Nimble Announces Contacts App, Offers Online Training


Over the course of running a business, you’ll likely create a huge list of contacts. Keeping those contacts organized and updated can make a huge difference in the success of your business relationships. This week, Nimble announced a new app that aims to help businesses do just that.

This week’s news also brought information about other business tools such as, a Web-based platform for employee training. Read about these tools and other small business related news in this week’s Small Business Trends news and information roundup.

Business Tools

Nimble Smart Contacts Builds Profiles on the Fly

Nimble announced launch of its Nimble Smart Contacts app on May 6. The app is designed to automatically create live contacts and company profiles on the fly. Jon Ferrara, founder of Nimble, says small businesses aren’t keeping up-to-date with the contacts because they’re stowed away somewhere, a spreadsheet or an inbox. This app keeps your contacts with you as you’re working on the Web. Says It Can Train Your Customer Service Team, which offers Web-based employee training, enables you to create online lessons for all of your employees. With tools that enable you to build, share, and track lessons and courses, aims to provide everything needed to get your employees up and running quickly.

Mobile Marketing

Facebook Goes Deep with Links on Mobile App Install Ads

Facebook has announced some good news for developers and advertisers. The company is extending its Facebook deep linking capabilities to include mobile app install ads. This means you can now choose what information page people are sent to when they open a downloaded app for the first time.

Desktop Suffers Drastic Decline While Mobile-Only Soars

A recent report by digital analytics company comScore shows a continued decline in desktop use as mobile use continues to rise. In a post on the official comScore blog, Senior Marketing Insights Analyst Adam Lella explains: “Just a year ago, there was still nearly twice the percentage of desktop-only internet users (19.1 percent) as mobile-only users (10.8 percent).

Como Can Help You Build a Business App in 4 Simple Steps

As more and more small businesses lose market share to larger brands with more sophisticated digital platforms and infrastructures, experts are recommending that small businesses foray into the world of mobile apps. More than just the ‘next step’ in digital marketing, mobile apps have become a solution to the dynamic and evolving needs of small businesses in a mobile world.


Export Growth Falls Short of the President’s Goals

In his 2010 State of the Union Address, President Barack Obama announced the National Export Initiative, a government plan to boost American exports. Under this scheme, the federal government sought to expand its export promotion efforts, enhance its export financing programs, educate U.S. businesses about export opportunities, establish new trade agreements, and boost enforcement of U.S.


Small Business Owners Say Thanks to Mom

Small business owners need support from many different sources in order to be successful. And one of the most common places that support may originate, whether it’s business advice or just a person who’s willing to listen, is from their moms. So this Mother’s Day, small business loan platform Lendio wanted to come up with a way to honor the mothers of small business owners.

Retail Trends

Walmart is Gearing up to Take on Amazon Prime

Walmart is making a move to try and grab a larger share of the online shopping market dominated by Amazon. The retail giant is gearing up to test a new unlimited shipping service similar to Amazon Prime but at almost half the cost.

Mobile Retail Trailers, the New Food Trucks of Retail?

Businesses are going mobile. And that doesn’t just mean they’re using smartphones and tablets to stay in touch. Some businesses are actually taking their whole operations mobile. You likely already know about the food truck craze. But now there are some retail businesses that are following their lead. Blaine Vossler and Mackenzie Edgerton are two of those mobile entrepreneurs.

Small Biz Spotlight

Spotlight: Build Customer Loyalty with Loyalzoo

Building customer loyalty can be more difficult for small businesses than it is for large companies. Big brands have more resources to develop in-depth loyalty programs that give customers different rewards or offers based on their past buying behavior. But technology is now offering new options for small businesses looking to build loyalty. Loyalzoo is one such option.

Business Advice

Keurig CEO Regrets Big Mistake Made with the 2.0 Brewer

Keurig made a big mistake with its Keurig 2.0 coffee machine. And now the company is admitting it. The Keurig 2.0 frustrated customers with it’s inability to accept third-party coffee, older K-cups, or reusable pods. Keurig is finally making an effort to fix at least one of these problems by bringing back the refillable My K-Cup.

Intuit’s Dan Wernikoff Talks Small Business Big Game

At this point the next Super Bowl is almost a year away. But Intuit is gearing up for the big game just the same. Senior Vice President and General Manager of Intuit’s Small Business Group Dan Wernikoff took the opportunity during National Small Business Week to share why.


Rhino Slider EVO is the Motorized Camera Slider with a Smooth Roll

A hobby can change the course of a career. Kyle Hart was an insurance salesman who discovered a love for video. His hobby would lead him to start creating his own camera equipment and from there his own company, Rhino Camera Gear. After creating a prototype for a DSLR stabilizer in his garage, Hart decided to give crowdfunding a try to launch his first product in 2011.

Potential FDA Interference Has Homemade Soap Makers in Lather

Two Senators have introduced legislation that authorizes the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to more aggressively police ingredients used in personal care products. The proposed law targets homemade soap crafters. This has become a popular stay-at-home business venture known to often provide important supplemental and even primary income for a lot of entrepreneurs.

Dipping Your Toes into the Exotic Henna Business

Body art has had its ups and downs in popularity for centuries. In the past, obvious body decorations have been frowned upon in many societies, but in more recent decades there has been an increase in the acceptance of body art. Now, even in the business world you can spot some CEOs sporting visible tattoos.

Technology Trends

Nexpaq Modular Smartphone Case Adds Hardware to Your Mobile

The idea of a modular smartphone with interchangeable components is nothing new. The concept’s been floating around for awhile with projects such as Google’s Ara. But one company is attempting to bring modular to your hands in the form of a case rather than a phone.

The Businessperson’s Guide To The iMovie Galaxy

These days, making professional-looking movies and presentations is a necessity when marketing your business. If you have an Apple Mac, then the best pre-installed program on it by far is iMovie. If you want your marketing to look like a million dollars, check out this business person’s guide to iMovie Galaxy.

Image: Nimble

This article, “Nimble Announces Contacts App, Offers Online Training” was first published on Small Business Trends

from Blogger

How This Business Owner Motivated His Team with Fantasy Sports

fantasy sports gamification

Brian Brady was looking for a new way to motivate his sales staff.

The owner of six Wireless Zone franchises in Virginia had already tried running sales contests with many different incentives. But it didn’t matter if he was offering gift cards or cruise vacations — the contests always seemed to have the same effects on his employees.

He said to Entrepreneur:

“You always have your overachievers, then your middle-of-the-road sales guys, then the bottom tier. The contests always had the same results, with the top salespeople winning. I had to start handicapping people, and the people at the top felt they were being punished for being good. The people at the lower end never paid attention to the contests because they felt like they’d never win.”

So he wanted to try a new type of motivational tool. That’s when he found FantasySalesTeam.

The competition system allows employees to build teams of different salespeople throughout the company, much like fantasy sports teams. The employees can then trade and update their teams each week.

For the competition, the company basically put people at different football positions based on their sales records. The top tier sales people were quarterbacks. After that were the running backs and wide receivers. And lower producing salespeople were kickers.

Brady said this system provided motivation for people to move up in the ranks, while also encouraging the whole team to work together and encourage one another. He said:

“Because the salespeople were tracking each other, they kind of rode each other and would say things like, “I’ve got you as my quarterback, but you haven’t sold any tablets. Come on, man!” It created these internal competitions. And if someone noticed other people were dropping him from their rosters, it would motivate him to pick up the pace.”

The system offers incentives for employees to grow their sales numbers and encourage one another, while still giving some of the lower producing staff members a chance to win. For the company’s first competition, Brady said the top prize went to a middle-of-the-road salesman.

But they also offered an “MVP” prize to the person with the most overall sales. And the system seemed to work, at least for Brady’s team. He saw sales increase by 176 percent after the company’s first Fantasy Sales Team competition last year.

Brady says that things have gone back to normal for the most part after the company’s initial competition.

But he said it definitely helped people learn how to sell certain products, particularly the Verizon Edge plan, which many staff members didn’t initially want to focus on because it was difficult to explain and sell. He also plans to run more similar competitions in the future, with the next one being more of a baseball theme.

Image: Fantasy Sales Team

This article, “How This Business Owner Motivated His Team with Fantasy Sports” was first published on Small Business Trends

from Blogger

Why Your Company Needs a Sales Funnel


Do you know how to identify your company’s sales funnel?

New data from HubSpot reveals that 68 percent of B2B sales organizations have not identified their sales funnel.

What is a sales funnel, you ask? That’s the process for narrowing, sorting, analyzing and following up with sales leads.

This percentage might sound surprising, but unfortunately it appears to be the truth based on what I’ve seen during my career of working with B2B sales teams.

Many companies simply chase after every sales lead or send every new sales lead to the sales team without doing anything to sort or evaluate their leads along the way.

Without a sales funnel, your sales team is flying blind. Having a sales funnel in place gives you the visibility and consistent process necessary to get the best results out of your sales leads, and it helps you measure your progress at each stage of the sales process.

Especially for complex B2B sales, a sales funnel is an absolute necessity to ensure that your company is taking a regimented, methodical, well-organized approach to building relationships with customers and closing more deals.

Here are a few reasons why you need a sales funnel now:

Sort and Rank Sales Leads

Having a sales funnel will help you create a consistent, organized process for evaluating, ranking, sorting and prioritizing your sales leads.

The process could be based on which leads are most likely to buy, which leads have the most urgent “pain points” that are driving them to make a purchase decision, and which leads require longer-term lead nurturing and follow-up before they are ready to buy.

Not all sales leads are created equal. Some people are going to be a great fit for what you sell and are going to be ready to start the sales process right away.

Others, however, are going to be a poor fit or are going to require a longer-term conversation to build trust and create a good business relationship.

Focus on the Right Sales Leads

Creating a sales funnel also gives you greater focus. It also allows you to devote time and resources to working with the right sales leads, instead of spreading yourself too thin chasing bad leads.

If you have a few preliminary steps in your sales funnel, such as “initial e-mail survey” or “initial phone screening,” or “request to do an online demo/presentation,” this gives you the chance to ask the customer to commit to a higher level of interaction.

Every step of the interaction and conversation along the way gives you the chance to learn more about your prospective customers, and figure out which customers are serious buyers, and which ones are not yet ready to commit.

Put a Longer-term Process in Place for Lead Nurturing

Especially in complex major account B2B sales, it often takes some time — six months to a year or more — before a new client is ready to sign a contract and close the deal.

This is why it’s especially important to have a sales funnel with multiple points of contact over time. You might need to keep “nurturing” your sales leads (by following up and having multiple conversations) over many months before they’re ready to buy.

By identifying your sales funnel, you can design a longer-term process to keep talking to your sales leads in an orderly, thoughtful, organized fashion, and keep getting your sales people in front of the customer to keep answering questions and building trust.

Having a sales funnel is crucially important for success in today’s competitive B2B sales industry. Whatever you sell, you’ll be able to sell more of it by using an organized sales funnel with multiple points of contact, building relationships along the way.

Oil Funnel Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “Why Your Company Needs a Sales Funnel” was first published on Small Business Trends

from Blogger

Underrated Unified Communication Benefits for Small Businesses

Unified Communications Benefits

Over the past decade, there have been great advancements in the business communications industry.

If your business has yet to jump on the unified communications bandwagon, it’s imperative that you understand you’re missing out on valuable benefits. Productivity gains are but one of the many reasons to take advantage of unified communications.

Let’s take a closer look at a few of its other underrated benefits.

Presence Everywhere

With a unified communications network, your company can reap the benefits of streamlining all forms of communication.

Recent studies have shown that 49 percent of businesses are able to gain 20 minutes of productivity for each employee that they are able to reach on the first try. When you’re able to contact your employees on a real-time basis, productivity is greatly enhanced.

You’ll find that from instant messaging features to VoIP calls, unified communications improve profit margins by boosting overall operational efficiency; this is especially true for businesses that employ mobile workers.

You Can Record and Listen to Past Conversations

Has one of your employers ever had a conversation with a client only to forget important details? If so, you should definitely be implementing a single communications network because all communications are recorded and saved.

This means all you need is the name of the employee who carried out the conversation to find it in the database. With all communications saved, it makes it simple to boost customer service because you can review clients’ needs and requests on a regular basis to make sure none of them get overlooked.

You can even have the saved communications sent to you after each one of them is recorded. You can keep track of every conversation that takes place over the network, which is also advantageous because you can properly monitor the way employees use your communications network.

Ability to Work from Anywhere

When your workers have access to a unified communications system, productivity is greatly increased because they don’t have to be in the office to perform their duties.

Instead, they can access the system from anywhere with an Internet connection. This means workers can sit at home, log in to the system and contact a client. All the while, the communications will be recorded for you to review, ensuring that you have access to the communications that take place after office hours.

Your clients will be especially favorable of the ability to speak with your employees after the office has closed.

A unified communications network also improves customer service because it gives you and your workers the ability to easily direct phone calls and emails to the right departments.

Even if the office is closed for the day, customer inquiries can be directed across the network to a department manager’s phone. Whether the manager is in the office or at home, he can handle customer inquiries, which reduces the number of customer representatives you need to keep on staff.

Social Media and Presence Technology Can Be Easily Integrated

Did you know that social media communications can easily be integrated into a unified communications network?

In doing this, users of the network can benefit from Presence technology, which helps users determine the whereabouts of one another.

Take, for instance, that you’re trying to get in touch with the media department’s supervisor.  You can log in to the network and see where he took his last call, like from from his cell phone, desk phone, home phone, etc. This helps you pinpoint the best way to get in contact with the supervisor based on his last communication.

Access via Multiple Devices

One of the most overlooked and underrated benefits of unified communications for a small business is that users can access the network from multiple devices at the same time.  And with more and more workers accessing their business data on mobile devices, including smartphones and laptops, this makes multiple device accessibility all the more desirable.

Your workers will find it simple to manage contacts, perform IP telephony communications and even carry out multiple communications at the same time.

A video conference can take place on a laptop while a voice call takes place on a worker’s business cell phone.  And no matter the number of communications performed, you can rest assured that all of them will be digitally recorded.

The Takeaway

No matter the way you view unified communications, there’s no denying that your small business will benefit from creating and deploying its own unified communications network.

You’ll, of course, enjoy the cost savings that come along with this type of network, but more importantly, it’s pertinent that you assess how the above mentioned benefits can boost your profit margins.

It’s also important to consider how unified communications can improve your customer service, which should be at the heart of your organization’s mission and values.

Switchboard Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “Underrated Unified Communication Benefits for Small Businesses” was first published on Small Business Trends

from Blogger

Keurig CEO Regrets Big Mistake Made with the 2.0 Brewer

keurig CEO

Keurig made a big mistake with its Keurig 2.0 coffee machine. And now the company is admitting it.

The Keurig 2.0 frustrated customers with it’s inability to accept third-party coffee, older K-cups, or reusable pods. Keurig is finally making an effort to fix at least one of these problems by bringing back the refillable My K-Cup.

recent report of Keurig’s fiscal second quarter this year shows the company took a 23 percent hit in brewer and accessory net sales compared to last year. According to the report, 22 percent of this loss was due to a decline in brewer sales volume. It seems this sharp fall off was a startling realization for Keurig.

The problem with Keurig 2.0 is with the machine’s DRM (Digital Rights Management) system. DRM makes it so Keurig 2.0 machines only accept official, and more expensive, Keurig K-Cups that are one-time use only. The consumer backlash to this decision was more than the company anticipated.

President and CEO, Brian Kelly said in an earnings call:

“We were wrong. We underestimated, is the easiest way to say it. We underestimated the passion the consumer had for [My K-Cup].”

In an effort to bring sales back, the company plans to reintroduce My K-Cup for Keurig 2.0 later this year. However, consumers will still have to buy the new My K-Cup to work in their machine.

Older K-Cups and third party pods will also continue to be unusable. But consumers who are determined to use any pod they chose can try a popular “hack” that works around the DRM system. Basically by cutting the top off of an official K-Cup and securing it to the top of another pod, you can trick the machine into accepting it.

Yahoo Finance Columnist Rich Newman has said Keurig has been using what is known as the “walled garden” business model.

“You get a one-time payment for selling the device and then you get the recurring revenue by selling the stuff you need to operate the device. Everybody would love to have that business model … Usually, it doesn’t work.”

Keurig is attempting to correct its mistake but it could be too little too late for some consumers. The company took away features many consumers loved about Keurig. Despite the announced return of My K-Cup, the company is still keeping things on its own terms.

Time will tell if Keurig can win back the customers it may have lost.

Image: Keurig CEO Brian Kelley

This article, “Keurig CEO Regrets Big Mistake Made with the 2.0 Brewer” was first published on Small Business Trends

from Blogger

What is Shared Hosting?

what is shared hosting

When it comes time to find a home for your website, one of the first questions you may ask is, “What is shared hosting?”

That’s a good question and answering for you is the purpose of this post.

Shared hosting can be described as:

Definition: An inexpensive web hosting setup where different parties share one Web server to securely host their own websites on a server maintained by a hosting company.

What is Shared Hosting

Photo credits: Workstation and hardware icons by Mike McDonald, on Flickr and
PageSpeed module for Nginx Web Server by Linux Screenshots, on Flickr

All done!

Just kidding! To really understand shared hosting, we’re going to break down the description above into two smaller bits that make up the whole.

What is Shared Hosting?

“An inexpensive Web hosting setup where different parties share one Web server…”

As with many service businesses, Web hosting companies typically offer different plans, each tailored to meet the needs of its clients at different levels. Web hosts typically offer three primary types of hosting setups:

  1. Shared server hosting
  2. Virtual private server hosting
  3. Dedicated server hosting

As the first tier offer, shared hosting is the least expensive and that’s a good thing, especially for small businesses. For this reason, shared hosting is the first home for many a business website — it’s a place to get its feet wet and begin to grow.

Why is the cost lower? From the hosting company’s perspective, shared hosting trades off higher process for higher volume. They can fit more hosting accounts on one server and that means that maintenance costs are divided across many parties driving down the price on the customer’s side.

While the price of shared hosting is low however, the limitations imposed are high.

You see, when a hosting company says shared, they mean shared: all the sites hosted there use every resource on a shared server. That includes CPU power, memory and bandwidth. Under normal circumstances, this is not a problem however, if one of the sites sees a spike in activity, it can slow or even freeze the other sites on the server.

That’s not a good thing.

Another downside of the low price is the low level of support provided to shared hosting accounts. While you can often purchase a higher level of support, since you’re not paying a lot at the basic level, you don’t get a lot.

“…to securely host their own websites on a server maintained by a hosting company.”

Though the server is shared, nothing else is. Each party hosting on a shared server can see and manage only their own site, no others. Even though they share an email server, email is delivered to, and accessible by, each individual party.

That said, security is of higher concern on a shared server. Simply by virtue of being on the same machine, it’s harder to lock down a website completely. Most hosting companies handle this as well as they can, so it’s not a huge risk factor, just a potential one.

Since multiple parties coexist on a shared server, concerns for security lead to limited access to the back-end of server. Under a shared hosting plan, a lot of the back-end is locked-down.

A benefit of this is that maintenance is typically taken care of by the Web hosting company, leaving you free to focus on business.

Unfortunately, this also means that you have very little control over your hosting server. You can’t install anything unless the hosting company provides it and, while that’s fine for many small businesses, it does start to chafe as a business grows and wants to add more functionality and design to its site.


Its low price and hands-off maintenance requirements makes shared hosting a very viable option for small businesses that stay small or are just starting out. The security risks on a shared server are higher, but it’s more of a situation you need to keep an eye on as opposed to being a show stopper.

As a business grows however, the resources its website demands grow as well. As more traffic and transactions begin to strain a shared server, it’s time to upgrade to the next tier of the hosting plans.

The desire for more control of a website’s back end, including the need to install software beyond that offered by the hosting company, is another common reason for upgrading your hosting plan. Once you’re at the next tier, you have much more control over your website’s home.

Web Hosting Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “What is Shared Hosting?” was first published on Small Business Trends

from Blogger

Desktop Suffers Drastic Decline While Mobile-Only Soars

mobile only users

A recent report by digital analytics company comScore shows a continued decline in desktop use as mobile use continues to rise.

In a post on the official comScore blog, Senior Marketing Insights Analyst Adam Lella explains:

“Just a year ago, there was still nearly twice the percentage of desktop-only internet users (19.1 percent) as mobile-only users (10.8 percent). While the share of mobile-only users has climbed over the past year to 11.3 percent, the desktop-only population has drastically declined to just 10.6 percent. Of course these numbers also tell us that the vast majority of the digital population (78 percent) is multi-platform and goes online using both desktop and mobile platforms.”

Interestingly, while the data clearly shows a continued move toward mobile-only technology, Lella says the report also concludes:

“All signs indicate that the desktop computer is here to stay for the foreseeable future, but let’s also not be surprised if, as a society, we become even more mobile over the years to come. And with more mobile-only internet users than desktop-only users, it is yet another sign that digital media is evolving towards ‘mobile first.’”

Continuing a Trend

The steady increase in the popularity of mobile is nothing new.

According to the Pew Research Center’s Mobile Access 2010 report, 59 percent of all adult Americans accessed the Internet wirelessly, including on laptops. Two in five adults (40 percent) went online, used e-mail or used some form of instant messaging on a cell phone in 2010. That was an increase of eight percent from 2009.

By 2012, the true effect of mobile technology on both business and personal use was becoming clear. An April 2012 Pew Mobile Technology Fact Sheet revealed that 70 percent of cell phone users and 86 percent of smartphone users had used their phones in the previous 30 days to perform at least one of the following tasks:

  • Coordinate a meeting or get-together (40 percent)
  • Solve an unexpected problem that they or someone else had encountered (35 percent)
  • Decide whether to visit a business, such as a restaurant (30 percent)
  • Find information to help settle an argument they were having (27 percent)
  • Look up a score for a sporting event (23 percent)
  • Get up-to-the-minute traffic or public transit information to find the quickest way to get somewhere (20 percent)
  • Get help in an emergency situation (19 percent)

As of October 2014, 90 percent of adults surveyed by Pew said they own a cell phone; 32 percent said they own an e-reader, such as an iPad or a Kindle, and 42 percent said they own a tablet computer.

Why This is Important in the Business World

Google’s Mobile Path to Purchase report surveyed 950 consumers across the verticals of Restaurants, Food and Cooking, Finance, Travel, Home and Garden, Beauty and Apparel, Automotive, Electronics and Health and Nutrition to analyze how they used their mobile devices to research their purchases. The majority of consumers began their research on search engines (48 percent), followed by branded websites (33 percent), and followed by branded apps (26 percent).

By far, the majority of the consumers surveyed (89 percent) said that most of their time spent on media was through mobile apps, versus only 11 percent who said they used the mobile Web to access media. The full study can be downloaded here.

Clearly, consumers are using their smartphones to look up literally everything. And if they’re standing in line at the gas station and need to look something up in a hurry, a tiny, confusing website designed for a PC is only going to frustrate them. A mobile device has to be easy to read, user-friendly and, perhaps most of all, incredibly succinct.

According to speaker and author Chris Brogan, if businesses do nothing else, they should at least invest in a responsive, mobile-ready website that features one clear action that the company offers on the home page. Brogan hit the importance of being mobile ready as a major theme when delivering the keynote at the 2013 What’s Next Conference, Forbes reports.

This could include a button to push, a video to watch or a demonstration of the value of a particular product. (Having a mobile-friendly website also helps with SEO, by the way. Such sites improve rankings on mobile-friendly search engines, including Google and Yahoo.)

It also goes without saying that mobile devices do a business good by ensuring that employees and company heads can always stay in touch. If you’re on a two-week vacation to Maui, perhaps this doesn’t sound as attractive as it’s supposed to.

Realistically, though, problems get solved faster, questions get answered more quickly and work can be turned in or reviewed immediately.

Desktop computers haven’t gone extinct yet, and it will probably be a long time before they do. But a company that hasn’t caught up to the mobile revolution should do so now or be left behind.

Old Computer Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “Desktop Suffers Drastic Decline While Mobile-Only Soars” was first published on Small Business Trends

from Blogger

How to Negotiate for Influencer Marketing Services

influencer marketing services

It’s no secret that partnering with influential bloggers can work wonders for your brand. It’s impressive to see how one Instagram photo can boost brand awareness and move product faster than you can even blink an eye.

While influencer marketing has become incredibly popular among all kinds of brands, navigating compensation isn’t as easy. Here, we provide a few tips and best practices to get the ball rolling on your influencer marketing campaigns.

First, Do Your Research

Before pitching or getting into pricing with a blogger, do your homework. Does their blog align with your brand? If the product doesn’t naturally fit into their lifestyle, the partnership likely won’t resonate with their audience either.

Bloggers don’t need to have a huge following to wield real influence but they do need to be a natural fit for your brand. Otherwise, you may regret forking over too much compensation for a partnership that flops.

Research everything you can about their blog and presence — what they write about, who they’ve partnered with, whether or not they have repeat business from their sponsors, and the quality of their audience engagement.

While their social media follower count can be an excellent gauge of their influence, it can also be misleading, so what really matters is their engagement on those channels. Thirty thousand Instagram followers sounds impressive, but you may reconsider if their followers aren’t interacting.

Pitch Your Campaign

If you prefer to find out rates before diving into campaign details, you can always ask for a media kit. After all, if you’d really like to work with a blogger but you can’t afford a full-on sponsored story, it might be worth testing the waters with a sponsored social post instead.

If, on the other hand, you’re super clear on the campaign and prefer to jump right in, be sure to carefully outline what you have in mind. A campaign that requires one Instagram post likely comes at a very different cost than a week-long giveaway hosted on their blog, so keep these varying rates in mind. Be realistic with your expectations before casting a wide net to too many bloggers if you can really only afford one solid partnership.

Be clear on all the details and requirements before you start diving into rates. This will give the blogger the full picture of what you need from her before she’s even able to formulate an accurate quote.

Inquire About Rates

Once you’ve reached out with your campaign idea and the blogger expresses interest, it’s time to dive into rates. While this can be a tricky conversation to navigate, it’s an essential one and will get easier with time.

Be prepared — and respectful — of what their rate might be. If it falls within your budget, great; if not, it will help determine what caliber of blogger you can partner with. While an A-list influencer is most likely not willing to do a sponsored post for $300, a newer blogger might gladly do so and reach the niche audience you are so lusting after.

Unfortunately, there are no rules when it comes to blogger rates; influencer marketing is run by zillions of different bloggers setting their own rates and valuing their services through their own measures. It’s basically like the wild west out there but influencer marketing is well worth the effort when you work with the right people.

Most bloggers will have a media kit ready to go with set rates but since most bloggers evaluate contracts on a case-by-case basis, their list of services and rates are often just a starting point for your campaign.

Depending on the size of the blogger, rates can vary drastically. While you should expect to pay more for a highly influential blogger, they may also offer more return on your partnership. But don’t discount the medium-sized bloggers!

Working with them is often just as lucrative as their audiences can be super niche and targeted. What’s more, the Technorati Digital Influence Report 2013 claims that 54 percent of consumers believe that the smaller the community, the bigger the influence. They put more trust in these smaller communities, which can often result in more sales.

Be Realistic

While some bloggers may happily work with you for free, you likely won’t garner the results you are hoping to achieve. If you want to guarantee a successful partnership, you have to offer fair compensation. You will also find the blogger is far more invested in your partnership if they’re respected as a business professional.

More and more brands and publicists are seeing the value of influencer marketing and are taking it into consideration. In fact, Social Media Today reports, “74 percent of global marketers say they will use ‘influence marketing’ as part of their marketing strategy in the next 12 months.”

The great thing about influencer marketing is that it can be way less expensive than traditional marketing yet far more targeted and beneficial in the long term. Treat influencer marketing just as you would any other form of marketing — it comes at a cost that yields real results.

Wrapping Things Up

Having the conversation about blogger rates is never an easy one. Sometimes it feels like a game of tag. Once you start facing the compensation conversation with more bloggers though, you’ll find it gets easier. Blogger rates won’t be so surprising and you’ll gain more clarity in terms of what to expect from a large blogger versus a small- to medium-sized one.

Always aim for bloggers that are hyper-targeted and do your research before reaching out with your pitch.

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This article, “How to Negotiate for Influencer Marketing Services” was first published on Small Business Trends

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