Featured Post

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...

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Oprah Show Hilights Small Business Success Stories ... How You Can Be One Too

The Ophrah Winfrey Show recently shared small business success stories with their huge audience. Particularly on how to survive tough financial times. Guess who they singled out as a major contributer to the success of many small businesses? SBI that's who!

So, does SBI! really change lives?

Ask Jill and her husband Jose from Your-RV-Lifestyle.com. They were asked to appear on the Oprah Winfrey show this past week. Finance expert, Suze Orman, was on giving advice on how to survive these tough financial times. She was interviewing people who had made some great and not so great financial decisions.

The Ophrah Show On Small Business Success

The video version is at (unless it gets taken down)...

The Ophrah Show Video

Jill's SBI! site is all about the RV lifestyle. It's not just an experiment in "lifestyle design", it's an example of how SBI! gave Jill and Jose the lifestyle of their dreams.

And now they've been seen by MILLIONS of people all over the world! And doubled the traffic to their site this week.

And they can now add "As Seen On Oprah" to their site. Now THAT is credibility. :-)

Verrrry nice!

Of course, Jill was already a recognized expert in her field, thanks to SBI!.

And here's the key...

How did Oprah find her?

A simple Google search.

Now THAT's the power of SBI!

Learn how YOU can cash in on the power of SBI yourself right here:

Tools For Small Business Success

And, just in case you think Jill's story is a one-of, it turns out that many SBIers have had big-time publicity, from MSN to USA Today, from NBC to The Washington Post and Reuters...

Questions about SBI? You can ask them here:

SBI Questions Answered

======================

Friday, September 26, 2008

Ecademy Podcast: How To Get More Customers

Thomas Power, founder & CEO of Ecademy, was recently interviewed by my friend Stan Relihan for his "The Connnections Show" podcast.

You can listen to the interview at .... Thomas Power

or ..... The Connections Show

Rather than just being a collection of people looking for jobs or social interaction, Ecademy's focus is to be a Marketplace - where like-minded entrepreneurs & business professionals can meet each other (either online or at face-to-face gatherings) to conduct business and do deals with each other.

Ecademy might just be the place to go trawling for Clients - and I think anyone who is more interested in looking for "Buyers" rather than "Sellers" just might agree.

Why not check it out & decide for yourself?

(BTW, the show got nearly 15,000 downloads last month - so something must be working)

Friday, September 19, 2008

Why Do So Many Small Businesses FAIL?

The failure rate of small businesses is painful to see. With a little preplanning and consistent efforts in the right areas .... this doesn't have to happen.

First, I see far too many people who think starting a business means the till is their personal money and owning a business means not having to work. They don't come into prepared and give up far too easily when they realize people are not beating down their door to do business with them.

So what are the biggest reasons behind the high failure rate of small businesses .... and what can YOU do about it?

1. early burn out (poor planning)
2. no capital
3. no business plan / expectations / strategy

Burn Out:

Owners try to be both managers and technicians in the business and it drives them batty. They love doing something, so start a business, but then find that as it grows they have no life. You must be ready to start a business and then step out of the "do" part of it so you can remain energized and expand efficiently.

One useful metaphor is to think of your business as if you were going to franchise it. You will need to hire relatively unskilled people to operate the business - you cannot be at 20 locations at once. So you develop operations manuals and specific processes that are easy to train new people on. This lets you step outside the operation and assign it to someone. You can then use your time for strategy, growth, or personal development. You won't burn out.

Capital:

You need money to grow a business. The presence of ops manuals and a clear business plan are impressive to those who provide money. Getting capital will be vitally important to your success. Getting yourself set up with a Dunn and Bradstreet number, a business specific credit card, and other credit-building assets is urgently important.

Business Plan:

You've heard this before - no business plan, no success. It doesn't have to be formal, but it must be well thought out. Get help if you can. There are links in the Recommended Resources which can help with that.

Looking from a different view .... many small businesses are actually quite successful, IF, they have a good product or service at the right time and have good luck. Seriously, alot of small business success happens because of timing and luck than skill.

The trouble starts when those two run out. It is usually timing that goes first : The economy changes, a better widget comes out after yours, your product/service/industry gets bad press, etc. This is when the business spiral downwards. This is when you have to use your brain and know when to seek outside help.

It's rather easy to make a go of a small busness with luck and timing on your side. It takes a solid plan, discipline and strong problem solving skills when you lose those two attributes.

My best advice is to build your business to grow. Then plan that it will dip .... and plan for the dip by reinventing your business with new ideas and thoughts. Often these innovations come from an outsider, such as a consultant who can view your business objectively. Then, your job as the owner is to listen and respond accordingly!

Above all though, never forget that business is about making money, and making money is about sales. If you concentrate on sales and manage cash flow, then you should be able to make it out of the start up phase and grow a very healthy business for the long run.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

5 Ways to Cut Small Business Cost

Here's some interesting useful tips for keeping your costs down. Courtesy of Karen Hall of Ryze.

Most small businesses experience ups and downs. Any reduction in expenses is always welcome and could result in increasing your profits.

Here are a few relative painless ways to cut cost and make your business more robust.

* Use Free Services

Why pay for something you don't have to? There is a lot of free stuff on the internet. Web sites, e-mail addresses, fax numbers, and conference call services are all among the options business owners can use for little or no charge at all.

Just enter "free phone service" or "free fax service" in Google, you will be amazed at what comes up.

(editors note: Now that said ... don't go overboard. It's OK to use "free" when it doesn't affect your professional business image. if it does (me@hotmail.com for example) DO NOT USE IT.)

* Do It Yourself

How much do you pay your accountant each month? $200? With less than $100 easy-to-use payroll software like ezPaycheck (from halfpricesoft.com), you can handle the payroll job easily yourself. Most payroll software can be downloaded from the website and tried free for 30 days. Just pay for the software after you feel comfortable.

And do you hire a professional to create to e-letters or flyers? With software like Microsoft Office Publisher, you can select from pre-built templates to quickly and easily create professional-looking e-letters or print the flyers advertising a sale in house with a color printer.

* Outsourcing

Outsourcing does not always mean sending your business overseas. The idea is to find talented people not just limited to your local geography. From guru.com, elance.com, or other websites ..... you can find web masters, bookkeepers, and other people that can work for you on a subcontract basis.

* Marketing Efficiently

If you mail a printed newsletter or coupon to customers, would it be more cost-effective to send it out as an e-mail? You can save not only printing and paper cost, but also postage. I'd suggest using an autoresponder system though to make it more professional and automated (saves time). Something like AWeber or ConstantConnect for example.

Instead of buying advertisements from traditional newspapers, you can also market online. If you have money, you can use pay-per-click programs from Google, Yahoo, or other companies. But do not forget there are still a lot of free and effective ways to marketing your company online. Such as blogs, social netowrking communities, article marketing, directory marketing, press releases, email-marketing, and so on.

* Cut Transportation Cost

The gas is over $4 per gallon now. Here are some questions to ask:

- Do all your sales or services calls need to be in person? Can you help your customers with internet-based technologies such as web conferencing and tools?

- Can your company allow full-time employees to telecommute? It will cut your rent expense, travel and fuel costs. And some studies have shown that employees work from home have increased output and enthusiasm.

I'm sure you can think of other ways to cut costs ... so feel free to add them as comments. Small Business Resources Cafe readers would very much appreciate it.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Who Are The Stand-Out Social Networking Gurus In Business Marketing Online?

Face it ... in todays business environment, getting at least a finger grasp on how to use social networking to your advantage is a big plus. It'll definitely have an impact on your business growth.

So ..... who are the very best in the world .... who are massively innovative, clever, influential and successful.

And of course .... respected.

Perhaps they've worked their online social network cleverly. Maybe they have been brilliant on YouTube. Or they are massively leveraging LinkedIn. Or exceptional on a business niche social network.

My opinion (for what it's worth)??

There are many great social networkers out there, but I have to say, hands down, the two best of the best I know are Chris Brogan and Peter Shankman.

They are both truly amazing networkers who have honored and esteemed reputations and provide real value to their fans.

A great starting point is to review the websites each one is associated with or profiled on:

* Chris Brogan
- Social Media Strategy Advisory and Analyst
- VP at CrossTech Media
- Creator of PodCamp

Chris Brogan
CrossTech Media
Chris Brogan Linked-In Profile
Chris Brogan Twitter Page

* Peter Shankman
- Owner, The Geek Factory, Inc.
- Founder of Help A Reporter Out (HARO), Social Networking Success

Peter Shankman
Geek Factory
Help A Reporter Out
Peter Shanman Twitter Page

It's also certainly worth including David Teten and Scott Allen, co-authors of "The Virtual Handshake" (See: David Teten and Scott Allen).

You can certainly learn quite alot from these gentlemen. If you apply only a bit of their "methods" ... you'll be light years ahead of where you were before.

Friday, September 12, 2008

How To Get A Custom Business Website That WILL Make Sales For You

If you are going to do any marketing online ... and you should ... you need a business website that grabs attention AND makes the sale for you. Your website needs to be more than just a "business card" or a fancy brochure. It must generate prospects .... and sell you AND your services or products.

What's the solution?

Simple, I recommend you take advantage of the cost effective services provided by the folks at SBI (SiteBuildIt).

I've clients who swear by SBI. SBI is unique in that they incorporate proven SEO (Search Engine Optimization)techniques right into the design. So .... you're custom business website is not just a "brochure" but a traffic generation and sales conversion "machine" (one clients quote).

Bottom line .... SBI builds you custom business websites that make you money.

For more information visit: Custom Business Website

=============================

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

How Do You Market And Promote Your Business, Products, And Services On The Internet?

As we've moved into the Web 2.0 world with the likes of blogs, online communities, discussion forums, social networking sites, and the like; how are business owners or professionals marketing their business, their products and services, or even just their expertise?

This is becoming one of my favorite subjects.

For starters, I am finding that a clean, simple website that is clear, to the point, functional and informative is a great way to go.

From there, its all about content. At first, I didn't build my website with the idea to excel in SEO. I wanted to be low profile, and use the website to sell itself as a credibility resource as I discovered my way through being a business owner.

When it comes to internet marketing, there are dozens of good ways (if not hundreds of ways or more) to promote your website URL. Blogs, social networking and internet advertising are all sound approaches.

It really is a game of capturing one's attention, and guiding them to and through your website, and leaving them with a favorable impression so they will want to return, time and again.

Everyone is soooo busy these days. The name of the company game is to be on the cutting edge of marketing. Here's a "marketing niche" .... devote your website to be an information resource on your "market niche" .

Blogging has evolved to become an active part of my business strategy, on multiple fronts. Differentiating my company from competitors is key, so I've zero'd in on competitors websites and see they are often planned out to the extreme, and so darn uptight. My website is designed to be flexible, ready to adapt with the times, professional, and down-to-Earth.

The business environment of today is so different than it was just a few years ago. We're all so interconnected now, and one of the first things people do when they learn about a new company, is to check out their website to get a feel for a company's energy, offering and personality.

Social networking is such a buzz. Finding that the best way to take advantage of this trend, is to approach social networking while creatively utilizing your brand on the social networking medium's terms, while putting your own company personality slant on it.

Self promotion is so 2007. Part of the game is to promote, without self promoting. A fine line to cross, but a smart approach if done right, and with integrity.

Marketing is a catch-22 anyway.

I want to touch on one key area that needs to be mentioned: content.

In the interactive advertising industry, content is king. What you are providing to your potential customer without a catch, fee, or other gimmick is critical. It must be honest, useful, and targeted at a specific group to be effective.

One way of looking at content as the foundation for a successful online strategy is cost per customer. The old way of looking at business was how much money it takes on advertising and sales to get one customer. In the new Web 2.0 world you must rethink this concept. What content can we provide a potential customer free of charge to get one minute of their attention. In other words, your content is your capital investment and your return is not necessarily a customer, but a potential customer's attention.

That being said, there is much more to answering the question. Creating a interactive advertising experience for your potential customers will require throwing out much of what you know about marketing and embracing some scary - but effective - new ideas. Allow me to suggest a source of information.

Read the book "The Social Metropolis". This book tackles this question head on and provides case studies and analysis to help you understand the proper strategy for your business. You can download the book for free here: Social Metropolis

Remember - there is no one silver bullet that will get a successful online response. The new customer is savvy, hungry for information, and desires meaningful online connections before making a brand decision. Be prepared to make the required investment in human and financial capital to vault forward into the new world of advertising before you are left behind.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Common Mistakes Small Businesses Make and How to Avoid Them

Here's a fact of life. You're a small business ... and you're going to make mistakes. At least early in your business experience. If you're a start-up the odds are you won't survive past your 3rd year.

Sorry .... that's just the way it is. It's a tough world out there kiddies.

BUT ... you can avoid most of those mistakes with a little education, perseverance, and common sense. Doing this dramatically ups the odds in your favor for surviving and prospering long term.

Robert Warlow of Small Business Success lays it all out nicely .... including the top 10 common mistakes which small businesses tend to make .... in this article:

Common Mistakes Small Businesses Make and How to Avoid Them

If you take the time to read it you'll be much farther ahead ... and less likely to be in the majority who "fail". Don't read it .... then don't say I didn't tell you so.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Small Business Security Solution .... Video Surveillance

Too often one of the issues small businesses tend to overlook ... or spend little time and effort addressing ... is that of security.

Believe it or not, but one of the most popular categories of security is video surveillance. Increasingly, security systems are employing surveillance cameras to let people keep an eye on things in and around their office. Until now, it was quite expensive to maintain and implement such security systems because they were tied to expensive recorders and other fancy hardware components.

Not anymore ....

Any small businesses that CAN’T afford an expensive monitoring system can certainly afford Visec. Also, those large businesses that do have a sizeable budget and CAN afford a large monitoring system can opt for a Visec commercial system that is comparably rated to a military grade system. With Visec there are no limitations. You can login from anywhere in the world and know what is happening.

With VISEC you can keep an eye on everything you ever wanted without spending a fortune. Visec is a powerful video surveillance system that allows you to watch your business grounds or office from anywhere in the world, even a cell phone. Perfect for anyone desiring more peace of mind.

For more information click here ... you can even download a FR*EE demo:

Business Security ... Video Surveillance

You can provide continous security for your business 24/7 .... watch customers, employees, deliveries, shipping, after hours. Best of all you can do this from any location in the world via the Internet! VISEC is designed to be highly configurable and can even be used as a stealth surveillance system, allowing the program to operate secretly with just a few mouse clicks.

Plus Visec is extremely easy to use. Installation and configuration will take only 5 minutes, even in a novice or newbie's hands! All for just a fraction of a regular security system price!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Small Business Survival .... Stay Ahead Of The Competition

Earl Sigmund of The New Business Learning Center has some eye opening advice for all small business owners. Ignore it at your own peril. Follow it and you'll have a leg up on your competition. Especially with todays economy and associated "customer" habits.

=========

IT"S TIME FOR YOUR BUSINESS TO BE UNIQUE...........OR IT MAY BE TOO LATE!

THE TIME IS NOW! THE TIME IS NOW! ..........If there ever was a time in our recent history for small business owners to think out of the box with regard to making your business unique and different from your competition, the time has come. I visited a shopping center complex on a Wednesday evening and found the following:

1) The italian Pizzeria was empty

2) The fancy Italian Restaurant was empty

3) The sports bar even with a Phillies baseball game was one - third full

4) The Chinese typical sit down take out restaurant was empty

5) The Japanese Steak house with newly installed Hibachi grills was Jumping......need reservations on a Wednesday night? or a 20 minute wait? The place was mobbed and not cheap- BUT IT WAS DIFFERENT AND PEOPLE WANTED TO BE THERE AND HAVE FUN WITH GREAT DIFFERENT FOOD. The service was great and they know how to treat you right and yet get you out quick.

It is that time for every small business owner to self-examine just what their TARGET AUDIENCE is and somehow market to get customers to call them or come to their establishment.. Also it's NOW time to determine what action needs to be taken to create that contagious BUZZ about your business. By the way , the hot restaurant never really advertises at all or ever offers coupons, while the competition still thinks coupons are a prime tool to get people to try out or revisit their business again. I hope the other eateries in this retail shopping complex took some time out to peak thru the windows of its hot neighbor business establishment and take notice of a place that raking it in despite our country's economic woes.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Search Engine Strategies For Small Business

Here's an easy listing of search engine strategies any small business can do ... and all should take advantage of. Just pick a few ... implement and master ... pick a few more .... and repeat.

Search Engine Strategies ...........

1. Write a Page Title.

2. Write a Description and Keyword META Tag.

3. Include Your Keywords in Header Tags

4. Make Sure Your Keywords Are in the First Paragraph of Your Body Text.

6. Make Your Navigation System Search Engine Friendly.

7. Develop Several Pages Focused on Particular Keywords.

8. Submit Your Webpage URL to Search Engines. Next, submit your homepage URL to the important Web search engines that robotically index the Web.

9. Fine-tune with Search Engine Optimization.

10. Promote Your Local Business on the Internet.

11. Submit Your Site to Key Directories, since a link from a directory will help your ranking -- and get you traffic.

12. Submit Your Site to Industry Sites and Specialized Directories.

13. Request Reciprocal Links.

14. Write Articles for Others to Use in their Newsletters.

15. Begin a Business Blog.

16. Issue News Releases.

17. Include Your URL on Stationery, Cards, and Literature.

18. Promote using traditional media.

19. Develop a Free Service.

20. Install a "Signature" in your E-Mail Program to help potential customers get in touch with you.

21. Publish an E-Mail Newsletter.

22. Send Offers to Your Visitors and Customers.

23. Rent targeted e-mail lists.

24. Promote Your Site in Online Forums and Blogs.

25. Announce a Contest. People like getting something free.

26. Ask Visitors to Bookmark Your Site.

27. Exchange Ads with Complementary Businesses

28. Devise Viral Marketing Promotion Techniques.

29. Buy a Text Ad in an E-Mail Newsletter.

30. Begin an Affiliate Program. Essentially, a retailer's affiliate program pays a commission to other sites whose links to the retailer result in an actual sale.

31. Purchase Pay Per Click (PPC) ads with Yahoo Search Marketing (formerly Overture) and Google AdWords.

32. List Your Products with Shopping Comparison Bots and Auction Sites.

Even with the above road map ... here's some honest advice.

The best marketing in the world today is that you have a GREAT product or service that people will want to talk about.

That to me is the only real marketing. The rest are all the channels that you can leverage to get the word out. But if you have a lousy or so-so or 'already have' kinda product or service, don't expect to get anywhere far even though you have the money to spend to use all the internet channels available.