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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...

Monday, November 30, 2009

SBI 2.0 ...... How To Get More Money (Sales) From Your Business Website

What would you say if you could grab hold of some very lucrative long tail traffic to your business website ..... while building your content base to levels you could never achieve by yourself .... thanks to thousands of interested visitors DAILY?

What if you made a few simple adjustments to your online business presence which achieved the following ....

- 500,000 MORE visitors per month = 17,000 MORE pairs of eyes EVERY single day.

- 1.5 MILLION visitors per month = 50,000 people visiting every DAY

That's right! An extra 50,000 people per day, every day, 24/7

That's exactly what resulted for this example business .... read about it all here:

Increased Website Traffic

Yep, C2 (Content 2.0) has kicked Elad's already hyper-active Web business into overdrive. When he talks about 500 new C2 submissions, what he's really saying is an additional 500 PAGES of free, user-generated, original content.

All Elad had to do was set it loose... and C2 just HAPPENS!

THAT's the true power of the all-new SBI 2.0.

What is C2? Read and be amazed ....

SBI 2.0

It's explosive. Visitors love it. Search engines love it.

And .... you'll love it. Rather .... your business and your bank account will love it.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Can Video / Podcasting Help Market Your Small Business?

This is an easy one … the short answer is yes.

Video is great for marketing and driving traffic to your business website.

Video, only if done right, can help with:

1 - Raising awareness about your business/product
2 - Getting your website on the first page of Google (based on keywords selected)
3 - Increasing customer retention

Video offers a more personal strategy for prospective clients to feel familiar with you. It also helps your website get a better search engine ranking.

Video Podcasting is an underused and powerful tool that can pay for itself and market products at the same time. The revenue from podcasting is doubling every year while the costs are staying the same. 100 million people are d27nloading podcasts from iTunes every year.

Perhaps most interestingly, advertisers are starting to fall over themselves to sponsor podcasts. Although they realize podcasts’ audiences are small, they also realize they are niche and very loyal.

If someone has bothered to go to iTunes, download the podcast, transferred it to their iPhone, and then watch it …. they are pretty likely to be interested in whatever the podcast is about, and therefore also interested in related products.

In one very successful podcaster’s words …. why spend a fortune on advertising on a TV show with an audience of 5million when you really only want to reach the 100,000 people interested in your product? With podcasting you are spending a fraction of the money on a show that reaches your targeted 100,000 people in a much more measurable way.

If businesses create a regular show around their brand that isn’t the traditional business podcast (i.e. what has our company been doing this year) ….. but is a piece of entertainment based around their brand …. they will get a wider audience riveted. Once you get them drawn in … you can strengthen the relationship via a mailing list (have a way for them to opt-in). You can also link directly to some specific product or service related to the podcast. They’re interested in the “subject” after watching your “show” … and are now primed to take the action you want. Buy.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Basic SEO Tips For Small Business Websites

The three most basic SEO tips are: (a) write to and for your customer because (b) if you write interesting content people will voluntarily link to you--Google loves that--and (c) if you don't write to and for your customer, you may be first on Google but you'll be last on closed business. Reciprocal links that are established with any and all comers, regardless of their business relationship to you, are discouraged by Google.

Keep these 3 tenets as the basic focus of your SEO efforts ….

1. Keyword Research is Critical - choose keyword phrases for each page of the site, each page should focus on different content, so therefore have different keywords.

2. Develop Ongoing Content Strategy (blog is easy) - create content around the keywords you are trying to rank for, and be consistent with publishing content, tag this content, and write it using the keywords (naturally though, don't try to hard with this).

3. Focus on Relevance in Your Content - you can optimize your site all you want, but in the end it's a matter of how relevant you are to the searchers queries. Blogging will contribute to your site being indexed more frequently, so if you stay relevant, you have a greater opportunity to rank higher.

At a very high level, SEO is comprised of linking, on page/meta data content, and other website mechanics (e.g. redirects, trusted URL, etc.). IMHO the page content aspect of SEO is the most crucial.

Start by examining your keywords. Most companies underestimate the importance of this exercise. From a marketing standpoint, nailing your keywords and phrases is the foundation for your online marketing communications and content strategy.

Here’s a link to a newsletter on keyword selection where you can download a worksheet to help you decide on the right keywords …..

Keyword Selection

Then make sure your website pages are optimized for the keywords and phrases—and not all on one page. Group your keywords and phrases so that any given page is optimized for 3-5 keywords. Make sure that your meta title tags and description especially included the 3-5 keywords/phrases for which you’re optimizing a given page.

For more about page content, see this article on boosting natural page rank ….

Boosting Page Rank

Finally, connect with the SEO experts. Follow them on Twitter and subscribe to their blog posts. There’s a Twitter list of SEO folks already set up at @copywriter4u/B2B-SEO-pros …. go follow the list.

Below are a few links with information on good SEO content.

High Rankings

Interleado

SEOMOZ

Search Engine Land

SEO Traffic Spider

Monday, November 23, 2009

Is Twitter Part Of Your Small Business Marketing Strategy

The interesting thing (to me) is even though there are so many Twitter users, less than 10% are active on a regular basis. In fact, I read most users have less than 10 posts and same for followers.

Even if Twitter is included in your marketing strategy, without commitment and regular contribution to build a following it isn't really a strategy. Twitter should be included in your marketing mix, but not how I see many people using it.

So many times, I see people using Twitter to send automatic direct messages (DMs) when someone follows them promoting their product, or they have automatic tweets set up to go out at the same time, everyday, that say the same thing.

This is not how Twitter is used effectively and to most, these methods are seen as spam.

While tweets can be set up to automatically post, there is a way to set them up so that they aren't seen at the same time day after day. You can stagger your messages throughout the day and at different times on different days.

But you can't just use automatic tweets and believe that Twitter will be a successful medium for you. Twitter is a part of social networking. The key word is networking. Twitter is a means to connect and build relationships from all walks of life and from around the county. For a business owner, or company, it's a way to branch out from Chamber Mixers or BNI meetings on a local level. Don't just tweet or read. Reply. Retweet. Talk.

In my opinion, and based on the experiences that I've had with Twitter, the strategy that you come up with and implement includes finding followers and following people who you can connect with ….. and then after striking up a relationship on Twitter, moving the conversation to email, phone, or in person.

Social media is all the buzz. I encounter many small businesses who are allured by the fact it is 'free'. They think they can ditch all other marketing and focus exclusively on Twitter and Facebook. (Most will be very disappointed.)

I think Twitter can work to support a sound marketing plan. (That means actually having a well-planned, diverse marketing plan.) However, too many just tweet silly things without thinking about relevant keywords that may lure new followers.

It's important to think about your customer/prospect base. It's not what YOU think is important, but what your customer/prospects do.

The bottom line is to figure out what will build loyalty and increase sales.

Friday, November 20, 2009

How To Find A Reliable Supplier For Your Small Business

SupplierEvaluations.com is a web-based, business-to-business community of buying professionals dedicated to collecting and disseminating supplier performance evaluations based on the peer input from their community members. They mainly focus on the overseas suppliers in Asian, Eastern European, and Latin American countries ..... and their small and medium size business customers in the countries such as the US, Canada, countries of the European Union, and other developed countries.

In today’s competitive global economic environment, the pressures of lowering costs throughout the supply chain are enormous. But access to supplier performance information about overseas suppliers remains limited. At SupplierEvaluations.com, they want to close this performance information gap by collecting the supplier performance information from the businesses with actual experience.

By doing so, they believe that SupplierEvaluations.com promotes excellence in suppliers ..... and enables better visibility for the members in their supplier selection, sourcing, and buying processes, as well as in partnering with potential suppliers.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

How Do You Start A New Small Business ....

This is not meant to be all inclusive advice for how to start a new small business .... but it will definitely get you pointed in the right direction with a practical roadmap to follow.

To illustrate the actions you need to commit to I'm going to use opening a new restaurant as an example. It's easier to relate to a real life tangible example than just a bunch of esoteric thoughts and "tips". You can glean the basic ideas from this real life example and adjust as necessary to fit your chosen specific business .......

First, understand how much money you have to invest .... and assume you are going to need twice as much or more--so aim lower in your initial investment expectations.

As you probably know, the restaurant business is in severe recession right now. Restaurants are closing their doors all over because dining out is considered a luxury and we are in a back-to-basics economy.

That said, how do you get started? Here's what I recommend.

1. With restaurants withering all over, there are many for sale right now. You can get a already running operation with all the equipment on the cheap right now. You might even get landlords to renegotiate rent rather than losing a tenant for 6 months to a year or more. Buying an existing operation gives the advantage of being able to get revenue right away and not spending 3-6+ months on build out, getting permits and licenses, etc. Also, there is existing staff. The downside? If they're failing, you need to fix stuff and grow. If you are buying an existing operation, it's a buyer's market--you are in the drivers seat; don't overpay.

2. Talk to a business broker about what's available in your area. Check businessesforsale.com or bizbuysell.com for listings. Commercial realtors may also have some listings. You might want to check the local classified section too.

3. Spend time with a commercial realtor checking out real estate locations to understand traffic, rent tiers, physical locations, structural design issues, etc.

4. Talk to your local city about licensing and permitting requirements. You may get quite an adventure if you intend to serve alcohol. I have seen restaurants take 6+ months to get occupational or health licenses before opening. That's a lot of rent to pay while waiting for the government.

5. Talk to your bankers and local restaurant supply store management. They can probably tell you who has restaurants with good potential/track record of success but are experiencing difficulty in the current economy.

6. As with any small business, controlling costs is vital to survival. Avoid fixed expenses as much as possible. Negotiate for deals on everything. There is plenty of used restaurant equipment and supplies out there--no need to buy new when you can get stuff for 10/20 cents on the dollar.

7. Read everything you can about marketing and promotion. When you are ready to open, you need to drag people in and let everyone know you're open. Read the articles "How to Advertise Your Small Business on the Internet," "How to Build a Really Good Website for Under $100," and "How to Write and Issue Press Releases for FREE" on smallbiz123.com.

You will also need to establish a compelling brand for your restaurant. Great Name, Logo, signage, business cards, menues, promotional flyers/ ads, website and markeking plan.

The most crucial part of starting a new business is creating an appropriate brand Identity that represents the desired attributes of your company's services .... and puts in play creative initiatives that will attract your target market.

Unfortunately, too many new business owners try to save money and make the mistake of trying to create their own brand ..... which in the end doesn't pay off.

Brand Identity is the foundation of any business or product, and it should always project a highly professional image. I strongly suggest you hire a professional to do it. This will ensure that your business is started the right way with a strong foundation.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Free Marketing Ideas For Small Business

Startups and small businesses face the ultimate chicken and egg situation, they need to grow their businesses but don't have any cash to spend on marketing. The solution is mastering free marketing such as search engine optimisation (SEO), public relations (PR), email marketing, affiliate marketing, guerilla marketing and partnership marketing.

Marketing doesn't need to cost thousands when you can do it yourself .... and freemarketingexperts.com provides a wealth of resources in how to wield the power of free marketing.

Written by marketing experts who have worked for leading brands such as Sainsburys, Halifax, The Sun and Thomson Holidays, you can learn everything you need to drive sales for your new business and even have telephone access to your very own marketing director if you need further advice.

If you want to get your business off to the right start without spending any money on marketing, start with these 10 free marketing ideas that won't cost you a penny...

Free Marketing Ideas For Small Business

Friday, November 13, 2009

Time and Expense Management Solutions For Small Business

Replicon is a market leading provider of SaaS based time and expense management solutions. Currently, Replicon has more than 6700 companies (totaling over 1.2 million users), and the client list ranges from <5 user companies to 30,000+ user companies.

Replicon’s solution would fall under your Business Software and/or Project Management categories as our flagship program, "Web TimeSheet" comes in both a time tracking oriented version (Time & Attendance edition) and a project-oriented version (Project & Billing edition).

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Web TimeSheet Project & Billing edition is designed to track hours against projects and tasks for the purpose of managing project timelines, and monitoring project costs and billing:

* Track time against clients, projects, tasks
* Compare actual vs. estimated hours/costs
* Remind users when timesheets are due
* Set up multi-level approvals
* Get real-time reports on project hours/costs/billing

The Web TimeSheet Time & Attendance edition allows you to track your employees' work and time off hours, monitor employee attendance, and collect the data you need for payroll:

* Log time with the easy-to-use timesheet
* Book/approve time off in a calendar view
* Remind users when timesheets are due
* Set up multi-level approvals
* Get real-time reports on time/attendance

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As previously mentioned, companies using Web TimeSheet range in size from < 5 users and up. It is a very scalable solution and does not require an "enterprise" or "professional" package. It has proven ideal for start-ups as it's a solution that can grow as the company grows.

It also doesn't require a company to purchase a "packaged deal" and pay for features they will not use. Each software product from Replicon can be used separately as a standalone solution, or can be seamlessly integrated into a full software suite.

For more information go to ..... Time Tracking Software

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Small Business Development Resource

The Association of Small Business Development Centers (ASBDC) represents America's Small Business Development Center Network -- the most comprehensive small business assistance network in the United States and its territories.

The mission of the network is to help new entrepreneurs realize their dream of business ownership, and to assist existing businesses to remain competitive in the complex marketplace of an ever-changing global economy.

Hosted by leading universities, colleges, and state economic development agencies, and funded in part through a partnership with the U.S. Small Business Administration, approximately 1,000 service centers are available to provide no-cost consulting and low-cost training.

To find your local SBDC visit Small Business Development Resource

Monday, November 9, 2009

Small Business Tools For Basic Project Management and Accounting

SME business owners should have access to basic project management and accounting tools that allow them to easily manage their projects and automate their team's data entry for things like time on activities, expenses, distance traveled, and products sold on the road or at the job site.

BillZone is a product that allows small business owners to automate all these activities so that more time can be spent on their business. Employees and contractors simply enter their information using computers or PDA devices, and the employer or the bookkeeper can run all the customer invoices in a single day instead of managing hundreds of timesheets.
One of its strengths is that it is designed to work with Windows, Mac, and Linux, and with most browsers available on those platforms. All financial reports are in PDF format, delivered right to the desktop. Since it is Software as a Service (SaaS), there is no setup or expertise required by the business owner.

The software was also designed to deliver simple project management tools, so that owners can set up projects and then run reports to see project statuses in real-time (how much has been burned vs estimated as of today) and see how well they have done over time.

For more information look over these sites .....

* Bill Zone

* Why Basic Project Management Tools Are Good

Friday, November 6, 2009

Functional Visibility Branding .... Real Life Example

In one pet grooming and boarding business, they use large soft plastic key tags (advertising specialties) imprinted with their business name and their telephone number. The tags are large and bright yellow, and they use them as dog tags.

Customers are told that, while they are away, if the dog gets out (although they haven't had an escape in 20 years!), the regular dog tag with owner's phone number is useless (because the owner is away from home). And even when the owner is home and *they* lose the dog, their phone number is still uselss because they will be out trying to find the dog. In either case, they need to keep the businesses number (sic dog tag) on the dog at all times.

Also, these tags are large and bright and the grooming and boarding business tells the owner that people may not stop to pick up a stray dog without a tag. But will stop for a dog wth a tag - and their tag is easy to see.

They give these keytag/dogtags away free and leave them on the dog's collar when it goes home. At the dog park or on walks, other owners see the tags, enquire and they get a constant stream of new business, both for grooming and for boarding.

It's easy to see why this works. This business gives something away that is useful for dog owners to ensure they use it .... and while it helps them it also helps promote the dog grooming and boarding bsuiness at the same time.

This is a perfect example of how creativity is an important marketing skill.

So ... what creative ideas can you come up with for YOUR business?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Small Business Advice .... Add That Personal Touch

Every small business should heed this advice .... add that 'personal touch' and a sense of genuine caring from you so that your customers feel important.

This type of 'personal caring' hasn't changed in centuries, and I doubt it ever will. People will always want to feel listened to and expect top quality for their dollar. Your customers/clients are no different.

Keeping them on the radar...and making them FEEL as if they are still on your radar is of utmost importance.

With regard to your business, you could ......

* Send out postcard reminders. A great site for this is SendCards.com. They actually send out some really cool cards in direct mail based on what you've written. I really like their service after testing them a few times.

* Make a quick phone call or send an email shortly after your engagement .... just to confirm that you are interested in this client and that you care about their needs.

* Start getting involved in social media marketing. Since you want to promote your goods/services, I recommend that you start tweeting on Twitter and have a profile on LinkedIn and/or a 'page' or 'group' on Facebook. In these venues, you could have special coupons or giveaways solely for your followers that would give them a heads-up preview and make them feel special.

You also have the opportunity to answer specific questions and establish the concept that you are the go-to person for your specific goods/services.

These social media sites will also help you develop a more personal relationship with your prospects and/or clients.

I know I have mentioned this before, but I am still a big fan of the thank you card , with a few business cards in the envelope and a discount offer, or free "something" with a referral.

Actually I like (1) business card refridgerator magnet, and (10) business cards.

I just think that, especially in an age when many people may have clients that you will never meet, or are in another city, that people will carry your card to pass along if they are happy with your service.

I know it sounds "old school", but how else do you get people in another city to remember you at a moments notice when their peers say, "Hey, you wouldn't know anyone that does_____, would you ?"

Monday, November 2, 2009

Tip For A New Small Business .... Free (or Low Cost) Marketing Ideas

I don't believe it is impossible to succeed in business without an advertising and marketing budget. How much you need to spend will depend on your business and your industry. If you are a retail shop then a certain amount of advertising will be necessary, perhaps. If you are a service business, you may need to spend some money on marketing.

In the construction industry, for example, you are likely to know people in the industry before you start your own business, and a few telephone calls to a few acquaintances may be all that is necessary to get the ball rolling. After that maintaining contact with as many industry people as possible could get you all you the business you want.

In fact, I would encourage a small business, regardless of the amount of money they have available, to leverage their friends, family and acquaintances. Make a list of everyone you know (or, more importantly, who knows you), call these people and ask for their help - tell them briefly about your business (in no more than 20 seconds) and ask them who they know who could help you get started or expand. Ask your friend to speak to their friend and tell them something about you, then call your friend's friend and ask *them* if they know someone who could help you.

As long as you are asking for help, you are likely to get help. Start selling and trying to get an order and people clam up. That sort of thing makes it a cold call and people don't like cold calls these days. But ask for their help and people are less likely to blow you off. If they can help you, they wll pass you on. If they want what you have to offerf, they will tell you, "Hey! I need some of that. Come and see me!"

I guess you could call it networking - I call it leveraging.

Here's some other simple ideas ..........

* Good Base Materials (business cards, brochures, flyers, website) are the first thing I would invest in.

* Then Public Relations (Press Releases & Other Media Marketing, local Chamber of Commerce, community events/activities)

* Establishing great lead generation (special reports, listbuilding, customer referral programs)

For most small businesses these activities can be done for relatively low cost .... and can create enough of a return to start costlier marketing efforts.

For example ......

1. Business Cards - To get 250 or 500 business cards, even if they are just black and white with your name and address and business details, should cost less then $50. Give them to everyone you meet. If you think that someone you meet may know someone who needs your services .... then give them two and ask that they pass it on to someone else who they think may need your services.

2. Flyers - If this seems like a suitable means of advertising for your business it can be done for very little. Copies can be had for about 6cents a page or less, in black and white. So for 500 A4 flyers this is $30. Or do A5 and get twice as many for half the price. Getting them into mailboxes or hung on doors is another thing. But sometimes you need to invest a little time to get some return. Later on it may be smarter to pay someone else to drop them off. But if you are really scrapping for dollars .... doing it yourself is low cost.

3. Public Notice boards - Many shopping center's have public notice boards. Some require that you use provided cards to write your message on. Others allow whatever to be put up. While sometimes they start to look messy, it can be a way to get your name out a little more.

4. Classifieds - Often it can be quite expensive to buy display ad space in newspapers. However placing a classified add can be relatively cheap. Most papers have a section that has business categories, and you can advertise in the most relevant category. It is lower cost, and you may be advertising alongside other people in the same type of business, but I think the response to a lot of classifieds are pot luck mostly anyway.

5. Adwords - While many people do send hundreds or thousands of dollars per day on adwords marketing, It is by far the lowest cost way to get into search results (admittedly to the side and not always at the top) and take advnatage of online markets. But if you have a fairly low competition market, spending $1 per day at 9cents a click is hardly going to kill you. That is just $30 per month, assuming that you use the full $1 budget each day.

6. Joint Ventures (partnering) - A small business could also partner with other small businesses. For example, a retail store could partner with two of their business neighbors. They could promote a special event together in the local newspaper. Say a 1/4 page ad costs $300 and they want to run the ad for three days prior to the big event. If one business were to do this it would cost them $900 but by partnering with the other two businesses it only costs each business $300. This would get them three days worth of ads at the cost of just one day .... and their event becomes even bigger by being part of a multi-store event potentially drawing in the other stores customers as well as their own.

7. Creative Marketing - Take full advantage of YouTube and start your own very free and very noticeable viral marketing campaign. All you need is the default Windows Movie Maker, perhaps a few sound clips of yourself (or video clips) talking about your business and images that give the viewer a proper and clear visual as to what you are trying to sell, promote, etc. Having a few of your blogging friends add your logo or banner to their website wouldn't hurt, either, that way two or three keywords pertaining to your business could be added to their site header making their blog show up in more results, meaning your ad would be given a wider audience. Everyone wins. Search the web for radio stations that only broadcast online, and check out how much they charge for advertising plugs on-air.

8. Give-Aways - T-shirts, buttons, magnets, mugs, bumper stickers, car door magnets and anything that the average person uses daily is another great way to promote. Spend a small part of your budget on any of the above and hand them out for free. You'll be remembered for it, and gain profits.

What's the best free or low cost marketing approach (OK ... in my opinion)?

The best and cheapest way to market a business is to use ones existing customers fully .... simply give them a “How’s things?” call every other month or two and you’ll be surprised at how much extra business this generates.

You should also ask all customers .... once you have fulfilled your promises to them .... for a couple of referrals. Ensure that they are good referrals and you’re closing average will be above average.

Here is a real world example of one small businnesses experience ......

My wife needed some work done on her car but didn't want to pay the high price quoted at the local dealer or garage. She was out running some errands and happened to pick up one of those "Thrifty Nickle" weeklys at the mall. You know those publications that advertise local businesses.

She found an ad in there for "JB's Auto Services". She called him up and "JB" came right to the house and fixed her car ... at a price she did somersaults over. JB has even found me broken down on the freeway and got me back on "my wheels". He's come to our house many times, found me on the freeway, gone to my daughter's college campus, caught up with my son's car in the parking lot at his work, and lots of other "going out of his way to take care of us". I could tell you a ton of stories where JB saved the day. Service, service, service ... caring about us and the situation. Doing whatever it takes to get things right ... at a cost much less than what it was really worth (in both quality and customer service).

JB now has his own garage and still will come to wherever we are with his "mechanic on wheels van". If he can't fix it onsite ... he now takes it to his very own garage. He gets the parts at best price, arranges for state inspections, works with insurance companies (if necessary ... do you have kids? LOL), and basically does everything soup to nuts ... at all hours of the day and night. Plus ... with a smile, a chuckle, a hug, and a "God Bless".

Needless to say we've referred probably 15-20 "new customers" to JB ourselves. Plus each of our friends has probably referred 5-10 apiece. That's just us and our experience too.

So from that one little ad in the Thrifty Nickle (which we found out later JB ran for only 1 day) ... we found our own personal "mechanic with a heart". Now JB has his own shop and a ton of referal clients just from us and our friends. We also have a good friend who is more than just "our car guy". He's become very popular in our community and his business is booming. More than enough work to keep him VERY busy..

Moral of the story ... from little acorns grow big trees. You can start small ... and no telling what you'll grow into.