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Supporting Veteran Owned Small Businesses

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Thursday, March 31, 2011

OK, Lets talk "how to get paying customers"

Lets start with this - Where are my customer opportunities and how do I go get them?

Before you begin your journey to gain a "go to" position, lots of prospects and lots of loyal repeat business customers, you need to do some homework first:


Quick starting solid business growth
by Neil Licht, CEO, HereWeAre callhereweare@verizon.net

While we all want to grow our businesses as painlessly as possible, there is some important homework to be done first in order to see the paths and avenues to take when trying to gain traction for a product or service so sales can happen.

Look at these key issues in strategic positioning, messaging, understanding your target audiences and actual selling approaches that need to be addressed to get YOU sales:

• Where is my target audience? Who are they?
• What do they care about?
• How do they source?
• Where do they go for industry updates and information and how do you get featured "there"?
• How do I think from the point of view of my target audiences so I can relate and connect?
• What do I specifically "say" that can instantly capture the targeted audiences, prospects so they want to talk
• How do I differentiate myself from the pack so i get called?
• How does my target audience evaluate issues and solutions?
• How can I define my key audiences and position to be of service to each audience so they want what I offer?
• How do I become a featured speaker at events and establish my position as a go to expert?

That reveals where target audiences are, where their "influencers" are and where you should be active via articles, social media, blogs, email, newsletters to create a "go to" national presence and reputation.

Next, using what you found, apply 2 key sales axioms as the road map for tapping into what you learned, using/leveraging each identified path and for messaging accordingly in each avenue you found that can create calls, buyers, get attention and position you as the go to source:

* Axiom #1: People do things for their reasons, not yours.
* Axiom #2: Imagine the prospect has a sign on his forehead that says “so what?”

These two principles guide the selling process, whether in letters, emails, your web page, blog or in person. If you remember these two axioms, your sales reach outs and what you say in them will come out as grabbers and connectors with issues and concerns that prospects interested buyers have, not as product pitches and then link/position what you "offer" as a way to solve those issues.

Understanding this thinking in target markets and constructing your reach outs based on the 2 sales axioms can get you the desired national presence and reach that you want plus the all important interested "real" prospect that you want.

Regards, Neil Licht, CallHereWeAre callhereweare@verizon.net 

See this link for more insights:   http://t.co/JSEsH64


Neil Licht, CEO-Chief Adviser,HereWeAre - Managing Change Group
    How to Re Tool messaging and sales approaches to Capture Business in our "everything's a commodity" mentality Market Place
   57 West Main Street
   Marlborough, Ma 01752
   (508) 481-8567,  Cell (508) 341-9563


What Kind Of Entrepreneur Are You?

University of Virginia research indicates that Entrepreneurs fall into two categories - those that use effectual reasoning (developing business goals and adapting them as they go), or use causal reasoning (set goals at the outset and strive to achieve them in the most effective manner).

I would like to know what you think. Please share your thoughts as comments (see the link below).

For more info see the Inc. Magazine article "How Great Entrepreneurs Think" in the February 2011 edition.

While ‘causal’ is my natural mode, it seems to me for most of us it is not either/or. It is often a blend. I am a big fan of Napoleon Hill’s "Think and Grow Rich". I believe Napoleon Hill was the first person to write “Plan Your Work and Work Your Plan”. That’s "causal". My approach to business is wrapped in "causal".

On the other hand, it don’t think people’s styles can be quantified as simply as that.

To expand a bit, here are three pairs of factors to consider …

1. People & Process .... While process is a good fit with the "causal" approach, people are not nearly as good a fit. So, when it comes to people I adapt as I go [effectual].

2. Rudimentary tasks and Conceptual tasks .... Rudimentary tasks align with a "causal" approach. Conceptual tasks are not so good a fit.

3. Time Frame .... A "causal" approach works well with longer-term goals. This factor is the one that lets me know "causal" is my natural mode. Regardless, for shorter-term goals I adapt. I suppose it could be argued that still fits with the ‘causal’ definition.

Small Biz Need to Share, Collaborate and Network to Grow their Companies

As the number of small businesses in Michigan increases, the opportunities for business owners to gather for education, networking and motivation become increasingly important. To help fulfill that need in southwest Michigan, the Strategic Small Business Initiative (SSBI) is holding its annual small business
conference on Thursday, May 19th at the Kalamazoo Country Club.

Entitled, 'Dream the Work: Work the Dream', the 2011 conference will feature keynote presentations from Jason Rosado, CEO of Distinctive Coaching and internationally acclaimed motivational speaker, Brett Eastburn.

Breakout sessions will include:
- Marketing Basics and What's New in Printing: Cyndee Garrod and Cindy Van Schoyk
- Small Business and Legal Issues: Michael Willis, Willis & Willis
- Creating Business Systems and Policies: Kristi Pavlik, Adonai Business Solutions LLC
- The Digital Cafe: Lauren Sorensen, Page One Rankings
- Finding Financing to Run Your Business: John Schmitt, Michigan SBTDC
- 5 Keys to Successful Financials: Ronen Shefer, ROCG
- Human Resources; The Use of Virtual Assistants: Kristi Pavlik, Adonai Business Solutions LLC
- Franchising 101: Audrey Randall, Paradigm Franchise Group
- Social Media for Your Business: Carl Brown, Iron Shirt Media
- Using Mobile Technology to Grow Your Business: Linda Daichendt, Mobile Technology Association of Michigan

Those interested in attending this year's conference may register at http://SSBIconference.eventbrite.com.

Early bird rates are currently available. Sponsors for the event include: Page One Rankings, Women's LIfestyle and PostNet, Sturgis.

According to an entrepreneurship fact sheet by the Kauffman Foundation, more than half the companies on the 2009 Fortune 500 list were launched during a recession, along with nearly half of the firms on the 2008 Inc. list of America's fastest-growing companies. Further, per the Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurial
Activity, 32 percent of adults in the U.S. created a new business each month, equaling approximately 530,000 new businesses nationally on a monthly basis.
Michigan is following this same trend of small business growth during challenging economic periods.

According to a report by the SBA's Michigan District Office, small businesses are becoming increasingly vital contributors to Michigan's economy as the state accelerates its move to a 'new' economy that is less dependent on its traditional major employment sectors such as automotive and durable goods manufacturing. As of 2008 (the most recent data available), small businesses represented 98.4 percent of
the state's employers with an employee base equal to 56.1 percent of the non-farm private sector workforce.

To help ensure southwest Michigan entrepreneurs are able to stay on the path to success, SSBI recommends participation in the upcoming 'Dream the Work: Work the Dream' small business conference, as well as SSBI's year-round agenda of small business programs and resources. More information on SSBI and its programs can be found at http://TheSSBI.com. Those having questions about the Small Business
Conference 2011 or the SSBI should contact us at questions@TheSSBI.com.

The Strategic Small Business Initiative (The SSBI) is a southwest Michigan- based small business support and networking organization offering: training, support, marketing and relationship building for small business owners. The vision of the SSBI is to create a program / place where small business owners can come to learn, network, and grow their companies. For more information, visit the organization's website at http://TheSSBI.com.

Monday, March 28, 2011

3 Biggest Risks For Small Business In A Down Economy

In any down economy small business seems to be hit the hardest. Listed below are three risks every small business should be aware of ... so you can roll with the punches and survive standing.

1. Running out of cash. Many business owners don't realize how much working capital it takes to run their business. They think about how much cash it takes to acquire a company, but not how much it takes to run the company.

2. Too much customer concentration. It is a big risk to have too few customers. If a company has a large customer that provides 75% of its sales, they are in a very risky position. All it takes is one decision for a customer to change where they purchase from and you are out of business. Take the time and effort to diversify your customer base so that your largest customer represents less than 10% of your business.

3. Giving up and waiting for something to happen. During these slow times in the economy, I find far too many business owners giving up on innovating and just waiting for the economy to "turn around". When the economy slows down, you need to increase marketing efforts and become more creative, not less. If you are waiting for the economy to turn around, you will be watching the innovative players in the market earning all of the market share.

Do whatever you have to avoid the above 3 situations. Any one of them can end up making you close your doors if you're not careful.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Small Business Success 'How-To' Articles

I have posted a link to several articles that can help us beat the challenge to acquiring business and standing out in the crowd that the consumer web sourcing "everything's a commodity" mentality has created for us.

Please take a look and lets begin a dialog on how to win in the face of this issue. NOTE: I'm not trying to sell my services. These articles are about how folks like you and me can overcome that game changing challenge. Thanks, Neil licht Small Business Success 'how-to' Articles

http://www.mentrepreneurs.com/Groups/HowtoArticles/tabid/68/articleType/AuthorView/authorID/41/ndlicht.aspx

Monday, March 21, 2011

Facebook Small Business Mystery Event .... Get In On The Excitement

The Facebook Mystery Event for Small Business is fast approaching .... to get in on the excitement you have to "like" this Facebook page:


Facebook Mystery Event


I don't know what's coming but it all sounds special. Everything I have heard says that if you are a small business .... you'll be thrilled with what the "mystery" is. So .... simply visit the link cited and "like" that Facebook page. Sounds easy enough to me.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

What Would Make The Ideal Business Telephone For You?

It amazes me how many times this question keep popping up, I guess the reason is because still many are not satisfied with what is currently on the market given the advancement in technology and programming methodologies.

The feature list I would like to see, and primarily focused around the practical use is as listed (some are already available but just not in a usable format)......

* Ability to maintain a constant Sync of contacts from both Mobile handset and Desktop PC

* Ability to have contacts stored locally on the system to avoid points of failure, and for quick look-ups

* Tighter integration between smart phones (Apple/Android Based) with the phone system and the Computing environment

* Better remote management access and serviceability of system within a secured environment

* Better GUI management with the ability to designate privileges to allow for end user basic configuration, right through to advance administration

* Better interoperability between systems and carriers

* Better VoIP Trunk management

* Better LCR capabilities with defined rules based system, with easy configuration and management of the LCR table

* Better reporting module with refine data graphing

* Flexible handsets with a reduction in the models and options, basically having two models that either are basic feature sets or advanced feature sets, with an emphasis of removing the wide ranges of handsets

* Better screen technology with desk phones to allow for more user interaction

* In-built Blue tooth pairing capabilities to allow for an end user choice of what headset they want to use

* In-built USB to allow for storage of either phone recordings, music playing, photo storage and viewable on the screen

* Voice Dialing recognition on desk phones

There is probably a truck load more of features/options, but I would then question the usability of them, the above are based on about 10 years as a Telecommunications consultant to every size of business.

Companies like Cisco, Avaya, Shoretel and others try their best to be innovative but fail at the pure and basic understanding at times of what the customer actually wants and needs, they usually have a perception of what the customer wants, but i feel as though the feedback is often either miss-understood, or not properly analyzed.

Here's to hoping that the manufacturers become a little more pro-active in understanding the requirements of the customer and the business they are in when developing their technologies.

For help finding the right business phone for your purposes .... try this all in one web portal where you can shop and compare by various categories of wired and wireless communication services.

Business Phone

Monday, March 14, 2011

Tips And Tactics To Generate Visibility For A Start Up Small Business

This isn't meant to be an all inclusive list ... just a few ideas to get your juices flowing ... and your hind quarters up and moving.

Social networking is a no brainer. I won't spend time on that subject as you can find specific articles with plenty of detailed advice perusing the archives of Small Business Resources Cafe.

That said .... lets look at your other options.

If it is a local brick and mortar business, the newspaper is actually a great place to start. It is an old school tactic, but it works.

On that note, news in general is a great way to get visibility. So, Press Releases are really effective. You can submit a press release to many PR sites that talk about the launch of your business, or a new solution your business is providing. It just has to sound like news. You can find several press release templates through a Google search.

I also found an article on this subject. A number of places to submit your website for free exposure. Here's the link ....

Top 7 Websites to Submit Your Startup Company to for Free Publicity


Events are also a great way to increase visibility, but that will be limited by the budget you are working with.

Don't forget branding. Location based service giant Foursquare offers you the opportunity to utilize their services as a Brand. This is a fun and cutting edge way to get your name out there.

There you go .... not too complicated. Just some simple actions anybody can do .... you just have to "do it".

Friday, March 11, 2011

Why should you set up a Twitter Auto-reply?

An auto-reply is very important, if you are using Twitter to build your business.
Twitter has millions of users. There are a few thousands who would have setup their accounts and would never have used Twitter. There are yet others who have setup few robots to manage their Twitter accounts and then there are the others who are serious users. How will you let your followers know, the category that you fall into? If you seriously want to use Twitter to build relationships then you want to do it right!

An auto-reply can help in many ways:

Setting this up will introduce you to you followers. Some people have thousands and thousands of followers who tweet every day which means they are getting a ton of tweets. There is simply not enough time for people to read them all. Most people will prioritize their followers in order of whose tweets and DMs to read. An introduction and Thank You goes along way to increase the chances of them watching you closer.

Sets the intent that you will be interactive. Your auto-reply is your first interaction with your follower. They are following your for a reason, but is yet to know your worth at Twitter. A well written auto-reply will show you mean business and your follower will know that he is following a person who is interactive and might respond to his tweets and DMs and will in some way form a mutually beneficial relationship.

Thanks your followers: Your followers are your assets. These assets are valuable and behave like a shareholder in a company. The more the shareholders or, shareholdings the more powerful the company. So when a follower chooses to follow you, he is putting his trust behind you. It is a courteous jesture to go ahead and thank him for putting his trust at you and following you. Your auto-reply can serve this purpose, if your write it well.

Prepares the foundation for your business:- The first lesson in sales speaks about preparing your prospects for your sales pitch. If you go out hard selling your product in your first interaction itself, the chances that your follower will acknowledge your tweets is very slim. You will have to prepare your prospects for your sales pitch. Your followers might be your prospective buyers. In some instances they might become the network to reach your prospective buyers. In both these circumstances, you need to prepare your followers to believe in you and your words just like you need to build trust when networking in person. You auto-reply written properly can set a good foundation.

Spend some time on thinking what you auto-reply should be. Then write it down and fine-tune it over a period of time. A good auto-reply can do a world of good to your twitter activities.

Things to Remember:

• Do not start to sell yourself or, your product in your auto-reply itself.
• Avoid promotions or, links especially to free stuffs, because everybody knows there is nothing free in this world.
• Make it just a welcome note (about 30 words) and a brief introduction of your personality (about 100 words.

Setting Up Your Auto Reply
Setting up an auto-reply is extremely simple. All you need is an account with Socialoomph. Sign up for a free account at Socialoomph. Once you have your account set up you can set-up an auto reply very easily.

STEP 1
Go to Social Accounts – Add New and add Your Twitter Account
STEP 2
Go to Direct Messages and then Edit Welcome DM
That is it, a simple step towards better relationships on Twitter!

Happy Tweeting!
Sherry Lynn

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The 5 Questions You Need To Ask Before Starting A New Business Relationship

Assume that this "deal" is for some product or service that you are offering to a client. The 5 questions to ask up front are to clarify .....

1. Clear identification of the products, services, skills, materials and performance factors required to complete the project so that the resources and associated cost can be estimated accurately.

2. A description of the conditions under which the project personnel will be required to perform and any related environmental or location factors

3. Specific references to product specifications that govern an acceptable product or services performance outcome and delivery acceptance.

4. A schedule for the project that identifies discrete delivery dates for products and specific start and end dates for supporting labor.

5. A precise description of customer furnished material or facilities required and when it will be made available.

Another way to look at it is this ....

1) What are the details of the problem you are trying to solve?

2) What are your desired solution, schedule and cost goals?

3) What do you expect me to deliver?

4) What resources are available?

5) Can I realistically solve your problem, achieve your goals with the the available resources and meet your delivery expectations?

The fact that it is a new business relationship (or so implied by the question) means nothing in terms of defining the project other than being a bit more cautious of new relationship matters. You may want to have inchstones instead of milestones so that you will mitigate risks and get faster relationship feedback and response. You mayalso want to get some credit checks or references to gain confidence. Other than that, try to have an early delivery and payment so you can test the business relationship before you commit too much of yourself.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Social Media Press Kit .... How To Increase Your Sales 100% Over Night

A Social Media Press Kit is a relationship tool and a sales tool. The SMPK has been designed for sales rep's, executive's, Public Relations People, Business Development Director, Musicians, Actors, Sports Teams, Clubs or consultant's to use to highlight themselves and get their very own personal PR.

It’s a real tool. Anyone can access you easily by sending you an email through the SMPK, Skyping you via a Skype call, instant message, or even sending you a text message directly to your mobile phone.

Sales and PR is and always has been about relationships and having connections. The SMPK is the very essence of this.

You can see real time twitter updates, a personal bio, a simple video introduction, or a company video promo. The SMPK has a personal photo slideshow to help make it more personal to display products, photo's of you or an event.

With email signatures getting bigger these days with people adding all of their links to their social media pages as well, they solved that problem by creating an email button that anyone can click on and go right to the Social Media Press Kit.

It’s truly everything you need in one nice and simple package that presents you and your company well and helps develop relationships for new opportunities.

Having one created for yourself is simple, it takes about 3-5 days and can be custom designed to fit your look and feel and have buttons that relate to your needs. They have a simple online questionnaire that provides the content they need and from there they can have it produced.

You get a Social Media Press Kit custom designed for your needs, an email signature button to use, and all of your social media profiles linked to the SMPK neatly designed. Pretty great!

Here are a couple samples of people who use the SMPK ....

Blue Water Group

Richter 10.2

Simply go to Social Media Press Kit to see a video and then sign up.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Business Tools That Save Time & Money Part III

When it comes to running your business, what online or offline tool/ product/ service do you find has saved you time and money and helped you run your business more effectively in one or more of these areas:

Office Setup
Operations
Legal Advice
HR
Marketing
Accounting
Sales
IT

Sherman Hu of 3Foreheads Productions offered the following ......

Here are some online/offline tools that make my life easier. I'll break it up into categories...

// Hardware //

>> Macbook Pro (http://apple.com/macbookpro/): Convenient plug and play. Lifestyle, media and business applications are all very intuitive. Saves me time, frustration and agony not worrying about the typical annoyances on a Windows machine. Generated thousands in revenue from leveraging audio and video apps (eg. iMovie, Garageband) for client projects and digital products. My Macbook Pro has saved me a boatload of time and frustration, along with generating me thousands in revenue from using its simple apps to produce end results that look amazing.

>> iPhone (http://www.apple.com/iphone/): I "don't leave home without it". Manages my email, instant messaging, social media (twitter, facebook etc), browsing, documents, productivity, lifestyle habits and more on this device. With version 4, I'll leverage the 720p HD camcorder recording and editing, 5 megapixel digital camera, multi-tasking and even video chat to its fullest. As I'm developing iPhone apps, the new Calendar sync feature from within apps to the iPhone calendar is simply brilliant.

>> iPad (http://apple.com/ipad/): On my Christmas list, and see unlimited opportunities for time savings and convenience with this device. In addition, revenue opportunities as I develop apps for the iPad (and the iPhone).

>> Livescribe (http://www.livescribe.com/ ; $150-$170): Would a smartpen (that records handwriting and audio) and special dot paper that syncs to your computer and web account, so you can skip to any point in your notes to listen to the audio recorded at that moment be of any value to you? Need I say more? My 4GB Livescribe Pulse - with a full battery charge - recorded an all day workshop (about 8 hours) and still left me with one bar at the end of the session. Priceless.

// Documents //

>> Evernote (http://evernote.com ; free): From cloud to desktop to iPhone app, it acts as my second brain to brain-dump anything (text, audio, images etc) and it all syncs together. It will also OCR business cards so data is searchable via the Evernote apps. Free app, with premium account for multi-user sharing capabilities.

// Email //

>> Gmail (https://mail.google.com ; free): For email, I consolidate multiple Gmail accounts into Mailplane (for Mac). Strong spam filter, practically unlimited storage, available via any internet cafe and works like a charm on my iPhone.

// Instant Messaging //

>> Google Chat (free): By default, this instant messaging service is packaged with your Gmail account. It's my preferred instant messaging service to communicate with my team and colleagues, as all chats are logged in Gmail for easy recall. In addition, Beejive (iPhone app, consolidates most IM services) works extremely well with GChat on my iPhone, giving me freedom to connect with my contacts while mobile.

>> iChat and Skype (free): As I have teams and partners on different platforms, I do use iChat and Skype for video chat. iChat text chat is integrated into Beejive for mobile IM, but Skype isn't, hence I don't dislike using Skype now.

>> Beejive (iPhone app) or Meebo (iPhone app, free) are two apps on my iPhone that consolidate all my instant messaging contacts across most IM services. Push notifications alert me when a contact is attempting to reach me. Closing the app doesn't terminate the use of the app, which is highly efficient.

// Time Management //

>> Pomodoro (http://pomodoro.ugolandini.com ; free): A Mac desktop application for managing time and focus, based on the Pomodoro technique (http://www.pomodorotechnique.com/). Helps maintain my focus on the project at hand.

>> Moleskine Planners (http://www.moleskineus.com ; $10-$20) I've graduated from the pocket, to the large to the extra large Moleskine for my weekly planning. My favorite is the Weekly Planner, either 12 or 18-months version (http://www.moleskineus.com/mcx51118w-moleskine-18-month-xl-soft-cover-weekly-planner.html). Love the tactile nature of Moleskine's acid-free paper notebook, their back flap (for inserting receipts or notes) and black elastic band closure. The Weekly Planner+Notes format shows the week’s appointments at-a-glance on the left, complemented by a page for notes and ideas on the right. Couple this with Leo Babauta's "3 Plan" (http://zenhabits.net/ztd-habit-3-plan/) and I'm rocking my week with productivity.

// Backup //

>> SugarSync (https://www.sugarsync.com/ ; free - $25/m) At present, my favorite remote file backup and sync service (for both Windows and Mac). I especially enjoy designating specific folders/files to my team without the annoyance of transferring large files via FTP.

// Image Editing //

>> Skitch (http://skitch.com/ ; Mac), Picturesque (http://www.acqualia.com/picturesque/ ; Mac) and Fireworks (http://www.adobe.com/products/fireworks/) are my 3 most used image editing applications on my Mac. Quick, easy, and I love the results from it.

// Mindmapping & Flow Charts //

Mindjet (http://www.mindjet.com/ ; Windows and Mac) and Omnigraffle (http://www.omnigroup.com/products/omnigraffle/ ; Mac) are my two favorite mind mapping and flowcharting tools. Easy to use, I've created mindmaps for my team and for my products as add-on value.

// Screencasting & Tutorial Documenting //

Screenflow (http://www.telestream.net/screen-flow/overview.htm ; Mac) and Screensteps (http://www.bluemangolearning.com/screensteps/ ; Win & Mac) are my two favorite apps for creating tutorials and documentation for my team, products and clients. These apps have saved me a huge amount of time to train others, and has also helped me generate thousands in revenue in product sales and consulting jobs.

// Web Publishing //

Wordpress (http://wordpress.org ; free) is my blogging and website publishing platform of choice. Couple this with WooThemes (http://wordpresstutorials.com) and you have a simple-to-deploy website that looks amazing that the search engines love. Plus, you have freedom and control to publish whatever and whenever you want, and not be held hostage by your web developer ever again.

// Accounting //

Just the thought of accounting makes me cringe. To make my life easier, I use Freshbooks (http://www.freshbooks.com/) for online invoicing, time tracking and expensing, and Shoeboxed (http://www.shoeboxed.com/) to send them my receipts for scanning and organization.

// Project Management //

Basecamp HQ (http://basecamphq.com/) is a lifesaver for project management, collaboration and tasking with team members and partners. Couple it with the many Basecamp iPhone apps and you can be on top of your projects and team in your office or while mobile. My iPhone app developer, partner and I currently use Basecamp to collaborate iPhone app ideas and designs, sharing images, milestones and communicate without the use of email.