excellent customer service doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. Maybe you throw in a free sample of a product with a purchase, upgrade a shipment to overnight delivery, deliver a promised report in record time, or enter a recent project into an awards program at your expense. 

Under-promise and over-deliver to get your customers to notice how wonderful it is to do business with you. Then, when you know they’re more than happy, ask them to write or record a brief testimonial you can share on social media and feature on your website.

Treat employees well

The key to satisfied customers is satisfied employees, so what could you do that would endear your workers to you? What would they appreciate that would make their lives easier but not cost you tens of thousands of dollars? This needs to be more than ordering a pizza when they stay late at work. You need policies and benefits that they will be so excited to receive that they tell all their family and friends about them.

For example, could you arrange to have a catered lunch in the office once a week? Pay for everyone’s subway passes or parking? Shift to a four-day workweek or offer flextime? Set up an in-house childcare center? Provide a monthly stipend to buy and try company products? Give monthly performance bonuses?

You could start by asking employees what they would most appreciate, besides a raise. The odds are good that you can wow them without it costing lots of extra cash.

Tap into social media

One of the most powerful technologies to emerge in the last 15 years has been social media. Although the platforms ebb and flow with popularity, the big ones right now are Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Connecting with prospects and customers for free is possible. However, you have to share information and images that will interest them. 

We’ve become such a visual society that photos and videos are critical for attracting attention. Fortunately, you don’t need an expensive video crew to capture images — your cell phone is good enough.

Think about what you could show your target audience that would interest them and potentially improve their opinion of your company. For example, if you’re a beauty retailer, you could demonstrate how to use your favorite products or show videos of before-and-after transformations. If you’re a restaurant or café, you could show images of the day’s specials and snippets of comments from diners about how tasty the food is. If you’re an artist, you could record your creative process and share photos of the finished piece. If you’re a graphic designer, how about showing images of recent client projects?

Although social media is free, your audience demands consistency, so try to share something daily to keep them watching your account.

Build a community

Another benefit of social media is the ability to attract like-minded consumers and bring them together inside an online group or community. Facebook is best known for this because it is quick and easy to set up an online group on the platform.

Once your customers, prospects, and fans are members of your group, you can regularly communicate with them, share news and information, offer helpful tips, get product feedback, share incentives and discounts, as well as hear what they are most interested in. You can have two-way conversations inside Facebook groups that would be difficult to have anywhere else.

At the same time, you can join other groups where your prospects and customers may hang out, to learn what else they might need from you and to share information about your business there. Be careful not to be too self-promotional, however; not all groups allow it.

Leverage groups you belong to 

In addition to joining and forming online groups, make sure members of other in-person groups you belong to also know about your business. These groups could include: 

  • alumni associations for your high school, college/university, or sorority
  • civic organizations, such as Kiwanis and Rotary
  • hobby-related clubs, such as fitness, arts, or culinary
  • professional societies, such as trade organizations, associations, and cooperatives.
  • religious congregations and spiritual groups
  • volunteer causes or boards

Any group that has a directory, newsletter, or events should be a good starting point for you to share information about your company and what you offer. Don’t be too pushy, but do be sure everyone in your circle of friends knows what your company sells, so they can help spread the word.

Barter

Another option to hold onto cash and still conduct business development and outreach activities is to propose a barter arrangement. There are barter networks that facilitate the trade of goods and services among members, such as IMSBarter, but there is a charge for that service. You could also approach companies you would like to work with and inquire if a barter arrangement might be of interest.

The advantage of bartering is that while you provide goods or services at your standard rate, the cost to you is lower because it’s based on your cost of goods sold. You’re effectively getting what you need at a discounted rate.

For example, you might offer to barter Facebook advertising services from a firm you respect in exchange for an equal amount of products from your company. Or you could barter for event space and hold a demonstration or a class for your top prospects. Or barter for office furniture for all the new employees you plan to hire next quarter.

What is it that your business needs in order to continue to grow, what companies sell those products and services, and are they potential barter partners? Make a list and propose bartering to companies that could be a fit.

Make sure to keep careful track of your expenses and the value of what you receive for taxes. Although cash may not change hands, you still need to record the exchange; check with your accountant about how, exactly, to report it to the IRS.

Give away samples

A very effective tactic for expanding your customer base, as well as increasing the frequency with which your current customers buy, is to offer samples of what you sell. This can work with products or services by considering how to give prospects a taste of what it would be like to work with you.

A nail salon might give away mini samples of its hand cream to every customer as a way to introduce the new line of private-label hand and nail products. A financial planner might offer a free 30-minute discussion about budgeting or paying off a home faster. And an interior designer might offer a free mock-up of a single room in a home or office or a free in-home design consultation.

When prospects don’t yet know or trust you, giving them a free taste of what it would be like to work together or to buy from you increases the chance that they will when they’re ready.

Increasing a company’s sales can happen one or more ways: 1) by increasing the number of customers who buy, 2) by increasing the amount customers spend or 3) by increasing the frequency with which they buy.

However, scaling a company requires that you confirm there is a market for your products or services, as evidenced by rising sales, and that you have the capability and capacity to serve a larger and larger audience. 

These tactics can help increase awareness of your business, which will attract more prospects and customers, to help you create a system that generates a steady stream of interested buyers.

10 Artificial Intelligence Tools that Can Help Entrepreneurs Be More Productive

Wednesday, March 20th, 2024

Since ChatGPT came on the scene in late 2022, we’ve been hearing a lot more about artificial intelligence (AI). We’ve been told this technology will transform our work, from what we do to how, when, and where. It is already disrupting whole industries.

The potential is there for AI to handle mundane, repeatable tasks so that humans can focus on more complex issues.

Although AI is still evolving, it has already affected how many of us do our jobs and run our businesses. The tools that currently exist are helping business owners perform tasks faster so that they can be more productive by instead investing time in strategizing and implementing. Meaning, outsourcing the low-value tasks to AI so they can devote their time to higher-value thinking.

The good news is that it’s becoming easier to do just that — use AI to do tasks that require less thinking.

Some of the most popular tools entrepreneurs and business owners are currently using to get more done in less time include:

Canva’s Magic Studio

Launched in late 2023 Magic Studio™ by Canva can help jumpstart your progress or refine your finished product quickly, without having to invest in a complete video studio. For example, you can easily edit out background items in a photo, change the hair color of a model, or generate a fictitious scene for video. You can quickly generate an entire presentation by sharing a few words about the look and theme. 

Design

Need a logo for your company or brand? Design can generate it almost immediately with a few keywords. For a fee starting at $5/month, you can have logos, names, and social media materials generated for your use that are immediately downloadable. The list of graphic design-related items that can be created in seconds is long and includes just about everything you would need to start a new business or launch a new brand.

Fireflies

Instead of having to take notes at meetings, you can use Fireflies.ai to record, transcribe, and even highlight the most important parts of an online meeting within its notes. You can have the tool auto log into a meeting and record it in your absence, while you’re off doing other tasks. There is currently a free plan that offers unlimited transcription of meetings but limited summaries and 800 minutes of storage, among other features.

Framer

In need of a new or improved website? If you’re willing to become familiar with how Framer works, which is easier than learning how to code, you can build your own site for free. Using simple layout software, you can create a gorgeous site filled with content that you draft or that you ask AI to help with, adding new pages as needed easily. You can also use built-in SEO and e-commerce tools.

Jasper

If you have trouble with writing, or you just don’t like doing it, Jasper may be the tool you need. Billed as an AI-powered writing assistant, it learns your voice and style the more you use it. Generate ideas for content creation or refine your drafts for emails, social media posts, blogs, or marketing literature. Speed and performance are what Jasper promises with its help. You can currently try it for seven days free and then upgrade to a paid plan that starts at $39/month.

Motion

Promising to help boost your productivity by up to 137%, Motion is a scheduling tool that uses AI to plan your day based on your tasks and priorities. It builds your schedule, allowing you to move things around as things change, even limiting meetings to protect time for strategic thinking. There is a seven-day free trial after which you can sign up for $34/month or $228/year.

Notion

If you work with a team, you may want to consider subscribing to Notion, which allows for task and project management as well as a shared workspace. You can set up a central information hub that contains important documents and information your team may need access to, as well as assign tasks to individual members and track their progress. You can also integrate it with tools like Slack and Trello. Individuals can currently sign up for a free account.

Opusclip

Social media marketing has quickly become an essential tool for many small businesses. If that includes yours, you should consider exploring Opusclip, which allows you to repurpose video content. You can slice and dice long videos into bite-sized clips you can use over multiple days or social media platforms. There is a free plan but it has limits on the amount of video that can be edited.

Otter

What started out as a transcription app has expanded into a note-taking service that can record, transcribe, and summarize key points and action items from meetings and interviews. You can even query it to get answers about the meeting. Otter has a free plan that offers up to 300 minutes per month, for meetings of up to 30 minutes each.

Tome

Entrepreneurs who find themselves regularly producing presentation decks should check out Tome, which can help generate an outline and slides in minutes, for free. Specify your topic, choose a template, and Tome starts generating content to fill the space you’ve allotted. Or upload your ideas or your draft and Tome can take it from there to fill in the gaps and get you closer to a finished slide deck.

Incorporating even one of these tools into your business can help you be more organized, get more done in less time, and maybe even generate new content you previously didn’t have time to create.

5 SEO Basics to Improve Your Website’s Google Rank

Sunday, March 3rd, 2024

When WomensNet surveyed its community in late 2023 about the biggest business challenges, we learned that search engine optimization (SEO) was a topic many women business owners wanted help with.

That made sense to us because 53.3% of all website traffic comes from online searches, and 93% of that traffic is through Google, reports Arefs

Investing time and energy in SEO can yield substantial results. Although there have been books written on the topic, we picked the top 5 things you can do to quickly improve the results you’re achieving from SEO. 

Even a few tweaks to your website can dramatically improve the results you’re obtaining.

And given that SEO drives 1,000+% more traffic than social media, investing time in boosting your placement on search engine results pages (SERPs) will be worth it.

RELATED: This month, WomensNet is hosting a webinar on SEO. We’ll cover the best practices you need to know for 2024, as well as the top three things you can do to improve your SEO.

Register today

Research which keywords are attracting traffic

To understand how your prospects and customers get to your website, start by finding out what keywords and phrases they’re using. Meaning, what words are your prospects typing into the Google search bar that led them to your site?

You can probably guess some basic words, such as if you run a food truck, odds are good that “food truck” would be a phrase that people are using. 

But what else? Are they using words related to the type of food you sell, such as “meatballs” or “Italian?” Or are they searching more based on location, such as “Boston” or “Back Bay?” Or is their need more specific, such as “organic Italian,” “gluten-free,” or “wedding catering?”

Research what terms are already bringing you traffic, so you can attract more like it.

Add keywords to your site

Once you know what keywords are bringing you traffic, you can strategically begin to place those keywords on your website.

Some of the best places to feature the keywords you’ve uncovered are:

Using the keywords that your prospects are looking for as part of your website helps Google confirm that your business is what your prospects are looking for. The more places your website includes mention of relevant keywords, Google assumes there is a greater likelihood that you have what searchers are looking for.

Blog on topics your customers ask about

Adding articles to your blog regularly helps improve your search rank because Google will see that you’re consistently adding new information to your site, which it likes to see.

However, blog posts are another opportunity to infuse some keywords and attract even more attention.

At a minimum, within your blog posts you’ll want to include a relevant keyword in the following places:

  • In the title of your post, ideally at the beginning. For example, if the keyword you’re trying to get found for or rank is “dry cleaning,” you’ll want to start the title with those words. Put them up front, followed by qualifying details, such as “Dry cleaning: How to save money.”
  • In the first sentence. Use your same keyword again in the first few words of your post. For example, you might start it with, “Dry cleaning bills may be a regular expense if you work in a corporate office.”
  • In the first 100 words. After you lead your blog post off with your keyword, use it at least once more, if not twice, in the first 100 words of your article.
  • In a photo caption. Below any images or graphics, include a caption that repeats your chosen keyword.

In addition to making use of your keyword multiple times in your blog post, also try to include at least one link to another page on your website, called an internal link. Find a word or phrase in your new article that references a topic you’re previously written about and link to that URL.

Register with Google My Business

Since SEO involves trying to gain favor with Google to some extent, it makes sense that Google will reward companies that set up a business profile with the Google My Business program.

It’s essentially a free way for local businesses to get found. By registering and setting up your company’s profile you can also add details such as your location, hours, phone number, policies, forms of payment accepted, and other features to help answer your buyers’ anticipated questions. You can also add product photos.

Improve page speed

Although the speed at which your website loads has nothing to do with keywords, it does significantly impact the user experience. Having to wait seconds for photos on your site to load can frustrate users, and Google doesn’t appreciate that. It will effectively slap your hand for providing a bad user experience.

Conversely, websites that load seemingly instantaneously provide a positive impression. Google wants to reward that.

Use a tool like page speed evaluators to gauge how well your site is performing. You want a rating between 90-100. Anything below that indicates you have an opportunity for improvement.

By incorporating even one of these practices into your routine, you can improve the performance of your website and your Google rank.

How to Get the Most out of Trade Show Attendance

Sunday, February 18th, 2024

With cost estimates for exhibiting at national industry trade shows as high as $40,000-$60,000, small businesses may wonder if they can even afford to participate in such events. After factoring in the cost to design, build, and ship a show booth, plus marketing materials and equipment, exhibition fees, labor, and accommodations, making trade show participation pay off may seem almost impossible. 

And yet there are some industries where one trade show can generate enough sales to keep a business busy all year. It is for that reason that all small businesses should at least explore how they might add trade show or conference participation to their marketing budget.

To ensure you’re making the most of any level of trade show attendance, here are some tips to maximize your return on investment (ROI):

Weigh exhibiting versus attending

If the cost of reserving exhibition space is out of your budget, you can still participate. It’s not an all-or-nothing decision. In addition to going to network, attend workshops, and make early buys of products (if that’s possible), you can also explore other marketing opportunities that don’t involve shipping a trade show booth cross country.

Advertise in the show magazine

Many larger shows provide participants with a glossy show guide or magazine. Explore whether buying ad space in it could be worth your while, even if you aren’t exhibiting.

Publish your own show guide

Producing your own newsletter or publication to hand out to show attendees is another way to share your story, educate your audience, promote what you’re selling, and invite discussion. If you can convince other companies to co-sponsor it, including information about their complementary products and services in it for a fee, they can help cover the cost and make it look and feel less self-promotional.

Explore publicity opportunities

Can your business be included in any articles slated for the show guide? Could you have the chance to submit an article on an approved topic? Can you place marketing materials in the show’s press room? Do the publicity opportunities change if you buy ad space (sometimes the two are intertwined)?

Inquire about speaking

Most trade shows and conferences have a learning component. If that’s the case at yours, ask the show organizer about speaking opportunities. Do they have a planned slate of workshops or could you submit a proposal for a topic? Or are speaking opportunities only available to exhibitors? Speaking on stage positions you as an industry leader and can set you apart from your competition.

Set up a sales suite

If renting space on the main exhibit floor is out of your price range, get estimates to rent a hotel suite close by. Unless you’re marketing major equipment, having a quiet space with food and drink available can work even better than trying to have an in-depth conversation on the noisy exhibit floor. And if you’re advertising in the show guide, you can even highlight that you’ll be in Suite #1234 for anyone who wants to chat about your products or services.

Host a special event 

Rather than competing with exhibitors for time with your ideal customers, look into sponsoring a cocktail hour at a nearby restaurant or a nightcap or dessert bar at a local bar. Personally invite your hot prospects and potential referral sources for a small gathering after the exhibit hall or conference space closes up. Or, conversely, set up a breakfast buffet before the event starts and let your prospects know.

Buy outdoor billboard space

If there are billboards near the convention center, get quotes for putting up a large ad on them. With attendees and exhibitors walking by as they enter or exit the space, those ads could be well worth the money. Use the space to make an offer for those who stop by your booth or visit your suite.

Give out promotional products

Whether you’re exhibiting or not, handing out clever gifts featuring your company name on them can be another way to get your name out there. Although cookies or chocolate with your company logo on them are often welcomed, they also disappear as soon as they’re eaten. A better choice would be a notebook, tech tool, or cloth bag for all of the materials they’ll collect.

Rent the attendee list

Many exhibitors are given a list of attendees and speakers as part of their package, but if you aren’t an exhibitor, can you rent the list for an additional fee? Ask for the cost. If these are your ideal prospects, it could be worth it to mail out a trade show follow-up message and offer.

Trade shows and conferences can be excellent places to get in front of your ideal clients and people who are in their inner circle. Even if all you do is buy a ticket to attend it, it may be well worth your time to go and reconnect with people in your industry.

24 Start Up Business Grants for Women

Thursday, February 1st, 2024

There are more than 14 million women-owned businesses in the US as of 2024. Those 14 million companies account for 40% of all businesses, according to Forbes

The number of women-owned ventures is also rising faster than businesses owned by other types of owners. According to the 2024 Wells Fargo Impact of Women-Owned Business Report, between 2019 and 2023, the number of women-owned companies increased at nearly double the rate of those owned by men. Between 2022 and 2023, the rate of growth was 4.5X male-owned businesses. 

Despite the growing numbers and economic impact — women-owned businesses employ more than 12.2 million employees and generate $2.7 trillion in revenue — access to capital remains an obstacle. It is more difficult for women-owned firms to secure debt or equity investments that would enable them to grow and expand. They are less likely to be approved for bank loans and even when they are approved, the amount loaned is often lower and the interest rate higher than for businesses owned by men.

Startup grants for women-owned businesses are a critical resource that can provide a path to success. Without the need to pay back the money or pay high-interest rates for its use, grants offer women-owned startups a way to get ahead.

Startup Business Grants for Women-Owned Companies

While there are a number of grant programs for women-owned businesses, many exclude early-stage or startup companies. However, the following programs were specifically designed to help aspiring or new women-owned businesses get up and running. 

Amber Grant

In 2024, WomensNet expanded its grant program to offer three separate $10,000 monthly grants. The Amber Grant is for any woman-owned business located in the U.S. and Canada. To that program, WomensNet added a Startup Grant, for early-stage businesses run by women, and a Business-Specific Grant that is designated for a business in that month’s industry (in February 2024, the grant will go to a business in the health and fitness industry, for example).

AWS Startup Loft Accelerator

Entrepreneurs (men and women) in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa with at least one technology lead employee on staff and are early-stage or pre-seed may qualify for the Amazon Web Services Startup Loft Accelerator. New cohorts begin monthly, offering a credit of up to $25,000 in AWS credits, a 10-week educational program, networking, and hands-on workshops to help you become “funding ready.”

Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards

The Cartier Women’s Initiative awards 27 awards—first, second, and third place grant amounts – to women entrepreneurs from nine regions around the globe. Grant amounts range from $30,000 for the third place winner to $60,000 for the second place winner, and $100,000 for the first place winner in each region. Additionally, winners receive access to low-cost loans of up to $200,000. Finally, winners receive custom business training, executive coaching, and in-person INSEAD workshops. Although the window for applications has closed for 2024, sign up to be alerted regarding the 2025 timetable.

Connecticut Ignite Grant Program

Women-owned businesses in Connecticut are eligible to apply for Ignite Program grants valued at between $2,500 and $10,000 from the Women’s Business Development Council. The money must then be used for a “clearly defined project that will have a measurable impact on the business, its growth and profitability.” The grant funds may not be used for operating expenses, real estate, reimbursement of past expenses, or debt repayment. The company must be at least 51% owned by a woman, based in Connecticut, and the owner must have invested at least $2,500 into the business in the last 12 months. The deadline to apply is March 14, 2024.

Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network US Dream Tech Contest

Members of Dell’s Women’s Entrepreneur Network (DWEN) are eligible to compete for Dell-sponsored products and services. This annual contest is open to US-based women-owned businesses with fewer than 100 employees. In 2023, the winner received $40,000 in Dell Reward Points and the second and third-place businesses received $15,000 and $5,000, respectively. Applications are not yet being accepted for 2024, but check back here to learn when they are available.

EmpowHer Grants

Boundless Futures Foundation accepts applications for EmpowHer Grants of up to $25,000 to U.S.-based woman-owned businesses that have been in operation less than 3 years. The entrepreneur must be at least 22 years old and “an applicant’s business must address a social issue directly or through its business model.”

The Foundation also gives Her Village grants to nonprofit organizations that support female entrepreneurs of up to $30,000.

Enthuse Foundation Grants

Women-owned businesses are eligible to apply for 10 annual Enthuse Foundation grants of $2,500 each. The grants “aim to solve challenges women entrepreneurs face directly.” The next round of funding opens in March 2024. Register to be notified when 2024 grant applications are available.

Freed Fellowship Grant

A $500  Freed Fellowship Grant is given monthly to a U.S.-based woman business owner, “no strings attached.” All of the monthly grant winners are then eligible for a $2,500 year-end grant. Each applicant receives a free assessment and recommendations to help them progress.

Galaxy Grant

Nonprofit Hidden Star gives an annual Galaxy Grant of $2,750 to one woman or BIPOC business owner. The deadline to apply in 2024 is March 31, 2024. The application is short and simple.

Giving Joy Grants

Giving Joy gives annual microgrants of up to $500 to women-owned businesses and nonprofits. Applicants can be from any country in the world as long as the female applicant is over age 18. The deadline to apply in 2024 is April 30, 2024.

Applications are scored on four criteria: 1) The degree of alignment with the Giving Joy Mission, 2) the degree to which the proposed grant activities are innovative, creative and will have a positive impact on women, their families and communities, 3) how effective the use of grant funding is for your proposed activities, and 4) the grant impact is clearly outlined, well-articulated, and measurable.

Halstead Grant

Emerging silver jewelers should consider applying for a Halstead Grant, which provides a $7,500 start up grant and $1,000 in jewelry-related merchandise to a “new jewelry designer.” Finalists receive $1,000 cash and $250 in merchandise. The application deadline for 2024 is May 1. A design portfolio and an application consisting of 15 questions is required for consideration.

Hawai’i FoundHer Program

Native Hawaiian and Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander early-stage women business owners in Hawai’i are encouraged to apply for the FoundHer Program, which gives financial support and guidance as part of the six-month accelerator. A cohort of 7 women-owned businesses based in Hawai’i will get started in March 2024. Those selected will receive a $20,000 grant and $4,000 care stipend (many participants are mothers) on top of weekly educational workshops and monthly retreats, in addition to access to a robust network of mentors and advisors. Sign up to be notified when applications for the next cohort are available.

HerRise MicroGrant

Funded by corporate sponsors of HerSuiteSpot, the HerRise MicroGrant provides $1,000 grants to businesses 51% or more owned by women of color. Nonprofits, franchises, direct sellers, resellers, or independent consultants are not eligible. Winners are announced on the first Friday of every month.

High Five Grant

Provided through The Mama Ladder, this grant program for mom entrepreneurs gave 24 grants of up to $5,000 in 2023 totaling $38,500. Part of the goal of the grant is to support women with children of all ages. Applicants submit their entries online and a team of judges selects the semi-finalists, which are then winnowed to a list of finalists. Although the 2023 finalists were announced, the 2024 application cycle should start in September 2024.

The Kitty Fund

Named in honor of Catherine “Kitty” Abrams Tadlock Webster, mother of Founders First CEO Kim Folsom, the Kitty Fund gives $1,000 grants to up to 25 entrepreneurial moms. To be considered, the business owners must be mothers, who have been in business at least 1 year (so not necessarily a strict startup) with at least two employees and revenue under $5 million. Applications will be accepted starting in March 2024.

Ladies Who Launch

Open to women and nonbinary business owners, the Launch Program offers capital of $10,000 plus six months of free education and an industry expert as mentor. Applications will become available in February 2024 for the next cohort. The 2023 cohort was open to consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies with between $100,000 and $499,000 in annual revenue.

Michigan Olga Loizon Foundation Grant

Women-owned businesses located in Michigan may be eligible to receive up to a $10,000 grant from the founder of Olga’s Kitchen restaurants, in whose name the Olga Loizon Foundation was established. In addition to doing business in the state, female applicants must also reside in Michigan, provide a personal statement explaining their financial need, as well as a written business plan.

Minnesota Founders First CDC and the Center for Economic Inclusion Vanguard Accelerator

Latina and black women business owners in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area may be eligible to apply for one of 10 grants of $5,000 each as part of the Vanguard Accelerator. The grants will be given to women-owned B2B ventures based in Minneapolis-St. Paul, owned by Latina and black women, who have at least 3 employees, have been in business at least 3 years, and have revenue of between $75,000 and $3 million. The application period closes on February 21, 2024.

In addition, applicants can be considered for scholarships to the accelerator program and access to funding through forgivable loans of $25,000 to $250,000.

Papaya Reusables Grant

One U.S.-based woman-owned business owner will receive a $10,000 grant to fuel her company’s growth from Papaya Reusables. Sign up to be notified when grant applications open again.

Shea Moisture

Wellness and beauty company Shea Moisture supports three different grant programs through partnerships with other brands, each providing at least $10,000 in funding, up to $100,000 to Black and women-owned beauty or wellness businesses. The Next Black Millionaires grant offers grants up to $100,000 to US-based Black-owned businesses that have been in operation at least two years and have at least $25,000 in annual revenue. In partnership with Brown Girl Jane, grants for Black and women-owned beauty and wellness companies that have been in business at least one year are available, worth $10,000-25,000. The Blueprint Grant offers up to $10,000 and one-on-one support to US-based Black women business owners between the ages of 18 and 35. Application windows vary, so sign up to be notified regarding upcoming grant opportunities.

Stacy’s Rise Project

This collaboration between Hello Alice and Stacy’s Pita Chips supports women-owned businesses primarily in the food and beverage industry. The 16-week mentorship program awards 10 companies $25,000 each. To be eligible, the companies must be woman-owned, generating between $25,000 and $1 million in revenue, and not part of an accelerator program at the time of application. The application period typically opens in October, so check back in October 2024 for the 2025 cohort.

Texas StartHER Grant Program

Sponsored by the Texas Woman’s University’s Center for Women Entrepreneurs, the StartHER grant offers 25 aspiring or current women entrepreneurs $5,000 grants to fund their businesses or innovative ideas. To qualify, among other things, the company must be located and operated in the state of Texas, have fewer than 5 employees, and the business owner must be current with all financial obligations. Applications for 2024 will be available from September 3 – October 4, 2024.

Tory Burch Foundation Fellows

Each year the Tory Burch Foundation selects 50 women business owners to participate in a year-long fellowship program, which consists of $5,000 in grants, access to no-interest loans, networking, workshops, and live and digital educational programming. The 2024 application has not yet been posted.

Women Founders Network

The 11th annual Fast Pitch Competition for women entrepreneurs is open to US-based female entrepreneurs who have raised no more than $750,000 in outside funding. Business owners should apply either in the technology category or in the consumer products/non-tech category. Founders who apply must be willing to travel at their own expense to participate in the October 24, 2024 Fast Pitch event. The application window opens from April 1 to May 31, 2024 and in 2023, Women Founders Network awarded $55,000 in cash grants and more than $100,000 in professional services to winning businesses.

Other Grant-Finding Resources

IFundWomen Database

Much like the college common application, the IFundWomen Universal Grant Application Database allows women business owners to submit a single application and be matched with grants for which they may qualify. As new grants are added to the database, entrepreneurs are alerted and invited to apply. American Express, Neutrogena, and Visa are just some of the previous grant partners.

Anatomy of a WomensNet Grant Application

Monday, January 15th, 2024

Michaella Estevez and Ashley Olafsen, co-founders of The Wildflower Company, caught the attention of the WomensNet advisory board with their detailed grant application.

By explaining the big picture for their “wellness community centered around value-driven goal-setting and structured support” and the annual planner they designed, developed, and sell, The Wildflower Company was the $10,000 Startup Grant winner for November 2023 from WomensNet.

Providing some background information

Olafsen and Estevez started their grant application by explaining the origins of their product and business. 

They said, “A few years ago, we noticed a concerning trend among our post-grad friends: everyone was experiencing some degree of overwhelm and aimlessness during the transitional period after college. Although some of this was to be expected, this overall lack of direction, stress, and burnout significantly affected everyone’s mental health and sense of fulfillment.”

That was the problem, or the gap in the market that seemed not to have a solution.

This led to some conversations between the two friends about what it might look like to “design your dream life alongside your best friends.”

To start to explore that question, they created an online goal-setting group in late 2020 for their best friends and shared “a framework for designing an aligned, balanced, and fulfilling life.” This group effectively became their Beta test group or an initial trial run.

Throughout all of 2021, the group met monthly “to set goals, hold each other accountable, and reflect on a pathway toward a meaningful life.” By sharing their hopes and dreams within the group, the friends “worked towards intentions and goals and ultimately created lives we were truly proud of.”

The process got results. Olafsen reported, “One of our friends was able to quit her 9-5 job to become a full-time YouTuber – a dream she’d been pursuing for over a decade.” Others also accomplished their goals and made progress in designing the life they aspired to have.

Buoyed by the group’s achievements, Estevez and Olafsen began formalizing the process that had emerged. They decided to create a mindfulness planner “that would pair seamlessly with a community-led accountability group.”

In March 2022, the now-business partners crowdfunded $15,000 to manufacture their first line of planners for women in their 20s. They launched the planner in October 2022 and have continued to build on their early success.

Sharing specific facts and figures

After describing their business and how it came to be, the business partners then told the financial story of their business within their application. 

They started by making a case for demand, which is the first question any advisor, investor, or grant committee wants to see. No one wants to give money to an organization that can’t use it to continue to grow — businesses that are struggling and on the verge of collapse are unlikely to convince a grant committee to give them more money.

That wasn’t the case with The Wildflower Company, they demonstrated.

They shared their sales statistics, customer base, email list size, growth rate, and projected revenue for 2024.

The company was in growth mode and was being held back by access to capital, they communicated.

Explaining how the funds will be used

After proving sustainable demand for their products and services, The Wildflower Company walked us through how a $10,000 grant would catapult the business.

With $10,000, they explained, they could “fund the second production run of our physical planner products.” They continued, “We are nearly sold out of our first production run and need funding in order to purchase more products.” A grant would enable the business to produce 600+ more planners.

Whenever you can show how a grant will quickly be converted to sales, you’re doing well.

Takeaways and hints

The entire application was less than two pages long. However, within those pages, Olafsen and Estevez provided background on why and how the company was founded, gave evidence that the product is effective, that they have an audience ready to buy from them, and that they know what they need in order to ramp up growth.

Although they were able to make a case without other details, it’s always good to include:

  • Background on who you are and what relevant experience you may have in this space. Olafsen, for example, is a 4X founder and helps lead a university entrepreneurship program for women, which gives her added credibility that she didn’t mention.
  • Marketing details, to explain where you’re connecting with your target audience and how well you’re converting prospects to buyers.
  • Future plans are also good to mention, if you have a vision for how your business might expand. There are so many ways The Wildflower Company could choose to go and it would have been interesting to hear more about their vision, if they were willing to share.

These pieces of information would have been added bonuses, however, because, the application was strong without those details. That’s why The Wildflower Company was our Startup Grant winner for November 2023.

6 Ways to Improve Your Website’s Performance

Friday, December 29th, 2023

We all know that the look and feel of websites change over time. The design and aesthetic of business websites evolve and shift and unless you’re paying close attention, you might not notice when the appearance and functionality of what is considered the “standard” website is completely different from a year or two ago.

Suddenly you may wonder if your company’s website looks outdated or old. Of course, you don’t want to appear behind the times, but what do you need to do to bring it into 2024?

Many women business owners are asking this same question: how do you improve your website’s performance? Do you need a complete overhaul or can you refresh a few elements and be considered current? That depends on what shape your website is currently in, and here are the 6 first places to start to improve your site’s performance:

1. Conduct a site audit

It’s hard to know what you should or could improve on your website without knowing what’s weak about it.

One quick and easy step to start is to run a site audit, which Semrush will do for free. Type in your URL and SEMrush will give you a rundown of where your site is above average in terms of performance and where it needs work.

2. Update your website’s appearance

Today’s online visitors are very visual. They prefer big images, so peruse your website and compare it to some of your competitors’ websites. Are the images crisp, clear, and large on your homepage?

Color is also evident on many websites right now. Do you have splashes of color or images that are vibrant and color-rich?

Web design is also simpler today than a few years ago. According to Bluehost, “today’s users prefer scrolling web pages (rather than different pages that you have to click on in a drop-down menu),” so you’ll want to rethink how site visitors currently access the information you have available. If your navigation bar uses pop-up menus, you may want to consider a refresh.

3. Reduce image load time

Believe it or not, the amount of time it takes for your website to load is a factor in whether visitors are willing to wait and buy from you. If your images are large, they can take several seconds to load, or appear on-screen. Sometimes if they take too long to load, your buyer may have already moved on to a provider with an optimized site.

The solution in many cases is to reduce the size of your images, not necessarily in terms of measurements but in terms of storage space. The higher the resolution, the longer it takes to load. Reducing the resolution typically doesn’t affect the appearance of the image but it can speed up how quickly it is shown on-screen.

PageSpeed Insights, which uses Google data, is one tool you can use to assess whether your website is slow or not and to pick up tips for what you can do to speed it up. All for free.

4. Create keyword-rich content

One website performance measure is Google rank, or where in a list of search results related to your business your website would appear. The terms your target audience uses to look for businesses like yours are your keywords and key phrases. When prospects type in those terms, ideally your business website is listed first in Google’s search results.

Of course, being listed first isn’t easy. Convincing Google that your business is the very best option that visitors should be shown comes down to demonstrating that your website has more to do with the search term than any other website. According to Wordstream, “Google is looking for pages that contain high-quality relevant information about the searcher’s query.”

That’s tough to do, but a good place to start is by regularly adding relevant content to your site. That content can be blog posts, articles, videos, audio clips, and/or images related to keywords and key phrases that your audience is looking for. The more new information Google sees that you’re sharing, regularly, the more confident it will be that you’re a good source of information related to those keywords.

5. Eliminate broken links

There are few things more annoying to site visitors than clicking on a link and having it go nowhere. Even if the link may seem inconsequential to you, such as if it takes the viewer to a report on an esoteric topic, if a visitor goes looking for that report and can’t find it, they will be irritated with you.

You don’t want that to happen.

So, while your website won’t be penalized by Google for broken links, which appear as 404 errors on the screen, you should do all you can to ensure any links are active. Fortunately, there is a free tool that will alert you to any links on your site that are dead or inactive.

6. Include a call-to-action (CTA)

When visitors get to the bottom of your homepage, or to the end of the section they are viewing, what do you want them to do next? What action should they take once they know a little about your business and its products or services?

Do you want them to schedule a 15-minute introductory call? Do you want them to fill out an application? Do you want them to head to your online store and shop with you? Watch a video? Subscribe to your newsletter? 

Your prospects need, or at least prefer, to be held by the hand and told where to go and what to do next in your sales process. Make it clear to them what happens once they’ve decided they want to buy from you. Don’t make them have to hunt for the Buy button or for your Calendly link to schedule a phone appointment.

If you take the time to implement even one of these tips, your website performance should improve. Of course, the more you do, the faster your performance will improve.

WNN Blog Get application & business ideas on the WomensNet blog »

What people are saying about WomensNet

Forbes

“You have to be in it to win it...seize the opportunity and apply.”

Nerd Wallet

“Every month, WomensNet awards three $10,000 Amber Grants to women-owned businesses. At the end of each year, monthly grant winners are eligible to receive one of three $25,000 annual grants.”

Score

“Launched 20 years ago this grant honors the memory of a young woman who wanted to be an entrepreneur but died at age 19 before she could achieve her goal.”

CNN

“The Amber Grant offers three $10,000 grants to women-owned businesses each month. Then, at the end of each year, WomensNet gives an additional $25,000 to three grant winners from that year.”

Essence Magazine

“This organization offers monthly grants of up to $10,000 to support female entrepreneurs starting businesses. Those who qualify for these grants are also in the running for a yearly $25,000 grant.”