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Professional Development Benefits Your Business

Whether you’re a brand new entrepreneur or a small business owner who has been in business for years, expanding your knowledge and fine-tuning your skillsets are crucial for sustained success.

Professional development never goes out of style, and if you make it a priority, it can set your business apart from your competitors. Dedicating time and energy on a continual basis to honing your talents and learning new things will show your customers that:

  • You’re dedicated to providing them with the best products and services.
  • You can provide them with more value than your competition can.
  • You have a grasp on the bigger picture and are better able to propose solutions.
  • You’re worth every penny they’re paying you.

Finding Opportunities For Professional Development Isn’t Difficult. Finding Discipline To Follow Through With Professional Development Can Be.

As you explore how you might boost your knowledge and improve your skills, consider these effective and affordable options:

  • Reputable industry or topical blogs—Look for blogs that specifically address topics related to your types of products and services and for those about managing a business.
  • E-books—Ditto on what we said about blogs.
  • Business podcasts—With a vast selection of podcasts about leadership, marketing, business, and industry trends out there, you have plenty of options. To stay productive when you sit down to listen, consider hitting “play” while you’re taking care of “no brainer” busy work.
  • SBA online training center courses—In addition to a wealth of informative articles, the SBA also offers a number of free online courses to guide you through different aspects of starting and managing a business.
  • Local lunch & learns, seminars, etc.—Chambers of commerce often offer these types of programs to help their members manage their businesses better. They also provide the opportunity to network with other professionals in the community.

To make the most out of any of the above professional development tools, also consider signing up for free face-to-face or email mentoring with certified SCORE mentors. They have knowledge of and experience in every aspect of starting and running a business, so they’re well equipped to guide you as you navigate the opportunities and challenges of entrepreneurship.

Ready to get your small business off the ground or take it to the next level? Contact us to get started!

Is Email Marketing Worth the Investment?

With social media, texting, and other instantaneous ways of marketing your products and services, you might be wondering if anyone really pays attention to emails anymore.

Statistics say they do.

  • According to eMarketer, 69.7 percent of internet users say email is their preferred method of communicating with businesses.
  • And Salesforce Marketing Cloud’s 2015 State of Marketing report shows…
    • Seventy-four percent of marketers believe email produces (or will produce) ROI.
    • Seventy-three percent of marketers agree that email marketing is core to their business

How Could Email Marketing Help Your Small Business?

You can use email marketing to fulfill a number of objectives. For example you can…

  • Introduce new products and services.
  • Announce special offers, promotions, and contests.
  • Provide tips to help customers use your products and services more effectively.
  • Share industry news that will affect your customers.
  • Share event highlights.
  • Introduce new team members.
  • Highlight recent awards or press coverage your business has received.

You can get the most from your email marketing efforts when you integrate them with your other online marketing strategies. For instance, you can share links to your blog posts and other pages of your website in your email marketing messages, share your email marketing message links on social media, and incorporate links to your social media accounts in your email marketing messages. All of those things will boost the visibility of each platform you’re using.

Small Business Email Marketing Platforms

Several small business email marketing solutions exist. Some are free, and some have fees (which typically start out small and increase as you increase the size of your mailing list).

As you explore the options, consider these things:

  • Your budget
  • The frequency at which you’ll be sending email marketing messages
  • Your level of comfort in using technology tools (some platforms are more user-friendly than others)

Most importantly, know the rules and regulations set forth by the Federal Trade Commission for email marketing. There are laws in place to protect people from unwanted solicitation emails. Fail to comply with them and you could find yourself paying a hefty fine. No small business owner needs that!

If you’re considering making email marketing part of your business marketing strategy but don’t know where to begin, talk with a SCORE mentor. At SCORE, we have a team of dedicated volunteers who can help guide you in your marketing efforts and help you with all other aspects of growing your business.

Is Cloud Based Accounting for You?

As a solopreneur or small business owner, it’s likely you’re the one responsible for tracking your business’s revenues, expenses, payments, deposits, etc. Whether you decide to do that manually through excel spreadsheets or paper records, buy desktop accounting software, or go with an online solution, you need to maintain accurate and up-to-date accounting information.

With the convenience and level of comfort with cloud computing solutions growing, many entrepreneurs are turning to online platforms like Quickbooks Online, FreshBooks, and others to manage their financial records.

Could a cloud-based solution be right for you? Here are some of the perks and pitfalls to consider:

Advantages

  • Platforms are easy to access. (Because they’re online, you can access the solutions from anywhere. Some offer access via mobile apps, too.)
  • Most are very easy to use.
  • Software is automatically updated by the solution providers (no need to purchase updates).
  • Cloud computing solutions are subscription based with a generally low monthly fee. (Payments are set up to process automatically. There’s no large upfront investment.)
  • Data is automatically backed up by the solution providers.
  • Data security is managed by the solution providers.

Disadvantages

  • Over time, paying for a monthly subscription may add up to more than buying desktop accounting software (which typically needs to be updated every four to five years).
  • Cloud accounting software may lack some of the capabilities desktop solutions provide.
  • They’re dependent on an internet connection. (If your internet connectivity is down, so is your ability to use the platform.)
  • You might not be able to make a backup of your data and export it or save it to your own computer. That could make it difficult to change to a different solution. (And if you decide to close your business, you might be stuck paying the monthly subscription so you can keep long-term records as required by the IRS.)

Want to learn more about the pros and cons of cloud-based accounting platforms?

Here are two articles that provide helpful insight:

The Best Cloud-Based Accounting Services for Small Business via PC Mag

Best Accounting Software for Small Business 2015 via Business News Daily

Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide which systems of bookkeeping and accounting will work best for you. But that doesn’t mean you couldn’t benefit from a little direction. As you’re setting up your business processes and exploring options, talk with a trusted accounting professional. Also, turn to a SCORE Maine mentor for guidance. SCORE provides mentoring for free. With practical knowledge about all aspects of starting and running a business, we have Certified mentors with the expertise and business experience to help you succeed.

3 Ways to Monitor Your Online Business Reputation

People are talking about your business—whether you’re aware of it or not.

According to the 2014 Global Customer Service Barometer by American Express and Ebiquity, people share their experiences with others face to face (54%), through company websites (50%), text messaging (49%), and social networks (46%) and consumer review sites (46%).

Even if you aren’t particularly active online, you can bet that customers will share their impressions of—and experiences with—your brand there.

While it might not seem fair, the reality is they’re more apt to share the bad and the ugly than they are the good.

In fact, the American Express and Ebiquity study found consumers are 2 times more likely to share their negative customer service experiences than they are to talk about positive experiences. “On average, consumers tell 8 people about their good experiences (15 in 2012; 9 in 2011), and over twice as many people about their bad experiences (21; 24 in 2012; 16 in 2011).”

Whether positive or negative, online mention of your company affects how others view your business.

That’s why it’s so important to monitor what’s being said about you.

How do you do that?

Here are a few free ways to tap into what people are saying about your brand:

Set Up Google Alerts.

Google Alerts is a tool that enables you to track mentions of you, your business, and your products by simply setting up notification criteria. In Google’s own words, “You can get email notifications any time that Google finds new results on a topic you’re interested in. For example, you could get updates about a product you like, find out when people post content about you on the web, or keep up with news stories.”

Use Social Mention.

Social Mention lets you enter keywords, phrases, names, Twitter handles, etc. and view where they were mentioned in content on social media networks, review sites, blogs, and more. It even assesses whether mentions are “positive,” “neutral,” or “negative.”

Stay Tuned Into Your Social Media Accounts And Blog.

Don’t neglect these things. They are likely to be one of the first places customers will let you know if they have a problem. If you ignore their requests for help or don’t acknowledge their complaints, your business will appear uncaring and apathetic. Social media and blog comments also bring opportunities, making it even more important to keep up with what’s happening there. If you don’t, you could miss out on addressing questions and requests for more information from prospective customers.

 As you strive to build and grow your small business into one customers will respect and trust, don’t underestimate the power that your online reputation holds. Ignoring what people are saying about your brand can do a lot of damage and prevent you from seizing opportunities to interact and generate goodwill. Keep in mind that what happens on the internet stays on the internet—and it’s there for all to see. That’s why it’s worth your time and effort to monitor and manage your online reputation.

Want expert guidance on starting and growing your business? Contact us about our FREE mentoring services!

7 Tips for Getting the Most from Mentoring

Working with a SCORE mentor can help you as you navigate the path of starting, managing, and growing a business. Mentors provide guidance, align you with resources, and share expertise in every aspect involved in entrepreneurship.

You get a lot of  engagement,  but to really benefit from your mentoring relationship you need to put effort into preparation for your meeting.

According to SCORE Maine Certified Mentor Bill Goodspeed, SCORE clients can get the most from working with a mentor by coming prepared and considering seven key activities.

  1. A concise description of your business or business idea.

Goodspeed says to include a concise statement of how you will add value. This is called a “value proposition” and is an important lynchpin for both communications with your mentor and the building of a business plan.

“Whether in a new business or existing business, I always say, ‘Genius is making the complex simple.’ It’s also critical for customer understanding and brand consistency and development.”

  1. Focus is everything..

“Many new clients are so passionate about their industry or idea that they try to do everything possible with the business,” explains Goodspeed. “Dilution can be death in business.”

He suggests to instead concentrate on the key elements and critical value proposition of the business. You have limited time and resources—so it’s important to use them wisely by retaining focus on what matters most.

  1. There is a time and place for giving back.

Many clients are extremely passionate about their communities and want to start giving back right away.

“While this is admirable, it is premature,” shares Goodspeed. “The best way to give back to a community is to make your business successful first.”

He advises putting your resources and energy into creating valuable products and services, which will translate into creating jobs and markets for suppliers.

“Once you are successful, you can contribute more to the community through various programs. However, it’s better to wait until you are successful.”

4.  Give your mentor(s) an opportunity to ask clarifying questions.

After you’ve provided information about your business and idea, your mentor will ask you questions to hone in on opportunities and issues, some you may no  have considered. This is an important step because it allows you to consider  new frameworks and/or possibilities for growth and improvement.

“Later, ask your questions and don’t be shy about it,” says Goodspeed.

  1. Be clear about what follow up work you should do as a result of the meeting and before the next session.

You will get a lot more out of your time with your SCORE mentor if you check your understanding about any action items you need to accomplish between meetings.

  1. Plan ahead and schedule the next meeting.

Goodspeed suggests scheduling a follow-up meeting on the spot before you finish your current meeting          with your mentor. “I recommend planning to meet again between three to four weeks out, depending on        the work that needs to be done in the interim.”

  1. Give plenty of advance notice if you need to reschedule a mentoring session.

“Mentors often travel to the SCORE office (or other meeting place that you’ve agreed upon) for the sole purpose of meeting with you,” explains Goodspeed.

To ensure your meeting can be rescheduled as soon as possible—and to respect your mentor’s time—communicate with your mentor immediately when you know you won’t be able to attend a scheduled session.

By following Goodspeed’s seven simple tips, you can make sure you’re getting the most from the time and expertise that SCORE mentors provide. A little preparation and focus will go a long way in ensuring you benefit fully from the insight and resources available from your SCORE mentor.

If you haven’t yet taken advantage of SCORE Maine’s free, confidential mentoring services, contact us for an appointment!

 

About Bill Goodspeed, SCORE Portland, Maine Mentor

William Goodspeed has been a SCORE mentor since spring of 2014. He is an expert in family-owned businesses, having considerable experience as family member, executive in family businesses, board member, and next generation developer. He is a fourth-generation member of the Huber family, which owns the J.M. Huber Corporation, a large international family company founded in 1883. Mr. Goodspeed serves on the board of Huber, as well as the boards of four other family-owned companies and on the Huber Family Education & Development Committee, whose mission is to develop fifth-generation Hubers for future roles as board members, executives and educated shareholders.

To devote time to family business, Mr. Goodspeed retired as Corporate Vice President of IDEXX Laboratories, a $1.2 billion worldwide leader in animal diagnostics and water testing. At IDEXX, Mr. Goodspeed managed three businesses: Livestock and Poultry Diagnostics, the world leader in farm animal diagnostics; Water, the world leader in testing for microbial contamination; and Dairy, the second largest producer of milk contamination tests.

Before IDEXX, Mr. Goodspeed held several positions in the J.M. Huber Corporation: Sector CEO of Natural Resources (Timber and Oil & Gas); President of Huber Wood Products (Engineered Woods and Timber). He joined Huber in 1994 as the Vice President of Strategy and Business Development.

Before Huber, Mr. Goodspeed was Executive Vice President of Pasona International, the international arm of Japan’s Pasona Group, then the largest human resource staffing firm in Japan.

Mr. Goodspeed was also a management consultant at McKinsey & Company and an attorney. He received a J.D. from the University of Michigan and a B.A. from Dartmouth College.

 

Can I Use that Image from the Web?

The use of images in your marketing efforts can help draw attention to and build interest in your products and services, and it can make your brand more memorable.

But unless you are a photographer, pay one to take professional photos for you, or are satisfied with solely using amateurish pictures from your smartphone, you’ll likely find yourself using images created by someone else who has shared them online.

No problem, right?

Actually, it could be a big problem if you’re not careful.

Most Online Photos Aren’t Fair Game

Just because a photo is on the Internet doesn’t mean it’s fair game to use in your own online communications. Using images without permission, without attribution, or without paying for them (or some combination of the three), could land you in trouble for infringing on copyright law.

According to the U.S. Copyright Office, “Copyright, a form of intellectual property law, protects original works of authorship including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software, and architecture.”

Photographs are protected by copyright law, and that gives creators the right to determine whether or not they can be re-used—and how they can be re-used—by others.

Creators of images don’t have to file anything legally to be protected by copyright law. While registration is needed to fully enforce rights of ownership, the creator doesn’t have to go through the process of registration to legally use the © to indicate an image is copyrighted.

And it’s important to know that if an image doesn’t have the copyright symbol associated with, it doesn’t mean it’s not protected.

 Do Your Homework Before Using A Photo That You Found Online

Before you use an image on your website, blog, social media, or in other marketing and advertising materials, it’s important to find the original source and find out if you can have license to use it. Some will allow you to use it for free with attribution (explicit credit given to the artist/owner of the work), while others might only allow use if you pay for it.

It’s well worth finding out the requirements before you download or save the image and use it for your own purposes. Penalties can be steep for copyright infringement, depending upon the particulars of a situation. They can range from $200 to $150,000.

Willful infringement typically results in higher penalties than unknowingly infringing on a copyright, but ignorance doesn’t get you off the hook.

That’s why it’s so very important to play it safe and ensure you know whether or not an image is OK to use.

Use Reputable Image Sources With Clear Guidelines

Luckily, there are a number of stock photography websites where the rules are clear about what you need to do to legally use the images available on them. Some allow you to download digital images on a transactional basis and others require you to subscribe to a plan.

Several that you may want to check out include:

Canva (Not only can you download professional images for $1 each, you can also create your own designs sized for blog graphics, various social media platforms, presentations, and posters.)

Freedigitalphotos.net (The Standard License allows you to use photos for free with attribution presented and placed according to their terms and conditions. Or you can purchase images in various sizes to use them without attribution.)

BIGSTOCK (Subscriptions for image plans start at $79 per month.)

Shutterstock (Options include “Pay As You Go” starting at $29 for two image downloads and monthly subscriptions for those with more robust needs.)

Morgue File (Provides photographs freely contributed by artists to be used in creative projects by visitors to the site. The site advises that before using images for business purposes, you should contact the photographers to ask permission and find out if and how they want attribution made.)

A Reminder

While it’s easy to download or copy images from any website or from Google Images, resist taking shortcuts. Remember, you could get slapped with a lofty fine, and even legal fees. When there are websites like those mentioned above and others, you have plenty of options to allow you to find and use images ethically and legally.

New Business StartUp Costs

While every entrepreneur knows starting and running a business isn’t free, not all realize the variety (or breadth) of costs that come into play. That’s not surprising considering all that’s involved. If you’ve never been down the road to entrepreneurship before, you don’t know what you don’t know. But lack of experience doesn’t mean you can’t educate yourself so you’re better prepared for the small business journey.

To get you started, here’s a checklist with some of the costs entrepreneurs face when starting and operating their companies.

Fixed Costs

Fixed (indirect) costs are those that are not affected by the volume of products or services you make or sell. They might change over time due to other factors (like vendor pricing, economy, etc.), but they’re not tied directly to your level of production or amount of sales.

EXAMPLES OF FIXED COSTS INCLUDE:

  • Rent or office mortgage
  • Insurance
  • Bookkeeping and accounting fees
  • Legal fees
  • Licenses and permits
  • Utilities and phone
  • Dues for memberships to professional organizations
  • Office equipment leases
  • Salaries
  • Marketing and advertising

Variable Costs

Variable (direct) costs are those that rise and fall as a direct result of your production and sales volumes. When production and sales increase, your costs increase. When production and sales decrease, your costs decrease.

EXAMPLES OF VARIABLE COSTS INCLUDE:

  • Raw materials to make a product
  • Inventory
  • Packaging supplies
  • Shipping expenses
  • Hourly wages associated with making a product
  • Sales commissions

Costs: A Major Consideration As You Explore The Feasibility Of Your Business Idea

As you’re determining the viability of your business idea, think carefully about the costs that will affect your company. Not devoting the time needed to determining costs can result in unwelcome surprises that could put your business model in jeopardy.

That may sound a bit overwhelming, but you don’t have to do it all alone. Consider asking for guidance from a SCORE mentor.

SCORE mentors can help you determine the fixed and variable costs your business will face. They can also help you identify how much you’ll have in startup costs to open your doors and ongoing operational and administrative expenses. Best of all, mentoring from SCORE is free of charge.

With over 6 locations  in Maine you can easily find a SCORE mentor near you.   SCORE can help with all aspects of starting and running a business. Mentors can meet with you face to face or over the phone, or  via email.

Buying A Business? Don’t Throw Away Your Advantage

There are numerous advantages to buying a “going concern” that can make it less risky than a start-up endeavor. A few of those elements:

  • Systems are in place. You don’t need to create policies & procedures for a successful operating business.
  • Known market and customer base. Unlike a start-up you will have a solid understanding of sales based on past and current performance and a built in customer base.
  • Proven cash-flow. It may be easier to secure bank financing for a “going-concern” and you know you’ll have cash flow for income and debt service.
  • Trained employees. Buying a business means you have trained and knowledgeable employees that can help you integrate into the operation.

If you are a seller, keep in mind that these are real reasons that people would buy your business. If you are a buyer, don’t lose sight that these factors can greatly reduce your risks. Unfortunately, as a broker, a SCORE Mentor and business consultant, too often I’ve seen Buyers acquire businesses and then immediately throw away these inherent advantages! How do they do it?

  1. Fire or replace key employees. Some new owners may feel threatened by existing employees. They may feel that employees are too “loyal” to the previous owner or have better relationships with other employees or trade contacts. A new owner may believe they are asserting their authority by “cleaning house”, but the loss of experienced employees could have a negative impact on the business.
  2. Cut costs or strangle working capital. The strategy of cutting costs or expenses seems an accepted tactic to improve profitability but may have a negative effect on customer service, operations or employee morale. While a business acquisition may represent a large financial investment, prudent analysis of costs is required, not a knee-jerk cost cutting strategy. Profitability can be increased not just be reducing expenses; you can also increase sales to current customers, add products or services or generate new customers.
  3. New owner is not “in the store”. Most businesses are “Main Street” operations and the owner needs to be in the store! Period. If you are looking for a passive investment you should consider stocks or bonds.
  4. Over-leveraged acquisition. Too much debt can drain your businesses cash-flow, impede your ability to grow or react to market changes and delay needed investment. Money is cheap, so now may be a good time to borrow, but make sure the business isn’t hampered by burdensome debt.
  5. Pay too much for the business. For individuals, acquiring a business may be an emotional decision. If you are excited about an opportunity you may be willing to pay a premium or overlook normal valuation models. It’s frustrating to see hard working entrepreneurs acquire the right business but never have a chance to succeed because they paid far more than the business is worth. Buyers should understand basic business valuation before committing to an acquisition. As a quick gut check, the verifiable business cashflow should be enough to pay you a RoL (Return on Labor or fair market salary for your work), debt service (70% of price, principal and interest) and still have cash remaining for reserves for replacement and other capital expenditures.  If you have to work in the business for 5 years without taking a paycheck just to make debt payments you probably need to review the price, terms and structure of the deal.

Don’t let these common mistakes derail an otherwise great acquisition!

Manage Your Time Effectively

Small business owners and solopreneurs are eternally challenged to get the most done with the limited time available. With responsibility for all aspects of their businesses, using time—or not using it—as wisely as possible can mean the difference between success and failure.

If you or someone you know is struggling to keep up with all there is to do in managing a business, adopting some good time management habits can help.

Time Management Tips For Small Business Owners And Solopreneurs

Say Goodbye To Multitasking

Unlike the word implies, “multitasking” doesn’t help you get multiple tasks done more quickly. In fact, studies have shown that it kills focus and people get less done, not more, when they attempt to multitask.

Prioritize Effectively

This may seem like stating the obvious, but it’s easy to get distracted from doing what’s most important  when you’ve got a long list of to-dos. Consider deadlines and the financial impact projects and tasks will have as you decide which should get your attention first.

Reserve Time

Intentionally dedicating time on your calendar for projects and tasks will help you stick to your priorities and meet deadlines. It can also help you better identify when you’re over-committing.

Outsource When It Makes Sense

Speaking of which, another way to avoid over-committing is to outsource tasks that are keeping you from revenue-producing activities and that don’t specifically require you to complete them. Examples might include bookkeeping, writing and/or proofreading, social media, data entry, etc. Outsourcing work to an independent contractor or agency for even a few hours a month can help prevent you from getting overwhelmed.

Try A Tried-And-True Time Management Technique

Practicing the Pomodoro Technique or something similar to improve mental acuity could also help you make your time more productive.  It involves breaking the time you work into a series of short intervals intermixed with short rest periods. The premise behind it is that you’ll stay more fully focused and not allow interruptions when on task because you’ll have set periods (held true by using a timer) of work and rest.

As the new year is upon us, now is an excellent time to gauge your time management skills. Did lack of productivity and organization hold you and your business back this past year? If yes, perhaps it’s time to pick up some new habits in 2015.

If you need a little guidance,  you can always meet and talk with a SCORE mentor. Through our free mentoring services and one-on-one coaching, we’re here to help small business owners navigate the many challenges of entrepreneurship.

Happy New Year!

How to Use # Hashtags

Although hashtags are seen on nearly every social media channel and promoted on just about every TV show, they still confound many small business owners. Marketers everywhere are using them to amplify their brand awareness, but how can they benefit your small business?

Hashtag Basics

According to Wikipedia, “a hashtag is a word or an unspaced phrase prefixed with the hash character, #, to form a label.”

Hashtags help people identify what specific pieces of online content are about. By categorizing content, hashtags make it easier for readers to search for and find social media posts focused on the topics they have an interest in.

Where To Use Hashtags

Most major social media platforms give people the ability to search using hashtags to find relevant posts. They include:
• Twitter (the network that introduced us to hashtags)
• Facebook
• Pinterest
• Google Plus
• Instagram
• YouTube

When you click on a hashtag on these networks, you’re taken to a list of posts that have used that hashtag and presumably contain content related to the topic.

How can you use hashtags to drive more traffic to your social media posts? Here are a few ideas:

  • Include hashtags associated with keywords related to your industry, products, and services (for example: #jewelry or #lawncare) in your posts. First search on the social media platform to make sure you’ve selected a hashtag others are using to categorize posts. If you use a hashtag no one else is using, it won’t help you.
  • Use business and location hashtags together to help people find you. For example: #PortlandME #restaurants.
  • Create a hashtag for a special event you’re hosting, a marketing campaign, or your brand. But be careful when using hashtags for branding and promotional purposes. Look on Hashtags.org or Twubs.com and search on social networks and on search engines (such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo) to see if a hashtag might already be in use by another company. Using a hashtag already associated with another brand will potentially confuse people, and you might find yourself in legal hot water. As legal protections for hashtags representing brands are a mounting concern, consider consulting an attorney who’s knowledgeable about social media before creating and using a hashtag to promote your business or event.

A Few Other Hashtag Tips

When using hashtags in your social media posts, keep these best practices in mind:

  • Don’t use too many hashtags at once. One or two is best. Three is OK, but don’t go beyond that. More makes posts look cluttered—and a bit desperate for attention.
  • Place hashtags at the end of your posts rather than mixed into the main message. Posts with hashtags in the middle of their sentences are harder to read because the flow of words is interrupted with the #.
  • Don’t use hashtags that aren’t relevant to the content in your post. You’ll disappoint—and maybe even anger readers—if you use a popular hashtag to draw attention to a post that has nothing to do with the topic.

#Finalthought

It may take some time and trial and error to learn to use hashtags effectively, but they’re worth the effort because they can help you expand awareness of your small business and draw more of your target audience to you.