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Supporting Veteran Owned Small Businesses

This video shares examples of a few veteran owned small businesses. Feel free to comment and share your own examples with website link belo...

Saturday, December 3, 2016

How To Write A Business Plan

This short video describes how and why to write a business plan, using SBA's free tool at Business Plan.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The 10 Commandments Of Proposal Writing...The Order Of Importance For Your Selling Arguments

Why are some proposals a success when others aren't? Why do some people rise to the top of their sales organization and some don't?

Are some proposals just lucky? Are some selling propositions simply better arguments?

Or (the favorite excuse of the less successful proposal writers and salespeople) are your prices just too high?

No way.

If you want to win, you simply need to follow one simple law: present the prospect with the benefits that are most important to him in the order that is most important to him.

When you ignore this law, you're praying to win the deal by luck, by false pretenses or - most commonly - because everyone else's proposal is worse than yours.

Sometimes you have the chance to speak to the prospect as directly before you submit your proposal. If so, then so much the better. Just ask what's important to him.

But with the government or when you're engaging in direct sales, you can't ask about what's important ahead of time. You should still try to work out what's important to this prospect, but you also need to get the prospect's attention and interest to get the opportunity to do that.

So what should you emphasize in the meantime to get the prospect's attention? If you watch successful sales, you can identify the selling arguments that are most persuasive in general. These are the 10 commandments.

Here's an example to show how it works in the real world:

When I was in college, I worked for one sizzling summer in Arizona for a small company in an office park, where we did focus groups and survey research. A water bottle delivery salesman came by.

Now, this was a service that I, as an employee, would have liked. As it was, my boss' water bottle system was to have one of the employees drive over with the empty jugs to the water refill machine at a nearby Mexican grocery store. When I found out that the bottles didn't get rinsed or sterilized between uses, I stopped using them. Other employees felt the same.

This was, however, a cheap system. And my boss was the very definition of a price buyer. He was also a price seller. He was convinced that it was all about price. So if price was going to work on anyone, it was going to work on him.

The salesman gave my boss his card and a brochure. My boss looked at them and said he wasn't interested and he already had a system. But, he asked, how much was the service?

The salesman gave him an answer and a price. He argued that the price was excellent and, for the price, the delivery service was a good investment.

You could almost hear the buzzer go off. No sale. My boss wasn't interested. Thank you anyway. The salesman left.

A few weeks later, a competing water delivery company salesman stopped by. He didn't try to force a business card or tri-fold brochure on my boss. I have no idea if he even had them.

Instead, his first words were about how my boss could increase his profits with a better water system. He gave a case study about an employee getting into a car accident while refilling water on company time and the costs in time, stress and insurance premiums that came with it. He gave another case study about improved employee morale and improved convenience for him. And he gave some evidence about the bacterial count when you refill bottles yourself versus using a convenient service.

My boss - ever a price buyer - asked the price. The water salesman responded, "Well, it depends on which service you order. But no matter which one you order, you can be sure that the water will be clean, the bottles will be sterilized, and the service will be convenient and professional - that's why we deliver water for Home Depot, Sears and over 500 other local companies." Likewise, he emphasized how my boss would benefit from his company's excellent on-time reputation and management focus on quality.

Finally, he addressed price. Given all the benefits of the service that he'd already discussed, the price seemed perfectly reasonable - even to my boss. The salesman got the order (and I finally got to quench my thirst again.)

The same principles apply to proposals. There are more mediocre proposals being submitted today than ever. This results from more companies than ever using Request for Proposals and the fact that, despite this, few companies bother to institute any training on how to win them. Add to this that many proposals are written by the salespeople themselves and that there are more mediocre salespeople than ever - mostly because the industry churns through a 30% turnover every single year.

Considering that the same principles that win in proposals are the same that win in direct sales, there is no more pressing need in business than for training to improve the quality of salespeople and their business proposals.

Why the urgency? Because, like the losing water salesman, poor salespeople use price as the crutch on which to rest their sales pitches. And when low price doesn't win the deal, they rely on price again - in the form of a special discount or "one time" price concession.

When that one fails, the salesperson will use a bizarre set of bad practices, like asking for the sale as a favor ("because I need just one more to win the competition"), or personal relationships, whining or just plain trying to bully the prospect into a sale.

But, even when you know nothing about the individual prospect, you know that these are very poorly converting strategies. You also know that there are other selling arguments that win much more consistently.

Finally, you know that price should be the very last approach to winning a sale. A salesperson must practice his poker face and not give away his hunger for a big order... if the salesperson will just cut the price a little more. The buyer will see that desperate look and exploit it.

Likewise, the sales manager needs to be able to stand firm, even while listening to a pleading salesperson on the phone or reading a frantic email about how "I can sell 10,000 if we can just cut the price 15%. Let me know ASAP!!!"

No, no, no. If you don't know anything about the prospect (which is about as bad an idea as there is) and, instead of finding out, you need to present your proposition anyway, this is the order to do it. Here are the 10 commandments of proposal writing and selling:

1. Opportunity. The chance to make money, to be the first into a new market, to dominate an industry. Anyone who is in a position to be making buying decisions feels this call. A sale is an opportunity for the buyer. The salesperson is just the means to get there.

2. Profitability. What would you care about if you were making the buying decision on your own proposition? What would be your concern? If your concern is something other than making the profits that will keep you in business, it's hard to see how you're going to be staying in business.

3. Quality. How much would you pay for something that you knew was going to fall apart in a few seconds? Not only would you pay nothing, but you'd have to be paid to take it. All products have the hassle factor in them, so higher quality will always be a selling point because it always reduces the hassle factor.

4. Service. Two types of service are critical - your consultative recommendation service before the sale and your customer service after the sale. Both are critical. The prospect will judge your commitment and ability to perform the second kind of service based on the way you perform the first. Honest, well thought out recommendations will always trump in-it-for-myself selling.

5. Name recognition. The simplest and easiest way to make a decision is "Do I recognize the brand?" If you do, you buy it. If you don't, you don't. This is why so much advertising is simply brand awareness advertising.

6. Reputation. The reputation of the organization follows closely after mere recognition. Let's say you recognize two brands-Apple and Dell. On their own, both would be fine. Up against each other, though, reputation will carry the day. Apple has a reputation for an excellent user experience, while most people couldn't say much about the reputation of Dell one way or the other. This is the value of corporate goodwill.

After these six, we're starting to get into the "Why bother?" stage. But if those don't work, keep on trying. Use your salesmanship skills, whether in your proposal or in your direct sales. If you have direct connections, use those at this point. References are a great way to gain attention even if they won't close the sale.

7. Salesmanship. Salesmanship is still important. We all know plenty of salespeople who can close plenty of deals on the strength of personality.

8. Personal relationships. When you see a salesperson whining or complaining or asking for personal favors like the water salesman, it's usually a mistaken attempt to capitalize in relationship before a relationship has been established.

9. References. Having a trusted intermediary put in a good word can open doors, but rarely close sales.

That's nine. And what have we not mentioned? Price. The simple truth is, if you haven't made the sale on any of the other nine factors, a selling proposition based on price isn't going to change anything. If a prospect doesn't want your product at a fair, honest price, then you need to go back and work on how you deliver the first commandments again.

10. Price. Certainly a requirement, but last in any good proposal or sale. Price is not a reason to buy. Price is the cost of getting all the benefits that are the reasons to buy. It is not an argument in itself.

You need to sell more. For the sake of your business, your job, and your family, you have to be successful in more deals.

Chris Sant will help you win 35% more deals by improving the quality, structure and focus of your proposals with the Bulletproof Proposal Formula, including the exclusive ABC, 5-10-15-20 and PROSE techniques.

Proof? These sorts of procedures and techniques raised the win rates of over 125 Fortune 500 corporations by a good deal more -- about 39%.

As a matter of fact, materials prepared making use of these techniques have led to over $30 billion in opportunities -- that's even more than the GDPs of Iceland and Jamaica together!

Learn more at http://www.ChrisSant.com -- free, fair proposal evaluations and the world famous proposal checker.

Which service do you require to instantly supercharge your wins by 35%?

• Bulletproof Content: An elite library of customized, tested, reusable content and proven template.

• Bulletproof Training: Interesting, lasting, tailored training for up to 18 of your people on these proven methods.

• Bulletproof Package: Both the content library as well as the training. Make your wins explode into the stratosphere.

All services come with incredible benefits:

• The Differentiation Designer. Increase the profitability of your company by 15% by differentiating yourself from the competition on value, not price.

• The Deal Winner Wizard. Intensify the persuasiveness of your sales materials by 255% using these simple strategies.

• The Kickoff Meeting Kickstarter. Make your meetings 30% more productive. Get the plan right from the start.

• An iron-clad 1,000% ROI money back guarantee. You are going to generate at least ten times the cost of my services in fresh wins within 18 months or your money back. Guaranteed.

Check it out for yourself at ChrisSant.com. The results are real. You'll be glad you did.

By Chris Sant

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Keys To A Successful Marketing Budget

Marketing budgets can feel like a chore without a dedicated marketing team crunching the numbers, but every business needs one to succeed. Why?

Because every dollar spent differentiating your business from your competition can earn you five to ten dollars in revenue.

That's how valuable having a marketing budget is, yet, most businesses find themselves marketing by the seat of their pants because budgeting is a challenge.

What's The Challenge?

The time and resources required to develop an effective marketing budget are usually scarce, especially for small to mid-sized businesses. The budgeting process is more than just picking a dollar amount, choosing your marketing channels and then creating marketing pieces. It also has to account for research, personnel and tracking.

Before You Begin

It may be your first instinct, but marketing budgets should not begin with how much you are willing to spend. They begin with establishing who your target audience is and researching who can benefit from your product or service the most. Define what they look like, what they do for fun, where they go for information and what they value.Then ask yourself, "What about my brand will differentiate us from our competitors in the target audience's eyes?"

With a clearer view of your target audience and vetted differentiators, you may research what marketing channels best communicate your differentiators to your customer. For example, if you're marketing a professional service to other businesses, you might consider LinkedIn or a robust SEM strategy. If you're marketing a product to millennials, you might consider Facebook or remarketing.

Set Your Goals

Set expectations and benchmarks to measure your progress, but be realistic. If your target audience is small, can you really achieve $5 million in new sales over the year? Can you truly convert 50% of leads when the industry average is 10%? This is not to say your goals shouldn't be challenging, but make them achievable for the sake of your employee's morale, your sanity and your bottom line - this is your opportunity to define what your success looks like.

Just having goals is not enough. You must establish tools and a process for tracking your success and making changes. Facebook provides HTML pixels to help you attribute website conversions to a specific Facebook ad. Landing pages or unique URL's on your website will help you identify campaign related traffic and leads. Promotion or QR codes will help track the success of promotional offers. The key being, if you can't measure it, don't do it.

What's Your Budget?

Traditionally, your marketing budget should be around 10% of your gross revenue. If you are a newer business with less brand awareness, that number could reach as much as 40%. If you are an established brand, that number may drop as low as 5%. No matter the case, your marketing budget should be built to meet the goals you previously set, and focused on reaching your target audience through the marketing channels you researched.

Luckily for businesses today, the digital age has made marketing much more cost effective. A Facebook ad can reach just as many customers as a newspaper ad for a fraction of the cost. A YouTube video can drive website traffic better than any ad buy for television or radio, and an optimized e-commerce website can move product faster than most high-traffic storefronts.

That being said, digital and social media marketing relies on your understanding of your target audience. If your target audience research is off the mark, your well crafted marketing will fall on deaf ears.

The Bottom Line

Building your marketing budget begins before you budget. Careful planning and thoughtful research will set your marketing up for success, and "(tracking) makes perfect."

By Everett Lawson

Achieve your marketing goals by using your brand to drive consistent and effective print, in-store, outdoor and multimedia campaigns. Contact United Creations at grow@unitedcreations.com to market like you mean it!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The Top 5 Referral Marketing Ideas for New Businesses

Do you have a brilliant business idea that's taking off? Are you at a point where you have a product and your customers love everything about it? Have you considered leveraging the power of referral marketing to help even more people discover your product? There are numerous referral marketing ideas that can help you increase your sales.

Consider this - nowadays, a business has to sell more than just a product. You have to sell a full customer experience; An experience that has inspired your customer to share your products with friends and family.

Marketing conditions are continually changing. Unlike a decade ago, businesses these days do not only sell a product or service to customers, but also an experience. They are given a full experience that will inspire them to share the product or service with friends and family - all of whom are potential customers. Word-of-mouth referrals are the most effective way to grow your business, and this is especially true when you are just getting started as a business.

According to Entrepreneur, an ever increasing number of businesses in 2015 and beyond will try to be more open to feedback from their customers. Here are a few referral marketing ideas on how you can make the most out of your customer referrals.

1. IMPROVE YOUR REFERRAL MARKETING STRATEGY

A Nielsen Trust Study from 2013 showed that referrals are the most trusted form of advertising. This information should be good motivation to establish a solid referral strategy, one based on various referral marketing ideas.

Research is the foundation of any marketing strategy. When you want to craft a good referral marketing strategy, the initial research should include the basics, such as understanding customer desires and needs. But we also advise you to conduct research on any potential referral channels, such as news publications, influencers (bloggers and social media influencers), as well as finding all possibilities to produce customer reviews and opinions online.

Once your research is done, use the data to find the right referral marketing ideas, and then craft a successful strategy which includes:

- Exceptional customer service. Give customers or potential buyers a reason to engage, care about and tell others about your brand. Satisfied clients provide great referrals that are invaluable to small businesses

- The 80/20 rule of referral marketing

- Shareable product experiences. A simple Facebook post, Twitter tweet or Instagram selfie can now reach hundreds, if not thousands of potential customers in a few seconds.

- Referral marketing program. Consider including an obvious incentive in your referral marketing program. Customers are more likely to refer friends and family when there is a valuable incentive involved. If the incentives are worthless or undesirable to the company's existing customer base, the customers won't be interested enough to participate in the referral program. Make the program more visible by placing signs in stores and using any internet marketing tools that apply.

- Influencer. Find a person who is sufficiently influential in your niche. It doesn't have to be a celebrity; A popular blogger, YouTuber or Instagramer will do the job.

- References. Use references as referrals because people consider other people's opinions before determining whether they should purchase a product or not.

2. FOCUS ON ONLINE REFERRALS

Referral marketing can be highly effective in an online environment due to the popularity of social media and sharing sites. Internet referral marketing can potentially spread information faster and to a wider audience than most offline marketing strategies.

These days, average customer reach is much larger than ever before and for many people with strong social followings, it can be enormous. Customers now have the power to make or break a business by what they say about it online.

According to research carried out by social media experts, 78% of consumers trust peer recommendations, whereas only 14% trust advertisements. Perhaps that's why online communities are so good at generating business referrals.

Dropbox, an online file storage company, implemented a very successful referral program in 2009 asking users to tell their friends about the service. The program offered rewards for both sides in the form of additional free space.

This program came to be very fruitful. Namely, by 2010, 35% of daily sign-ups were the result of a referral, while signups had permanently increased by 60% overall. The company estimated that within a 30-day period (April 2010), their users had sent more than 2.8 million direct referral invitations.

Dropbox debuted as a Y Combinator startup in 2007. It now has 300 million users and more than 500 employees. Follow the trend and take advantage of the variety of social media approaches to increasing your referrals. Brainstorm on various referral marketing ideas and try them out.

3. USE CONTENT AS A REFERRAL TOOL TO FORGE STRONG REFERRAL RELATIONSHIPS

Most often, customers are too busy to leave referrals, even though they are satisfied with the product or service. In situations like this, valuable content can generate referral introductions in ways that are constructive and valuable as opposed to shallow and fruitless.

Valuable content is an effective tool for attracting strategic partnerships as well. While many business owners focus most of their referral efforts on customers, non-competing businesses that serve your target market can be one of the most potent sources of referrals.

4. CONNECT WITH RELATED PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

The old premise "It's not what you know but who you know" is still very popular in the business world. Even though you may be skilled and dedicated to your new business, your chances of success will rise exponentially when you connect with the right people.

Many companies collaborate with complementary businesses and cross-promote to each other's customer bases. In order to promote your business, identify a connection that would be interested in setting up a barter program with you, one in which you'll work for them and refer new clients to their business and vice versa.

Networking is the key to obtaining more customers and earning brand trust. For this reason, view every moment as a potential networking opportunity and watch your business grow.

5. SEEK CREATIVITY IN REFERRAL MARKETING IDEAS

Having a variety of electronic devices available to you and your customers, you have infinite possibilities of creating inspirational referral marketing ideas. If your client is willing, try to capture a testimonial on video. This can be a really powerful asset. Offer them an incentive to motivate them to make a creative referral.

Another idea you can try is thinking of a witty way to ask for referrals. There is an interesting example of a computer repair company using stamps reading "We Crave Referrals" on every paper that customers receive - including newsletters, marketing material, and invoices.

Remember, the best referrals are the ones you don't even have to ask for. Thus, provide your customers with an exceptional experience that will make them eager to share it with others. Try various referral marketing ideas and see how they work for your business.

Torchlite is evolving the way businesses go to market. By seamlessly connecting digital marketing experts and business owners through our application, we make building effective digital marketing campaigns easy - driving leads, online traffic, customers and revenue. Let's get ignited.

By Ellen Bowers

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Most Successful Small Businesses Do This Each Year

A reality check is what most successful small businesses do year in and year out.

Whenever you become a business owner, you will have a strong passion to be successful. Should the desire to be successful was everything that you need to open a winning business. The world would be filled with lots of success stories.

Nevertheless, desire by itself will not keep you from failing and you might have experienced numerous setbacks on your current entrepreneurial journey.

What you should do is always take a step back and take a look at what precisely you have been doing which has not worked well for you.

Once you can easily determine what's not working and exactly what you're struggling with, you may then discover successes through changes. You truly need to comprehend what has gone wrong in spite of your very best efforts.

Is Fear of Failing Your Issue?

Are you aware that it isn't really failure that keeps people from trying? Society is rife with good examples of folks that failed many times but yet eventually discovered success. There exists something even worse than failing! It's called fear of failure mainly because often, fear of failure will keep you from even attempting anything.

There are a few solid reasons for having a fear of failure. Nobody disputes that. You may be not wanting to put yourself out there because you happen to be worried that folks are likely to laugh at your business idea.

Just keep in mind that people laughed at Henry Ford. Yet he became a well-known success story designing and building the first assembly line for vehicles. You have to get over the concern that you might end up failing and could possibly be humiliated. If there was no risk everybody would be building a small business. Some businesses you risk a lot of money and some you risk your time, effort and reputation.

Another top reason for not being successful is frustration with repetitive and technical tasks.

Sometimes opening a business can get your head spinning because there is so much to do. You have to make sure the orders are placed, you have to find leads, you have to maintain website, you have to update your CRM and the tasks go on and on. Opening a business can get very overwhelming. Taking a step back to make a business plan on how to move forward is the smart way to go. You will get faster as you do tasks over and over again freeing up more time to do other things. If you keep building on the free upped time your business will start to grow.

The top reason for people to have the most successful small businesses is they are doing what they love. Maybe you picked a home based business you're not passionate about. To be successful you have to believe in your product and its worthiness. If you're not passionate about your current home business opportunity, then start looking for one that makes you excited.You should easily find one that you can be passionate about.

These are three of the top reasons people fail. So to start your New Year off right take a moment and think about why you weren't successful in the prior year and use it as a spring-board to develop an action plan starting in the new year.

By Chris Jones

Chris Jones has been blogging for years and enjoys helping people to be successful in their own home business.
To learn more about building a successful home based business and to get a free Pinterest marketing eBook visit https://workfromhomeideas.org

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Small Business Marketing From Finish To Start

"Maybe the start line was supposed to be your finish line. Don't be afraid to walk backwards." Author:Tablo

Normally whenever we think of taking on a project, we lay out the plan and define the tasks necessary to accomplish the goal. Consider something as basic as building a house. The builder and the buyer agree on the basics - number and size of bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchen layout - the eventual "footprint" of the house. It then becomes the responsibility of the architect to develop blueprints which will be submitted to the town or local authority for approval. Once approved, the builder will assign a project manager to move through the steps to completion.

Here's where small business marketing works best, when the parties work in reverse order. The client (the internal marketing manager or the external business decision maker) needs to embrace the idea of where they want to end up. And unlike the house building example, there are many different choices to define success.

For example, success could simply be defined as a growth in revenue from an existing run-rate to a run-rate with a higher number. For example, lets say the business has been growing 10% a year for the last 5 years, and the goal and purpose of marketing is to improve that growth rate to 20% a year over a reasonable period of time.

Success can be the launch of a new product, a new service, a new solution with a return on investment higher than other launches of the past.

Now to achieve those goals, marketing begins to work, for lack of a better word - backwards. The marketing professional starts at the finish line, incorporating one or more goals that need to be achieved. Marketing looks holistically at the various components that can be engaged in order to handle those project steps similar to the building project manager. However, since marketing activities (also known as the marketing mix) can have varying costs, and different choices require more or less time to check it off as complete.

Here's an example of a small business marketing process and plan.

Let's begin with a goal: Grow the revenue by 20 percent over the next 18-24 months.

Why not a firm date? It's foolish in an ever shifting set of marketing tools and popular formats to set a hard date. Imagine building a plan before Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn took off. Odds are good that the completion date would be considerably impacted by these "new" mediums of communicating with buyers and influencers.

In this author's opinion, the center of the marketing universe is a good website. A great website is better, but should be a living tool that adapts to changes in the way people choose to search for information. So a good website will suffice as long as it provides slightly more than basics about the company, the product, the brand, the solution, and a place for visitors to go for information.

Landing Pages must be Clean and Simple (and Device Agnostic)

Inside the website is our landing page(s). A landing page is where, when someone does a search, and finds your ad (more about that later), clicking the ad link brings them to a specific page directly. Thus, they should not have to plow through the history of the principals, the location of offices, awards, past downloadable PDFs, webinar replays, etc., etc., etc. by bringing them to the home page.

Instead, they should go directly to the page on the website that speaks to the topic via keyword(s) that they searched for, and the "bait" used in an ad to get them to click the ad. Most people are smart enough to roam around the website on their own, to learn more about the company if they are interested. But the goal of that landing page is to respond to the SPECIFIC need, and the SPECIFIC solution, which brought them there to begin with.

OK. Let's assume we've got that solid landing page (quite likely several for each of the solutions, products or campaign being run). How did people get there? In a world of literally MILLIONS of pages, how did they find yours?

The magic word is CONTENT.

Content should not be confused with advertising. In fact, advertising posing as content is quickly discovered as such, and harms the brand deeply. Content is education. It is sharing opinions, experiences, thoughts, ideas, successes, and without an obvious goal of getting something in return beyond an acknowledgement that the author is a subject matter expert, and is willing to provide information without a hidden agenda. The altruistic motivation is what buyers crave far more than clever jingles, surveys, puzzles, or quizzes.

Think about your Competitors

Now we move back some more. Who are your competitors and what do they know, do, offer, profess or otherwise claim that whether real or not, is intent in casting their goods in a more favorable light then your own. Often these claims (real or otherwise) are unchallenged, simply because they are crafted by expensive marketing research companies, whose lipstick is more attractive that the pig that's wearing it.

Look back at who your competitors were not so long ago. Have they truly created something far better than yours, or have they simply done a better job of convincing buyers that you are yesterday's news. Having been in the IT sales and marketing business for more than 25 years, there are some companies that come to mind that seemed to never be knocked from their throne - WordPerfect, Lotus 1-2-3, Wang, Digital Equipment, and many other - gone or just consumed by other companies. So while others were innovating these companies rested on their laurels eventually being a footnote in the early days of PCs. And one need not go back 20 years to think about MySpace, the Zune, even Napster.

Take the time to evaluate your competitors and create a simple but honest SWOT analysis (S=Strengths, W=Weaknesses, O=Opportunities, T-Threats) so you the marketing efforts can identify the weak spots and attack them.

Putting it all together

The singular most important foundation a business has for marketing is its database. The database (whether in a sophisticated CRM tool, or an excel spreadsheet). In addition to current and/or former clients, it needs to be constantly fed, updated, parsed, and managed or every other dollar or hour spent will be sub-optimized. The database provides not only the contacts, but a history of business/client experiences - both good and bad. And it is the starting point to uncover any real or perceived "warts" potential clients might find, and an opportunity to address them before going live with campaigns.

Now we have all the parts, we need to converge all the actions to drive buyers and influencers to the landing page(s), where we can generate the dialogue and begin to turn clicks into customers. Addressing all of the nuances of email marketing, snail mail marketing, content marketing through blogs, and distribution through social media outlets like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and (especially) Google+. Tie in a moderate budget to generate visits by using Google AdWords and follow up with participation in industry events where subject matter experts are sought out for their knowledge and ideas.

Summary: There are specific steps for small businesses that don't require an excessive budget or an onboard staff. Instead, a marketing professional whose personality matches your business, with expertise in driving measurement results, can add value, improve business results, and help act as a virtual partner in achieving both short and long term goals.

By Ed Colandra

Ed Colandra is the founder and president of Mindful Marketing Solutions, LLC. Based in the New York tri-state area, Mindful Marketing exists to help small businesses who don't know where to start, to extend their business by leveraging digital marketing. Ed brings over 30 years of sales and marketing executive roles at IBM Corp., and more recently, assisting vendors in the legal industry.

Mindful Marketing guarantees 100% that we will never share, sell or otherwise provide any information including email addresses, telephone numbers, titles or ANY contact data provided to us. Requests to opt-out of mailings are executed quickly and usually within 24 hours of receipt. Any questions, please visit http://www.mindfulms.com to complete a contact form or email: edcolandra@mindfulms.com.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Becoming A Successful Small Business Owner...The Dream Of Many And The Fantasy Of Most

Small business ownership is a simple concept. Ideas are easy and information is free. Implementation, however, is neither.

Fulfillment of ideas and the usage of information to pursue prosperity with your business is hard, some days very hard. And, if you're not pursuing prosperity, why have a small business anyway?

If you're a small business owner or are thinking intensely about a "dream business to own", you're most likely swimming in a sea of infinite ideas and surfing in an ocean of information.

There's just no end and never will be when it comes to ideas and information. So, that brings us to the third part of the equation -- implementation.

Implementation, the kind that is real, is a day in and day out, systematic powerhouse activity that separates the dreamers from the doers.

The word implement is both a noun and a verb. As a noun it means an instrument, tool or piece of equipment. As a verb, it means to perform, fulfill, put into action, satisfy or to complete.

One hundred years ago, an implement when used as a noun was most likely a tangible object such as farm equipment that made the family farm more efficient or a printing press used by the local newspaper to get the morning paper on the stands. Even a sewing machine was considered an implement for the industrious neighborhood seamstress working from home, sewing custom clothing for the well-to-do ladies in town.

Today, a piece of accounting software is an implement for the industrious stay at home Mom doing bookkeeping when her little ones are asleep for hard-won small business clients or online based free image software for the graphic artist working weekends earning a full-time income in his or her part-time business.

Implement when used as a verb is where success wakes up and comes alive. It's also where you'll find the greatest temptation to instead retreat to the land of nod and drift away into a fairyland of ideas and information overload that quickly becomes your worst nightmare.

Some say implementation is hard but the reality is that it's easy. Very easy. Easy to do and easy not to do!

Participate daily in the easy to do version. Stay away from the other. Here are three examples for one and four for the other:

Easy to do implementation:

  • Create a simple written plan that includes numbers. Why? Because numbers don't lie. Numbers always tell the truth and show your full picture in a fast and concise manner.

  • Create three systems - one for acquiring and retaining customers, one for the production and delivery of your product and one for the financial administration of your business. Why? Because all wealth is based on systems. With wealth, your business has health. Without, it is dead.

  • Execute your written plan and systems daily. Be accountable to your numbers from MORNING TO MIDNIGHT.

Easy not to do implementation:

  • Succumb to fear and procrastinate by not acquiring new customers. Saying "I'll tackle that tomorrow".

  • Search social media to "give yourself a break" or "A good laugh will help me now so I need to see that YouTube of a baby laughing".

  • Starting your day with no system to follow.

  • Stay isolated and away from other like-minded individuals.

If you're reading this article and have gotten to this point, I congratulate you. You're serious about what it takes to implement (verb) and implement (noun)! I believe in you and that you can be successful.

Not sure what to do next? Sometimes a good business coach can direct you to the next step. Contact me. I'd love to give you 20-30 minutes of FREE business coaching. No obligation and no strings attached.

Remember this: "A business is a repeatable system that makes a profit. A healthy business is a repeatable system that makes a healthy profit." Anything else is a bad dream.

If you're thinking about small business ownership, turn your dream into doing and wave goodbye to your fantasy as it flies out the window.

By Mary Theresa McLean

Mary Theresa McLean is an entrepreneur, small business specialist in marketing and a small business coach. She has been self-employed since October 28, 1983.

A deep understanding of the entrepreneurial mindset and a deep love for those who have that mindset puts her at a unique advantage to advise anyone at any age on how to get to the next level of expertise in their chosen enterprise.

Contact her: http://www.MorningToMidnightMarketing.com for free business coaching.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

3 Days of Small Business - Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow...Developing A Long Lasting Business Mindset

You can spend every day from here to eternity finding words that define small business. Small business can be described as a culture, a tradition, an operation. They all fit.

Apply the who, what, when, where, why and how questions to small business and they open up another window-of-wonder that the dictionary alone just can't deliver.

The who of small business, the what, the when, the why, the where and the how -- discuss those at length with a colleague and you'll both end up with the equivalent of a college degree. Each question holds its own enchantment... its own intrigue.

Devote some time with me now and we'll concentrate on the "when" of small business.

Rather than talk about the immediacy of time in practical means such as how long a given project should take or what hours your operation would be open to the public, etc -- let's get creative!

What if we viewed it from a new and refreshing perspective? Using a different field of vision, let's concentrate it down into three easy-to-digest parts - yesterday, today and tomorrow. With each, there's a lesson, a summary that we've heard for years that can be applied to life generally:

  • Learn from the Past -- Yesterday
  • Live in the Present -- Today
  • Look Forward -- Tomorrow

Using this model and applying it to small business, reveals hidden secrets. Secrets that can lead to making better decisions, a better quality product and a better bottom line. Most of all, secrets that your competition doesn't know about. Who doesn't want these things?

Let's start with the end in mind -- tomorrow and looking forward. Assuming that you want to be in business tomorrow, what are you doing today that will make tomorrow's business better, more successful? Are you fulfilling promises today that you made yesterday? Are you checking off items on your to do list right now that you created before you finished yesterday? Do you have tomorrow's list started? Good, I thought you did!!

At this point, you're probably wondering "Hey, I thought we were talking about tomorrow -- all you did was ask questions about yesterday and today".

Let's continue with the beginning in mind -- yesterday and looking back. The common line of thinking when the subject of yesterday comes up in conversation is all about mistakes we've made. Because we're being original here, let's take an inventive approach. Let's think of the things we did that were right and good yesterday and repeat them today. Repeat them tomorrow. Tweak them everyday and build up to the point that we can't wait to get them on tomorrow's to do list. What could that be you say? Well, it could be something as simple as answering the phone in a slightly more cheerful manner. Could even be getting one more handwritten thank you note out to a special customer. Maybe arriving ten minutes earlier than required and getting some emails finished and out-of-the-way.

Spend a few reflective moments and write down two things you did yesterday that were good for business. We'll refer to them as "past positives".

Past positives are your secret weapon. Using your secret weapon over and over actually sharpens it.

When you identify and repeat your "past positives" day after day, week after week, month in and month out, from them you'll learn new truths about yourself and your business. This is what results - new energy will emerge forth into your business right away - TODAY. New energy gives our business new life. New energy brings excitement, current customers acting as ambassadors and bringing us new customers.

Use your secret weapon to breathe new life into your business - TODAY, TOMORROW and MANY YEARS TO COME!!

By Mary Theresa McLean

Mary Theresa McLean is an entrepreneur, small business specialist in marketing and a small business coach. She has been self-employed since October 28, 1983.

A deep understanding of the entrepreneurial mindset and a deep love for those who have that mindset puts her at a unique advantage to advise anyone at any age on how to get to the next level of expertise in their chosen enterprise.

Contact her: http://www.MorningToMidnightMarketing.com for free business coaching.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

7 Things Successful Small Business Owners Do

If you're stuck wondering how to be a successful small business owner, know this: running a small business often simply means making good use of successful small business ideas. Successful small business owners face many ups and downs throughout their work. They know that small business ideas cannot turn out successful unless they use the proper approach and strategies.

If you want to be one of the few successful small business owners, remember that having a good strategy is crucial. Without the right strategy and a proper approach, you are not likely to achieve your goal.

Some small business owners manage to overcome their everyday challenges, while others seem to give up after a while. So, let's find out what successful small business owners do differently from the unsuccessful ones. Let's turn their experience into your success through your small business ideas.

1. MAKE ANNUAL REVISIONS OF YOUR BUSINESS PLAN AND BUDGET

Every business goes through changes every now and then, including your small business. For this reason, your business plan and budget should be somewhat flexible to bear such changes along with your business goals. Without revising your business plan and budget, you shouldn't expect your business to flourish and expand.

The flexibility of your business plan will help you avoid and overcome the eventual unpleasant surprises on the market. Also, such flexibility will give you some time to adjust to certain changes you may experience on your way.

Every business experiences both success and failure points each year. In order to detect and estimate these points, you should revise your budget and business plan every year. While revising, you should check if you are still going in the right direction. If not, you may need to make some changes and adjustments to achieve better results in the upcoming period.

Successful small business owners don't hesitate to reallocate funds, if that is what it takes to achieve success. In order to increase profits, after they conduct a business revision, smart business owners define and implement the necessary changes immediately.

2. UPDATE YOUR OFFER AND ADD VALUE TO IT

People change, as do their needs and habits. As soon as you notice that you aren't selling as much as you used to sell before, it is time to make changes. If people aren't purchasing what you currently have to offer, that's a clear hint that something needs to be done.

A simple price cut may be the first thing that comes to your mind. As much as lower prices may seem more appealing to your customers, they also point to a devaluation of what you offer. Devaluation of your products or services is never a good thing, so try doing just the opposite - add value to your offers.

The best way to update and add value to your products and services is by developing new offers. If possible, try to offer something completely new to your customers. You could offer product bundles, training programs and workshops, and so on.

3. DARE TO BE DIFFERENT

Most successful small business owners believe in daring to be different. They know their target consumers. Trying to target everyone and anyone as a consumer will get you nowhere fast. Instead of trying to make products for the masses, focus on a clearly targeted community and grow with it. Once you target your consumers, it is easy to understand their needs.

Understanding your consumers is the secret to a successful business. When you know their needs, you can modify your products and services in order to satisfy them. Satisfied consumers will not only become your regulars, but they will also spread the word about what you offer. This may become the best marketing strategy for your business.

Spreading the word about your products or services is called a referral marketing strategy. It's been proven that most of the faster growing small businesses turn to this kind of marketing rather than relying on traditional advertising.

4. KNOW YOUR COMPETITION

Successful small business owners know their competition. They know that keeping an eye on the competitors and understanding their policy and pricing is crucial to the business. It is wise to consider your direct competitors in your area, as well as indirect competitors.

A direct competitor offers the same primary services to the same target group as you, and they are easy to follow on the market. However, an indirect competitor company offers the same or similar products as a segment of a wider product or service offering.

In some cases, the indirect competitor may offer a product that is an applicable substitute for the original product. Successful small business owners know how to position their company against the indirect competitors. They take both types of competing companies seriously and they account for them in their annual business plan.

5. HIRE THE RIGHT PEOPLE

Even though hiring the right people for your business sounds obvious, it can be a really tough job for small business owners. Also, not hiring the right people could be a huge downfall for a small company. People who don't share the concept of your business approach and goals are not the type of people you want to engage in your business.

Candidates who don't have the right temperament, skills, or talent for the job position that you offer can be too pricey for your company. Having the right people in the right job positions can make your company outstanding. Exceptional companies recruit exceptional people.

6. ACCEPT TECHNOLOGY CHANGES

Technology changes on a regular basis nowadays. Successful business owners are very well aware of that, so they change accordingly. Doing things the way they were done years ago will not provide the same success nowadays.

Accepting technological improvements can help your company become more effective and efficient. Keep yourself informed about the latest in new technology, and the improved solutions it brings. Choose the most appropriate ones for your business and adopt them. Your customers will be grateful and you'll experience great benefits.

7. TRUST YOUR INTUITION

If you believe your intuition has been serving you well so far, listen to your inner voice carefully. Your instincts can lead you a long way. If you still feel strongly about something, regardless of the lack of facts or data - act on it. What seems right for other businesses doesn't necessarily mean that it will work for you as well.

Relying on intuition is often the first step out of your comfort zone, and the first step towards becoming a leading company on the market. While you watch your business grow and spread, remember that having faith in yourself and the business you are running is crucial. Being aware of your inner voice can lead you to making business decisions with more confidence and a greater success rate.

Torchlite is evolving the way businesses go to market. By seamlessly connecting digital marketing experts and business owners through our application, we make building effective digital marketing campaigns easy - driving leads, online traffic, customers and revenue. Let's get ignited.

By Ellen Bowers

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Is The SBA Truly Looking Out For Small Business?....No

The SBA or Small Business Administration just doesn't seem to understand the challenges for smaller companies or first-time entrepreneurs. Their focus is on educating new market entrants to all the regulations and rules they must comply with, and helping these businesses secure loans, when what the SBA ought to really be working on ways to reduce the over-regulation on American Businesses, especially the smallest firms. Okay so let's talk shall we? And, no this isn't a hit piece on the SBA, there has been enough negative press for that wasteful agency and their dismal performance over the years.

You see, recently I read an interesting piece in the Wall Street Journal titled; "SBA Chief Focuses on Access - Maria Contreras-Sweet aims to modernize the agency and help out underserved groups," by Ruth Simon. The article stated how they were building the online dating version for SBA loans where small business owners would answer questions and then be matched with the most applicable lenders. Apparently, access to capital has been cited by the SBA as the number one reason why smaller companies fail, or do not hire employees and grow our economy.

The reality is that any savvy start-up entrepreneur sees the risk of lawsuits, over-regulation, taxes, employee costs, and uncertainty. Also, the way the laws and regulations favor larger competitors and hurt smaller firms. Stupid or na�ve future business owners don't understand that and thus, are more apt to go into hawk for the outrageous startup costs, and take out a huge loan. The reality is that it is quite a hostile environment for smaller companies and the chances of success are severely diminished. In other words, it's not worth the risk.

So, why is the SBA ignoring the obvious, or are people in Washington DC running the SBA just so ignorant of the reality out there in the real world, or maybe they just don't care. Putting more people into economic enslavement and debt merely because they want a piece at the American Dream is completely disheartening to say the least. It seems we are putting kids into economic enslavement with student loans, small entrepreneurs into debt with SBA loans, and just allowing corporate lobbying as usual to run away with all the gains while government agencies run block as they drive for the touch-down.

If we want to tap into the small business growth engine, we need to me more fair with this segment of our economy, which employs over 70% of the workforce. To do that we need to look at all the laws, fees, regulations, financial reporting requirements, employment rules, and taxes we burden them with. Please consider all this and think on it.

By Lance Winslow

Lance Winslow writes eBooks on Small Business.