How tiny Fairfield, Iowa, became a micro-business capital

When the COVID-19 crisis hit, Jim Masterson had to figure out how to massage a horse online.

For more than a decade, Masterson and his wife, Conley, have been the go-to experts for equine performance bodywork.

If your show horse got sore after a jumping competition, you could attend a workshop with a Masterson instructor to learn how to release the horse’s muscle tension through the unique Masterson Method.

The pandemic put a stop to the instructor visits and forced the Mastersons to think creatively about their business model and the horses they’ve dedicated their lives to helping.

Fortunately, they had access to an entire community of creative and like-minded entrepreneurs.

Based in the Corn Belt city of Fairfield, Iowa, the Mastersons are part of an entrepreneurial Shangri-La. The 10,425-person city, about 115 miles southeast of Des Moines, is home to a large number of small, internet-based micro-businesses that are emerging as a powerful driver of the U.S. economy and an important source of local economic resilience.

According to data that GoDaddy is compiling through a research initiative called Venture Forward, which studies the 20 million websites with domain names registered with the company, Fairfield has 18.11 of these ventures per 100 people. That’s nearly six times the average “venture density” of U.S. cities. GoDaddy’s research project has found that communities with higher venture density have lower unemployment and higher median income growth. They also bounce back better from economic downturns.

Fairfield made a strong recovery from the Great Recession of 2008.

Its prosperity score, a measure that looks at a range of economic factors, increased by 8 points in the years following the financial crisis compared with a 0.7 point increase for the country as a whole.

More recently, unemployment in the greater Fairfield area jumped in April, but at 9.4% it was still well below the national average of 14.7%.

“Having a strong entrepreneurial class of small agile businesses helps Fairfield not only survive, but thrive in fast-changing economies,” says Burt Chojnowski, the longtime president of the Fairfield Entrepreneurs Association.

People in Fairfield are confident in their community’s resilience in spite of the pandemic, even if some micro-businesses fail, he says. “People around here realize that a failed business isn’t a failure. It’s compost,” which provides everything from new wisdom to cheap office space and furniture for someone else.

Statistically speaking, Fairfield has many of the hallmarks of other cities with high venture density.

More than 30% of its residents have a bachelor’s degree. Three-quarters of households have a high-speed internet subscription, including more than half of households with income below $20,000 per year, according to government statistics. It has a diversified economy, with several large companies that employ thousands of people.

But the driving force behind the town’s economy is what Chojnowski calls an entrepreneurial peer-to-peer network. Like many others, Masterson tapped the experience of others in his community to learn the basics of bookkeeping and marketing and turn his passion for helping horses into a viable business, he says.

Now, like many Fairfield micro-businesses, the Mastersons are using the web to reposition themselves for a fast-changing future.

For example, they are expanding their customer base to anyone willing to pay for an online subscription of either $20 or $40 a month. Among other things, that gives access to Facebook Live events, where Jim answers questions as horse owners watch a prerecorded video (shot by Conley) of him giving a certain type of massage. “It’s like a Zoom call,” says Masterson, “but with a horse.”

Related: Online micro-businesses can be an easy economic win for local governments

Such inventiveness has been baked into Fairfield’s soil from the start.

Some of its earlier denizens became famous for creating category-making companies, from industrial agriculture equipment to infomercial production.

Starting in the late 1970s, young people began arriving by the micro-bus load to study transcendental meditation at what’s now called the Maharishi International University, founded by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (who had taught the Beatles to meditate).

Before long, many of these new, idealistic arrivals were running out of money.

“We were a bunch of energetic young hippies who wanted to stay in the community, but didn’t want to be pig farmers or cashiers at Walmart,” says Eric Rusch, who arrived in 1979 and would go on, nearly three decades later, to launch the online home-baking business, Breadtopia.

Like Rusch, many of these meditation devotees started their own companies, from computer magazines to petroleum brokerages to accounting services. The TM philosophy magnified whatever was already in the air. Many locals credit their Yogi’s can-do teachings (“You will be rewarded 10,000 times over spiritually and materially”) for much of their later successes.

When the internet emerged in the mid-1990s, Fairfield was ready.

A few entrepreneurs quickly formed Internet Service Providers to deliver dial-up service; two decades later, it was one of the first towns to have high-speed fiber connectivity in homes.

When Burt Chojnowski arrived from the West Coast 20 years ago, he began advertising a Silicon Valley-style boot camp for internet entrepreneurs. He was shocked when 120 people showed up. By 1997, Wired had dubbed the area “Silicorn Valley.”

Chojnowski, of the Fairfield Entrepreneurs Association, says that over a third of the town’s workforce is self-employed and runs one or more micro-businesses, in large part because there are trusted sources of everything from marketing advice to start-up capital.

There’s even a newsletter by longtime resident Hal Goldstein, who arrived in town in 1979 to study meditation and now teaches entrepreneurship at Maharishi International University, called “The Meditating Entrepreneurs,” to share the collective wisdom.

He’s also published a companion book, “Meditating Entrepreneurs: Creating Success from the Stillness Within.”

Fairfield’s ventures share common attributes. Many were bootstrapped from personal savings or started with a few thousand dollars borrowed from friends and family.

And while there have been blockbuster success stories — one local who had failed at tofu and appliance businesses shocked his neighbors by selling his online marketing firm booksarefun.com to Readers Digest for $380 million in 1999 — many Fairfield entrepreneurs view their companies as lifestyle businesses.

They’re more likely to give away free instructional videos in order to build loyal followings than look to monetize every last minute of effort. “Plodding along, that’s my MO,” says Rusch, the Breadtopia CEO

The venture-generating flywheel hasn’t slowed down. Kenzie Wacknov decided during the pandemic to turn her hobby of sculpting and painting animal skulls into a business. She’s now selling her art to people who find her online.

For Rusch, the wide reach of the web has presented a new challenge. The formerly “energetic young hippie” who started selling bread-making tools, ingredients and “starter” dough to DIYers back in 2006, had been planning to hand over the business to his stepson. Instead, COVID-19 has given rise to a shelter-in-place sourdough craze as novices try their hands at it.

Retirement, it seems, will have to wait for the 65-year-old. Says Rusch, “For now, it’s a hold-on-to-your-hat kind of thing.”

The post How tiny Fairfield, Iowa, became a micro-business capital appeared first on GoDaddy Blog.

Four policy pillars that will encourage online micro-businesses

As the U.S. rides out the COVID-19 pandemic’s economic storm, one often overlooked group has emerged as critical ballast for local communities: online micro-businesses.

As stay-at-home orders crippled economies, 44% of these micro-businesses moved more of their business to the internet, ramping up their e-commerce efforts and other digital offerings. By the end of July, less than 2% of them had closed permanently. It’s little surprise then that communities with more micro-businesses lost fewer low-income jobs at the peak of the crisis

These results come from the Venture Forward initiative, a multiyear research project that looks at the economic impact of the 20 million websites with domain names registered with GoDaddy. Three-quarters of these ventures are commerce-driven micro-businesses. The rest are community, civic or hobby-based sites.

Working with academic partners, Venture Forward has found:

  • Micro-businesses create jobs. Economists at UCLA Anderson Forecast determined that there’s a causal impact between the number of ventures in a community and the number of employment opportunities, both full-time and part-time. This remains true even after controlling for 16 other economic growth factors, such as the presence of a successful local company or an inordinate number of people with graduate degrees.
  • Counties with more ventures per 100 people — a measure called venture density — have lower unemployment and recovered better from the Great Recession of 2008. 
  • Adding one highly active venture that has more links, traffic and features like payment portals per 100 people can increase a county’s average household income by 10%, or more than $400 over a two-year period. 

“Just adding a few ventures per 100 people, even if they’re small, has a significant impact,” says Karen Mossberger, a professor at the University of Arizona and one of GoDaddy’s academic research partners on the Venture Forward project.

Digital micro-businesses have been providing these economic benefits without much help from policymakers. For instance, during the pandemic, only 24% applied for Payroll Protection Program loans from the federal government, according to a GoDaddy survey of 2,330 micro-business operators conducted in July.

About 70% of small businesses applied, according to the National Federation of Independent Business

Related: Online micro-businesses can be an easy economic win for local governments

“It’s in the interest of communities for local governments to help people get the resources they need to be successful,” says Mossberger. “And it’s low-hanging fruit, in terms of the amount of investment this requires.”

Here are four ways policymakers can help.

Access to micro-loans for micro-businesses

Most micro-businesses require very little start-up capital. According to the recent GoDaddy survey, 46% needed less than $5,000 in funding to get off the ground. But that doesn’t mean they don’t need financial help to grow.

In fact, more micro-business operators (33%) identify access to capital as the No. 1 resource they need to be able to grow right now. More than half said it was one of the top three things local governments should work on to help micro-businesses succeed.

Some credit unions are hoping to fill the void. According to a recent report by pymnts.com, a news site devoted to the payments industry, 41% of credit unions plan to add features specifically geared to micro-businesses over the next three years.

In Oregon, for example, four local credit unions plan to offer individual micro-business loans of between $2,500 and $12,500.

Municipalities are also stepping up. In Denison, Texas, local leaders, inspired by GoDaddy’s research data, created an e-commerce accelerator. It has awarded grants of up to $6,000 to 10 local businesses to help them establish an online presence or expand existing efforts.

“We had to figure out what we could do as a community to help them become more active online and market resilient,” Matt Looney, chairman of the Denison Development Agency, said while announcing the grants. “The accelerator program provided new arrows to the business quiver.” 

One recipient of the Denison grants is Tamie Odom, an artist and owner of Sparrows Gallery.

Since opening in 2015, she’d sold art and art supplies, and hosted classes and free community events. Odom was forced to close her store for three months as a result of the pandemic and was thinking of shutting down permanently. Then she heard about the grant program; the extra funds helped change her mind.

“When you’re ready to close the doors and suddenly get all this support, it’s like manna from heaven,” says Odom, who is using the funds to update her gallery’s website with much-improved e-commerce capabilities and to do her first serious online-advertising campaign.

Now, she’ll be able to expand sales around the world, in time for the crucial winter holiday season.

“I think we’ll meet or exceed our revenues for last year, even though we’ve only been open for three months,” she says.

Skills training and marketing support to get the word out

Micro-business operators also cite skills training as a top need. And while there are a variety of technical areas where they could use help, one area stands out: marketing. In the GoDaddy survey, 31% rank marketing as their biggest challenge to either starting or growing their company.

Almost half said that local policymakers could help by providing marketing support.

That support can take many forms. It can be from teaching the basics of brand-building to how to execute a sophisticated social-networking campaign. “It’s amazing what you can take away from a 30-minute conversation” with a marketing professional, says Jim Masterson, who attended bimonthly classes at a local community college with his wife as they were building a business around his unique method for massaging show horses.

While entrepreneurs can find programs to help them write a business plan or apply for a loan, getting help carving out a niche in the crowded online world is rare. Only a quarter of private-sector programs aimed at micro-business entrepreneurs include classes on sales and marketing, according to Stacy Cline, GoDaddy’s director of corporate responsibility and sustainability.

Targeted government programs can help close the skills gap, in marketing and other fronts.

In Gilbert, Arizona, a 260,000-person suburb southeast of Phoenix, the Office of Economic Development has initiated several policies to support micro-businesses. It has extended a public-private partnership that provides marketing funds to small businesses to also include ventures, as well as a pilot program to offer technical assistance and training.

The town is also looking at ways to help micro-businesses network with financial backers, suppliers and local media influencers.

Related: How Gilbert, Arizona, found economic resilience in 35,000 micro-businesses

Broaden the broadband

For years now, policymakers have understood that broadband internet availability generally improves the health of local and national economies, driving job creation and boosting gross domestic product.

Now, GoDaddy’s academic partners at the UCLA Anderson Forecast have found a correlation between the availability of affordable broadband and the number of micro-businesses in a community. Specifically, a $1 decrease in the price of the cheapest available broadband plan is associated with a 1.4% increase in the number of ventures. 

“The cheaper you can get an extra 25 megs, the more ventures there will be.” ~Leila Bengali, economist, UCLA Anderson Forecast

Most public support for broadband deployment comes from the federal government, such as the recently approved, $20.4 billion Rural Digital Opportunity fund. That fund, according to a report by the advocacy group Broadband Now, can help provide broadband to the nation’s estimated 42 million households that don’t yet have it.

But the lack of actual connectivity is only one element of the problem.

Even when service is available, it may be too expensive or the venture owner may lack the technical comfort level to put it to use. The UCLA team is also studying how the availability of software tools can make it easier for micro-business owners to create, monitor and improve their sites. 

“We should be having more of a policy argument about how to create more broadband assets to help micro-businesses,” says William Yu, a veteran economist on the Anderson Forecast team and a professor at the UCLA Anderson School of Management. “That’s the right direction for the 21st century.”  

Rising interest in flexible benefit

It’s risky starting any business, no matter the cost. However, it’s even riskier if forced to do so without the traditional safety net of a benefits package. That means things like paid leave, employer-sponsored health care, retirement contributions and disability insurance. 

The issue is crucial for micro-businesses: 28% of GoDaddy’s survey respondents ranked health and other benefits — both for themselves and for their employees — as one of the top three issues that policymakers could take on to help micro-businesses like theirs be successful. More than half (54%) of micro-business operators are sole proprietors, according to the survey.

Currently, 25% rely on their business as their main source of income. But roughly a quarter of the 35% who say their venture provides supplemental income today hope to make it their main business in the future. 

The most discussed solutions are so-called portable benefits. The Aspen Institute, which has studied the issue, has outlined a plan: Workers would own their benefits and take them from job to job; companies would make contributions to a worker’s benefits plan based on how much he or she works for them; and benefits would cover independent workers, not just traditional employees.

There are some signs of movement on this front. In July, members of the Senate Finance Committee introduced legislation to establish a $500 million emergency portable benefits fund for states.

It would require the U.S. Department of Labor to administer the funds to states to assist them with setting up a portable benefits program for independent workers.

States like California, Washington, New Jersey, and New York are also considering some form of a portable benefits plan.

As the Aspen Institute noted in a 2016 study, “We should ensure that all workers, regardless of employment classification, have affordable access to a safety net that protects them when they are sick, injured, and when it is time to retire.”

The more local, the better

Regardless of the many challenges facing micro-businesses, experts agree that local governments are best equipped to help.

That’s because many of their problems require the help of the hands-on variety, from how to get necessary permits or help finding affordable office space.

Of course, local policymakers face many problems they can’t fix — say, U.S. healthcare reform, or budget constraints that prevent ambitious grant programs. But they can help in other ways, such as by creating networking opportunities for micro-business owners to connect with potential investors and partners, or awards programs to celebrate local success stories and their contribution to the community. 

“Local governments can’t solve many of the problems venture owners face,” says ASU’s Karen Mossberger, “but they can and should be a voice for them.”

The post Four policy pillars that will encourage online micro-businesses appeared first on GoDaddy Blog.

How and why to host virtual parties for ecommerce businesses

Like any business, the key to success in selling your products in an ecommerce business is building relationships. If you have been looking for a way to connect with more customers, it might be a good idea to host virtual parties to generate interest and excitement in your business.

In this post, we’ll explore how and why you should implement virtual parties for ecommerce businesses into your strategy so you can make more money and build your fanbase.

Getting started with a successful virtual party

Virtual parties have become a popular sales method thanks to social media platforms, like Facebook and Instagram. Anyone can do a Facebook Live and invite people from around the world to get together and sell products. It’s the modern version of the classic Tupperware party.

But hosting a virtual party for your ecommerce business requires more than a sales pitch. Including games and prizes, as well as fun ways to show off your products or services and encourage shopping.

No matter your product, virtual parties for ecommerce businesses are a great way to connect with more people all over the world.

Why you should host virtual parties

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we shop and do business. Not everyone is comfortable going into stores, some businesses have moved online entirely, and large gatherings still are not recommended. With those factors, virtual parties might be a great option for ecommerce businesses. And better yet, a virtual party broadens your reach. Your customers are no longer limited to local traffic. They can come from anywhere.

Just a few of the benefits of virtual parties for ecommerce businesses include but aren’t limited to:

Building excitement about your products

Brush and candle on table with greenery
Photo: Adam Winger on Unsplash

People like to see things before they buy them. Showing them how to use it, what it looks like from multiple angles, and (if it’s a wearable item) how it looks on different skin tones can generate more interest in the products.

Less pressure on your customers

Unlike in-person events, you don’t feel the guilt associated with not making a purchase. This gives your buyers more time to consider if they actually want the things you are selling. As a result, if they do buy it means they really wanted it, and are more likely to tell their friends about it once they receive it.

Create promo items once and use them over and over again

You can use the same images and promotional materials for multiple parties, and repurpose for self-promotion across all social media channels and your website. Put in the work once or twice, and you can host as many virtual parties for your ecommerce business as you want to.

How to host virtual parties

If you’re now ready to host virtual parties, good call. It’s not as hard as it might sound. Let’s look at the process, step by step:

Choose the platform you will host your virtual parties on

A popular platform for many of the parties I’ve seen is Facebook. You can create a private pop-up group for your events, make announcements, and share information without having to worry as much about trolls and party crashers. However, I’ve also seen virtual parties held via Zoom, on Twitter as Tweetchat events, and even on Skype.

Consider a theme and name for your event

This just adds an element of fun to virtual parties for ecommerce businesses, and it can help you in the development of marketing materials, as well as coming up with prizes and games.

Creating a name for your event is also a good idea so that you can document how it went and refer back for future events.

For example, if you want to remember that the Wine Wednesday event on Facebook was popular, you can jot down some notes about what made it so successful to replicate it.

Pro tip: Always document your events and take notes about how they went! When you track your progress, you can capitalize on what works and change what doesn’t for future events and sales promotions.

Send invites

Computer on desk with envelope and plant
Photo: Campaign Creators on Unsplash

Once you know where you’re hosting the party, the time, and the theme, it becomes easier to create and send your invitations. Evenings and weekends are probably going to be the easiest for your attendees to show up. But don’t be discouraged if people don’t show up. We’ll get to how to handle that in a moment.

Be sure to have a start and end time for your event. Keep it to under three hours for best results. Finally, consider offering a 24 hour period for purchases with any special discounts expiring at the end of that period.

You can even offer tiered discounts such as 25% off if you purchase during the party, 15% within 12 hours after the party and 10% in the last 12 hours before you close the party group.

Related: How to use discounts and coupons to increase eCommerce revenue

Decide on your space and product offerings

The more decisions you can make before your event, the better. Sure, there will be some things you will have to consider on the fly (at least your first few times), but the more things you can think about to have an answer for ahead of time, the more smoothly the event will go.

Some things to ask yourself:

  • Where will you sit?
  • What will be in the background?
  • What products are you spotlighting for sale?
  • How will you share them? (i.e. do you need to take product pictures or can you get product pictures from the manufacturer if you’re a third-party seller?)
  • Will you be giving any discounts for purchases made when you host virtual parties?
  • Do you need to build a special page on your website for the event? And can you repurpose any of your current materials for the event?

Set up your video conference room and space for the event

Test your setup before you host virtual parties.

It’s a good idea to have a dress rehearsal beforehand to make sure your audio and video works.

If you have a friend who can be on the test run with you to listen and view from an attendee’s perspective, even better.

  • Write a script so that you know what you want to say, and have an agenda to stick to.
  • Have all your materials close by and all images in one designated party folder (preferably with detailed descriptive titles) so that if you are doing a live video you can hold products up or share the images quickly and easily without too many hiccups.
  • It’s also a good idea to have all product descriptions nearby and in a document that you can copy and paste from to address any questions you may have throughout your party. Bonus points if you have a website with FAQs you can direct your attendees to.

Related: FAQ page: Benefits, best practices and examples

Offer other methods of live engagement

In addition to live video, you can offer live chats, questions and answers, trivia, polls, etc.

For example, if you host your event on Facebook you could have attendees add specific emojis and give prizes for the people who add the most comments or answer the most questions.

Give incentives for people to invite their friends

This could be a free sample or product, or an extra percentage off their order. Think of all the ways that you can do to encourage attendance from invitees as well as friends and family of your invitees.

Consider having a co-host to help out

Having an extra person to help answer questions, poll attendees or monitor chats can go a long way in making the event run more smoothly.

Find a reason to get contact information

Regardless of the platform you host your virtual parties on, you need to get the contact information of everybody who attends your event.

The biggest reason? You own your list. That’s your way to reach out to people long after it ends, and without it you may never hear from them again.

Conclusion and next steps

Eventually, it will be party time. Take a deep breath, dive in and have fun. You’ve done the prep work, and you know how amazing your products are. Now is your time to let them shine. Keep it lighthearted and enjoy your time with your new potential customers.

Engage with your attendees, and focus on connecting with them more than pushing the sale.

Once it’s over, give yourself an assessment of how the event went. What worked? What didn’t? What would you like to repeat, and what do you want to eliminate from future events? Then, continue connecting with the attendees.

Keep cultivating the relationships. Ask for feedback and see what they think worked well?

Hopefully, it will be such a success that you will soon prepare for your next event. After all, with virtual parties for ecommerce businesses, the possibilities for fun, connection, and profit are endless.

The post How and why to host virtual parties for ecommerce businesses appeared first on GoDaddy Blog.

Advanced ecommerce features to consider for your online store

Starting an online store is just the beginning. Once you get into the groove of marketing your store and handling orders, it’s time to consider adding advanced ecommerce features, so you can sell more products and increase your profits.

In this post, we’re going to cover advanced e-commerce features you should consider adding to your store.

Advanced e-commerce features to consider

Going beyond the basics and adding advanced features to your store will help you improve your customers’ experience and sell more products. Here are seven advanced e-commerce features to consider adding to your online store.

  1. Reporting tools
  2. Integrated blog
  3. Abandoned cart recovery
  4. Advanced search and filtering options
  5. Mobile-optimized checkout
  6. Integrated social media and SEO
  7. Video or 3D product demos

Not sure which of these advanced e-commerce features will give you the biggest bang for your buck? Get the details on all of them to help you decide which upgrades could have the greatest impact on your business.

1. Reporting tools

One of the first things you should add to your store is reporting tools.

This includes not only traffic analytics that show you how your customers are finding you, but also store analytics that tell you what your customers are buying.

By adding powerful reporting tools, you’ll be able to see which of your products are doing well, which orders are pending, the state of your inventory, and more. They will also allow you to stay on top of your store and avoid running out of stock or stocking up on the wrong category of products.

2. Integrated blog

If you’re not blogging for your online store, it’s high time to get on that bandwagon.

Blogging is one of the easiest ways to promote your store while providing your customers with tons of value.

You can create posts that talk about the behind-the-scenes process of your product creation, share customer stories, and show how your product is meant to be used or cared for.

You can also create gift guides and link to the products in your store. An active blog gives search engines more opportunities to index your online store, which increases your chances of showing up in search results.

3. Abandoned cart recovery

Shopping cart alone in a parking lot
Photo: David Clarke on Unsplash

Cart abandonment is one of the worst problems for every online store owner. While you can’t completely eliminate it, there are ways to reduce it. Simply by setting up abandoned cart email reminders, you can remind customers about the products they left in their cart.

You can send reminders out on a schedule, and offer a special coupon or a deal to encourage them to come back and complete the purchase.

4. Advanced search and filtering options

It goes without saying that your store should include a search bar and product filters. However, there are ways to improve on both of those.

For example, a live search that suggests products as the user types is more effective than a static search bar that returns a list of dozens of products.

Offering the ability to filter not only by size and color but also by brand or material is another smart way to add more advanced filtering options and make it easy for your customers to find the exact product that they want.

5. Mobile-optimized checkout

With more than 50% of all internet traffic coming from mobile devices, successful online stores understand that having a mobile-optimized checkout is a must.

A few tips to keep in mind when it comes to optimizing your online checkout process for mobile users include:

  • Confirm that your form fields are large enough to type on smaller screens
  • Ensure that form fields trigger the correct keyboard
  • Don’t ask for unnecessary information
  • Use a larger size for your buttons and calls-to-action
  • Offer a variety of payment options such as Apple Pay and Google Pay

Related: WordPress ecommerce — Everything you need to know

6. Integrated social media and SEO

Social media app icons on smartphone
Photo: dole777 on Unsplash

Having sharing buttons on individual product pages makes it easy to drive more traffic to your store. Take it to the next level by adding an even deeper integration with social media. Connect your Facebook page to your store to make it easy for Facebook users to buy from you.

You can also set up Instagram Shopping so your Instagram followers can go directly to your product page and check out.

Plan to devote some time to your store’s SEO to ensure your product titles, page titles, product descriptions, and images are optimized for search engines as well. This will help you show up in search results when someone looks for products you sell or products similar to yours.

Related: Beginner’s SEO guide: Search engine optimization for small business websites

7. Video or 3D product demos

Finally, consider adding video and 3D product demos to your store.

One of the biggest drawbacks of online shopping is not being able to see or touch the product in person.

By adding video or 3D product demos, you’ll bridge this gap and make it easier for your customers to visualize what they’re buying.

Videos enable you to show how other customers are using your products while 3D demos allow customers to see the product from all angles. Both options make the decision to purchase easier—and help you sell more.

Next steps

In this article, we’ve covered advanced ecommerce features you should consider adding to your store.

Features like reporting tools, integrated blog, abandoned cart recovery, and others will help you increase your bottom line and make it easier to drive organic traffic to your store, so you can spend less on advertising.

If you’re ready to upgrade your store — or you’re looking to start an online store — checkout GoDaddy Online Store. Get started today for free, import up to 5,000 products, and launch a successful online store.

Happy selling!

The post Advanced ecommerce features to consider for your online store appeared first on GoDaddy Blog.

CSAM: A good month to discuss website security with clients

Cybersecurity Awareness Month isn’t a marketing gambit. Now in its 17th year, CSAM is a collab between government agencies and industry leaders, created to raise awareness and provide resources to further a safer internet. People like web designers and developers should look at CSAM as an opportunity to discuss website security with clients.

It’s a conversation that many of us in this creative sphere aren’t keen on having.

Some might argue that, technically, website security isn’t their problem. (They already delivered the thing.) But it’s important to understand that low-hanging fruit supports an ecosystem where bad actors can thrive. We don’t need them trashing up the internet, a place where everyone is already hustling to make a living.

Web professionals should make sure clients understand what website security is, the risks that are out there, and who’s handling what.

Ready to rip off that Band-Aid? Don’t stress. Let’s walk through this together.

Getting the CSAM conversation started

Ideally, the topic of website security comes up naturally, say, during a routine phone call or Zoom meeting. If it doesn’t, you might need a proactive approach (before CSAM ends). Here’s a short email template you could use to set up a discussion this month:

Subject:

It’s Cybersecurity Awareness Month. Got a sec to talk?

Preview:

In the spirit of Cybersecurity Awareness Month, let’s go over a few important points about staying safe online.

Body:

Hi <name>,

You’re looking great online, but have we talked about securing your web presence? October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month and a great time to discuss methods for thwarting bad actors.

Please let me know if you’re available for a quick conversation. I look forward to it!

Best,

<name>

When you have that talk, make sure clients understand and use, at a bare minimum, these website security must-haves:

  • Backups — If a website gets hacked, backups let you roll back to an uninfected version of the site. While backups aren’t the solution for every type of hack, they’re a head start toward recovery and often included with hosting plans.
  • Strong passwords & 2FA — Seems obvious, but weak passwords are a popular attack vector for hackers. Make sure clients understand how to create and manage strong passwords, and then set up two-factor authentication (2FA).
  • Security scanning — Knowing a site is hacked lets you more quickly get started with remediation, preventing further damage. There are many remote scanners available for free, while server-side scanners look deeper into a site’s files and databases.

Website security might not be your specialty, yet having this discussion is the right thing to do by your clients. But what if it leads to a client requesting that you handle website security for them? It’s not as difficult as you might imagine.

How to protect your clients’ sites

If you’ve already signed up for GoDaddy Pro, you’re on the right track. It’s built from the ground up to help professionals like you manage clients’ websites and all the tasks that arise on a day-to-day basis.

3 reasons to check out GoDaddy Pro for security

If you haven’t signed up yet, here are three big reasons to take a close look at how GoDaddy Pro makes it easier to manage secure websites:

  1. Scans are automated for all your sites. GoDaddy Pro includes regular security scans of every website you add. That means huge peace of mind for you, because you don’t need to continuously schedule and monitor scans.
  2. Running updates becomes a cinch. Bulk Safe Updates from GoDaddy Pro lets you run updates for any websites that need them, from one dashboard. No more logging in and out of every client’s website. No more worrying about out-of-date components.
  3. Passwords remain secure and hassle free. You can also manage passwords for all your websites from that same dashboard, simply by logging in once to your GoDaddy Pro account. Your own logins get additional protection from two-factor authentication.

SSL is not the end of the conversation

With all the talk today about search engines moving toward SSL as a requirement, clients might think it’s all they need to protect their websites. When you have that conversation with them, be sure to explain that while SSL does encrypt the data exchanged between a website and visitors, it does not protect the website itself.

Locking down security for clients’ websites

Everything we’ve discussed up to this point should help you breathe easier, knowing your clients have a degree of protection for their websites. But there are still a couple things that merit consideration for any type of web presence, large or small:

  • Website firewall — The beauty of a website firewall is that it’s continually updated to be able to identify and block even the latest threats. It can also act as a stopgap for outdated components that no longer receive updates from their developer.
  • Content delivery network — A CDN not only protects against threats like DDoS, it speeds up a website’s load times. By caching the site at points around the world, content is served from the location closest to a visitor, vastly improving their experience.

Both of these features are included in Deluxe and Ultimate Website Security plans from GoDaddy. Both also include security must-haves like blacklist monitoring and removal, malware removal, and dedicated live support. With Ultimate plans, you add SSL and one-click restores.

Maybe CSAM is the time to start offering website security

This is much easier as it sounds. Adding GoDaddy’s Website Security to your core offerings could be as simple as marketing it as a white-labeled product. Purchase the plans for your clients, and then put them in touch with GoDaddy’s support team if they ever need help or a cleanup.

This lets you provide an end-to-end suite of website products while you maintain the ability to focus on what you do best. Granted, this might be the right play for everyone, but it’s sure worth looking at. Check out GoDaddy Pro for more information and see how Website Security lines up with your operation.

The post CSAM: A good month to discuss website security with clients appeared first on GoDaddy Blog.