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30 Do’s And 20 Don’ts In Starting A Small Business

Small scale businesses are easier to set up compared to the middle or large scale businesses that require more time, feasibility reports, ad...

Monday, August 29, 2011

5 Ways to Attract Customers with Social Media



Business owners are always looking for new ways to attract customers. Newspaper, radio, and television absorbed media budgets until the advent of online marketing roughly ten years ago.  At Web4Retail (an online marketing firm), we educate and inspire small businesses on the benefits of social media and how it can attract new customers if managed correctly. Below are some first steps into the world of social media:


1. Create a Facebook Fan Page
There are lots of ways to get creative and engage your customers, and then their friends become your fans and customers too. It’s best to ask an expert to help you set up your page and manage the day to day maintenance.

2. Tweet Special Offers or Advice Daily Via Twitter
Sprinkles Cupcakes is just one business that encourages customers in its stores and on its Web site to follow the company on Twitter. Every few days, the company sends out messages such as “Celebrate National Chocolate Cake Day! The first 50 people to whisper “rich” at each Sprinkles receive a free dark chocolate cupcake.” That gets people into the shop — and most times they buy another cupcake and a drink.

3. Encourage Customer Reviews on Yelp

Some 90 percent of consumers say they trust recommendations from people they know, and 70 percent say they trust consumer opinions posted online, according to a Nielsen Global Online Consumer Survey. A Web4Retail client, Bedderbuy, utilizes Yelp beautifully for new customers and reviews. I encourage all furniture retailers to make Yelp a part of their online marketing effort.


4. List Your Business on Google and Yahoo

When we want to find anything, we turn to Google or Yahoo to search — and you can’t get any bigger in terms of Web sites than these. Google has a Local Business Directory where you can register your business absolutely free. And here’s what’s most interesting: You don’t even need a site to have a strong Web presence. It’s open to all types of small businesses — with hundreds of thousands posted. (Yahoo offers a similar service.) There’s no reason not list your business on both sites — whether you own a mom and pop hardware store or a bar, you want to leverage the extraordinary reach of these search engines. Check out Google’s tutorialto help you get started.

5. Be Your Own Publicist

Finally, the Web site ”Help A Reporter” is a free daily email service that delivers media queries three times a day right to your inbox from among some 70,000 bloggers, authors, TV reporters, and radio producers. Often the requests are for small business owners — recent listings seek smallbusiness owners to discuss creative financing in this economy; other queries are for gardening experts, jewelry makers; the needs are very diverse. This is a way for you to do your own publicity without the expense of a publicist to get your business mentioned in the media.

Web4Retail had designed and manages more than 100 Facebook pages for businesses. If you would like more information visit our website @ www.facebookyourbusiness.net or call 877-536-4786

Tips On Developing The Marketing Section Of Your Business Plan

Here's some tips on how to develop the marketing section of the business plan for your small business .......

I suggest that you evolve demographics for your anticipated customer base that allow you to develop a marketing plan from the customers you wish to reach with your product information. Demographics are generally available at web sites such as the US Census Bureau and other links below.

Seek information about individuals who are likely to buy your product, such as age, location, lifestyle, and similar information that would allow you to gear a marketing plan toward a population of buyers you wish to impress.

When researching on web sites I recommend that you change your search key words. Here is a list of preface words that you should consider followed by words identifying your product when searching on Google or like sites: Financial Forecast **Anticipated Revenue ** Future Market **Sales and Revenue **Market Coverage **Industry Forecast **Market Trends **Market Data **Forecast Data **Outlook **Others you may think of implying data and information in the past, present or future.

Sometimes the information doesn't jump right out of the page at you. You have to give some thought to how you are going to use the data and be willing to look at it at face value and think about potential underlying support it may be providing to your premises. You may have to change your focus from a technical one to a business one and elevate your view of information, then interpolate downward.

Give the best you can to preparation of all the other elements of the plan except the financial section and then use them as a springboard to complete your expense and revenue forecasts in the finance area to complete your business plan.

Online resources ....

* Entrepreneur Resource Center

* Ecom

* Fact Finder

* SEC EDGAR

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Key Elements For Success Of A Small Business In Overseas Markets

Here's a few things to ensure are addressed if you are intending to expose your Small Business to overseas markets .....

Make sure you are versed in their customs and know the costs of start up. You should already have a business plan but if you don't I strongly suggest getting one. How will you fund the expansion into the new market? What type of entity will you operate as (LLC, Incorporation, Corp, S-corp etc). Find out the international tax rules. What will your sales forecasts be? What about initial costs and operating costs? Who will represent you over seas? All this boils down to is there are market for your business in the Asian markets. When will you be profitable? Who are your competitors? What is your marketing strategy? The answers to these questions and many more will allow you come up with your key strategies as well as contingency planning. Having a great accountant who specializes in international accounting will help tremendously as well. You may seek some legal services as well.

Spearheading a campaign into an overseas market requires an incredible amount of detail and cultural/custom/legal specific knowledge. It would also be highly beneficial to transfer someone from your management team directly ahead of your startup - that way you have a source you can rely on to negotiate on your behalf and ensure everything is prepared smoothly before you invest further ahead. They can also be responsible for sourcing local talent for succession management with an excellent background in your industry.

Monday, August 22, 2011

What's The Best "Simple" Advice For A Small Business Person?

Here's just a few examples gathered from friends .... feel free to add your own as a reply comment.

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1. Be impeccable with your words (speak with integrity, don't gossip or talk bad about others; it will come to haunt you).

2. Don't make any assumptions (ask questions and expres what you really want; communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings).

3. Don't take anything personal (nothing others do is because of you; what others say or do is a projection of their own reality and issues).

4. Always do your best (your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy or sick. Simply do your best and you will avoid self-judgment and regret).

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Always be on-time
Anticipate what can go wrong
Be proactive
Don't bad mouth colleagues
Find responsible people to whom you can delegate
Don't lose your temper (it's OK to swear in private)
Learn to take very deep breaths.

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Don't stop working at a problem until it is solved.

The customer is your partner and treat each engagement with the customer as such - a win/win for all.

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Focus on your strengths.

Acknowledge what you have accomplished rather then what haven't.

It is okay to question yourself but never doubt yourself.

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Never underestimate yourself and others won't either.

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Never, ever disappoint a customer.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

What A Small Business Should Look For In A Vendor

The first three qualifications I would look for when selecting a vendor are ...

1. Can they do what we want them to do? That may not be as simple as it sounds; you may want to include all the very subtle qualifications such as do they really know "about your business" (what you do, why, to/for who, what makes you tick). Building something merely to meet my cold, hard, written requirements, and building something that meets my written requirements but also includes knowing WHY I wanted it built can be the difference between a mediocre product and a great product.

2. Can they do it in the manner that we want them to do it? Can they and will they comply with all of our flow-down process and regulatory requirements (as Norbert Kubilus discussed)? If we have been contracted to build a product for a highly-demanding client (and/or one that operates in a strictly-regulated industry), the client will flow down process and regulatory requirements (e.g. "do it this way", "maintain these records as proof of compliance", "assess your work practices on a regular basis to prove that you are constantly in compliance", etc.) to us. Any vendors I sub-contract will also have to meet these requirements.

3. Can they be trusted? Will they provide the product or service on time? Will they provide services in compliance with flow-down process requirements? Will they promise not to use or pass on any intellectual knowledge that has been transferred to them (other than in our contracted business)?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Entrepreneurs .... Whats On Your Book Shelf?

The best books to read are those that are entertaining , informative and well written, including novels, histories, biographies, books of general knowledge and finally books relevant to the particular type of interests your entreprenuership involves. Well rounded is the key, IMHO.

One of my favorites is "BEE-ing Attraction: What Love Has to Do with Business and Marketing" by Jan Stringer and Alan Hickman. This book reveals unusual methods for attracting what you want for your business while living an authentic life. If you're a conscious entrepreneur seeking ways to enjoy your work life more, this book is a must.

Nearly any of the books by Alan Weiss for running a business are good - including:

* Million Dollar Consulting Toolkit
* Process Consulting
* Value Based Fees

And...Peter Block's - Flawless Consulting
And...Phillips - The Consultant's Scorecard

And...Jim Collins' Good to Great, Daniel Pink's Drive, and Martin's The Design of Business.

Here's more - - -

Jim Collins ... Good to Great
Arbringer Institute .... Leadership and self-deception
James Gleick .... Chaos
Howard Schultz .... Pour Your Heart Into It

And ....

* "Enchantment" by Guy Kawasaki.
* "Selling the Invisible" by Harry Beckwith. Indispensable reading!!
* "Social Marketing to the Business Customer" by Paul Gillin and Eric Schwartzman. All about B2B social media marketing, which is different than B2C
* "The Thank You Economy" by Gary Vaynerchuk.
Sun Zu .... The Art of War

Plus these ....

* How I Raised Myself from Failure to Success - Frank Bettger. A great book on selling, including how to put a value on every phone call you make, whether you get business from it or not.

* How to Win Friends and Influence People - Dale Carnegie. The lessons in this book still work today.

* The Art of SEO - Enge, Spencer, Fishkin, Stricchiola. A great read even for people who don't work in the SEO arena. Even if you do, there are lots of great snippets here.

* Most books by Tom Peters. A management consultant who knows that to get useful things done, you have to do useful things.

And don't forget this one ....

The Art of Start by Guy Kawasaki teaches everything about entrepreneurship

Thursday, August 11, 2011

How To Leverage Facebook To Grow Sales And Your Market

In my opinion, Facebook is a brilliant tool for networking and growing customer/brand awareness.

One of the key ingredients you'll need to establish a successful following, is persistence. The worst thing any business or company can do, is to create a presence on a social media site like Facebook, put in the early effort of a brilliant profile/product page... and then leave it sitting there. In essence it becomes nothing more than a glorified business card.

If you want to unleash the power of digital social marketing to push your product, then ensure you keep the 'peddle to the metal' and drive your page. Keep your followers entertained... add some personality, alittle humor, and update them on your projects. Offer your Facebook army a discount or extra product/item if they place an order with their username as a reference, better yet, offer them a VIP discount for an add-on purchase (just make sure it doesn’t come across as a ‘would you like fries with that?’ sales pitch – make it a heartfelt, genuine offer to the buyer)... or an 'introduce your friend' incentive.

The ability to profitably drive your business or product/service through Facebook is phenomenal - trick is to keep your information updated and constant. Start putting your FB contact details on the back of business cards and paper media, so curious people can jump online and sign up to your growing network. Maybe sell the concept as a VIP Club... and offer advanced specials or sneak previews of products etc. Give them the incentive and people generally can't help themselves - they have to know what’s going on, especially if they can benefit from being associated in some way.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Insurance For A Start-Up Small Business

A good way to compare small business insurances it to compare their online "quotes". A couple of good websites to compare those are listed below.

Make a "risk assessment" of your business before buying an insurance policy. Appoint a business advisor to get complete risk assessment done.

Inquire from local agents or go online to find out which companies provide business insurance.

Request quotes based on actual cost values of your assets. Valuation done for the sole purposes of lowering insurance premium is not a good idea.

Get coverage for inflation and changes in policies and regulations that may affect your business.

Choose the quote from the best-rated and -reviewed insurance company that gives you the cheapest rates against an optimum cover.

Maintain total disclosure with your insurance company and agent regarding past events or incidents that might affect your future policy. In other words, be honest and upfront.

Get insurance quotes for the "minimum level of security." The quotes for this level are likely to be higher.

Request that the company or agent send an appraiser for recommending improvements that will lower your premium.

Examine all the terms and conditions of the insurance policy, and inquire about "exclusion" clauses in the policy.

Here's some resources to help .....

Review Center

SBHI

Insurance Comparison

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Using a Dashboard to Monitor Your Business

I consider the development and use of a dashboard as a best practice because it really helps you to keep your finger on the pulse of your business. Many small businesses don’t check in on their operation often. Granted, if you’re checking your financials and marketing results at least quarterly, that’s a big improvement over doing an annual checkup. A better practice is to monitor it monthly however, and there are some elements of your business that you may want to monitor weekly. After watching the changes from month to month, or week to week, take a step back at the six month mark and look strategically and objectively at what all the monthly incremental changes might mean.

What’s a dashboard? Dashboards are used by many large businesses to monitor their business throughout the year. Dashboards strive for simplicity of presentation of data related to your Key Performance Indicators, or KPI. Key Performance Indicators include areas such as: Marketing, Sales, Financials, and Operations. The data is often presented as trend lines, charts, and other visuals. This is how they came to be known as dashboards – when driving your car your dashboard provides at-a-glance insight into critical areas of the car’s operation. And so it is with your business dashboard also. Some of the dashboard software that’s available even prepares the data to look like gauges that look like they would be found on your car’s dashboard. These gauges can be superfluous, as long as you have the trend lines. Recognizing trends improves your ability to strategize and your decision-making as you grow your business. You’ll also notice areas requiring more attention. This timely recognition allows you to consider an intervention when an issue is small and easier to resolve.

What are key areas to include in your dashboard? I’ve already identified several possible categories to include, and this can be variable depending on the nature of your business. If you are a solopreneur, you might not need to use the Operations/HR category, for example. It can be helpful to work with a business advisor or consultant to develop your dashboard as these professionals provide objectivity and other perspectives that can be hard for a business owner to achieve. Within each category you will choose the elements that you feel are important to monitor. Take some time to look at your business strategically. This is how you will determine what the key categories are. From there you’ll drill down into more specific items to monitor. You can see that this means you are evaluating and analyzing your business – a mindset that you want as an active part of your business.

What specific items would you monitor in each category? I’ll make suggestions here, and you are not limited to these. You may have others that have more meaning and greater impact on your business and so those are the ones you should use. Again, this gets back to thinking strategically.

Marketing – What do you use as marketing tools to build your customer base? What do you use as tools to maintain your customer base? Total marketing cost?
Website analytics – search engine rank, number of unique visitors, amount of time visitors spend on your site, blog subscribers
Social media – for each channel that you use you might track friends, likes, followers, connections etc.; you would also want to include a measure of engagement such as post feedback, tweets, comments etc.; you might include a measure of the time you spend interacting on social media; advertising using social media channels (Facebook ads for example)
Print advertising – dollars spent; contacts from print advertising
Newsletter – number of subscribers; number of unsubscribes

Sales – Where is your income coming from? What offerings are strong and which are weak? Is your sales funnel effective?
Prospects, Conversions, Retention – how many calls, emails and other requests for information about your business have you had; out of those, how many have become customers; and out of those how many have stayed for a specified timeframe? The specified timeframe comes from your determination of how long means that they are a loyal customer
Products, Services

Financials – You may be monitoring these regularly through your accounting software.
Income, Expense, Profit/Loss, Long-term debt, Short-term debt, Assets, Net worth, Ratios

Operations – Is your business operating efficiently?
Facilities – Is your business space being used to its maximum
Human Resources – Number of employees, employee hours, employee cost

By taking a look at these categories and suggested elements, you can see the value of having all this information in one place. These are elements that we know we should monitor, and probably even know where to collect some of it. Through developing your dashboard you will learn exactly where to collect it all and now will have it in one location. You will be able to see the inter-related issues more quickly and may come to additional possible actions to take as a result.

How do I build my dashboard? You can build your dashboard by using Excel, and there are also software dashboards available. Many of these are for large corporate ventures and not as appropriate for micro-enterprise. Mr. Dashboard is one product that provides an easy to use excel interface that transfers itself automatically into charts and graphs that visually display the numbers that you’ve entered. It provides for 25 metrics, though if you are monitoring more than 25 items you can use more than one chart of 25. In this case you can separate categories out from each other. When you’re first starting out you’ll want to get your feet wet with your dashboard before getting highly detailed.

Are you using a dashboard? What do you include on yours? Do you have favorite software for this, and if so, please share with us here.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

How Do You Motivate Your Staff?

Motivating your staff doesn't have to be an exhausting process, or very costly. One of the biggest mistakes made by leaders is to implement a recognition or incentive program without truly knowing what motivates their staff. You would not be looked upon as incompetent if you simply ASKED your staff what motivates them! As a matter of fact, they would probably value and appreciate you even more for asking. Try to find out first what motivates your staff, and then see what you can do about making it happen, or at least coming close to it.

Second, make a concentrated effort to notice what your employees do correctly and acknowledge them. This can be as simple as leaving a sticky note on a computer monitor, or recognizing them publicly in a meeting. I know it seems minuscule, but it always surprises me how few leaders take advantage of this little nugget. When an employee sees that you value their work efforts, they are more likely to repeat the process. Recognition is a jewel in the motivation and engagement of your staff if you use it correctly.

Here's 3 specific leadership traits you can cultivate in yourself to increase your ability to motivate no matter what motivational approach you take or method(s) you employ.

1. Know how much leadership to offer and how much to let the individuals grow on their own.

2. Strike the right balance between specific and generic guidance so the unique individual traits of the workers come through in the business model and solutions to problems, system design and success of the firm are derived from the people running the enterprise and not from the leader.

3. Manage constructively by fostering an environment respectful of all points of view but driving to fulfilling progressive objectives as a first priority and blend differences of opinion decisively.

Here's a final thought that may perk your strategy antennae .....

Howard Schultz, CEO Starbucks once said that he gets employees to smile by only hiring people who smile. He built a company culture around that idea.

So follow Mr. Schultz's rule. Only hire people who are motivated. Only keep people who are motivated. Attempting to change personalty traits is pointless.

Monday, August 1, 2011

What Is The Biggest Obstacle Standing In The Way Of Small Business Growth?

I think the biggest problem that small business are facing these days is the cost of doing business altogether. Generally, prices are rising, regulations are increasing in number and negative impact on doing business, purchasing power is decreasing, and uncertainty due to Goverment (sic Obama Administration) actions is increasing. Right now, the overall economy is playing an integral part in most of the small business' failure. It leads to lower revenues and lower profit margins and thus they have to go out of the business.

One other thing that most of the small entrepreneurs face is lack of skills, knowledge, know-how and customs for the specific industry they're working in. Although being innovative has its advantage sometimes when you're taking on national level companies, you need to either know or quickly learn the rules of the games.

Failures are also a big problems for small businesses. Motivation is a great factor against it. How well you take the failures whether small or big and so on. You'd hardly find any business without any setbacks. All those garage dreams didn't became multinational corporate giants overnight. They had setbacks and failures. The abilities, skills and unyielding attitude of these successful entrepreneurs led them to what they are now.